Riley Blevins' thoughts
On the surface, Tennessee's 45-0 trashing of Austin Peay unfolded exactly as expected. The SEC bully submitted their will on the lesser FCS foe. Fans were still settling into their seats as Rajion Neal started the scoring. A blow out was imminent.
But, Austin Peay isn't exactly the best measuring stick.
All eyes were on Tennessee's many question marks: The inexperienced quarterback, the young receivers and secondary, the unproven pass rushers.
It was a mixed bag.
The running game was stellar. Rajion Neal rushed for 142 yards on 16 touches. But it's not the stats that matter. It how the yards were gained.
Neal was quick with his cuts and ran his feet through contact. Running backs coach Robert Gillespie has been riding players to be more physical. They answered the call tonight. Both Neal and Lane ran down hill and didn't dance unnecessarily.
Tennessee's passing, defense and special teams weren't as clear-cut.
Justin Worley was efficient, completing 11 of 13 passes for 104 yards. But he threw behind open receivers on several occasions.
Worley disguised the zone read well. But Austin Peay made the grave mistake of staying at home and respecting the keeper. An SEC team won't. I can guarantee it. Worley's legs will be challenged.
Tennessee's defense allowed just 99 first half yards. The defensive line exploded into the backfield and respected their gaps. The secondary flowed to the ball. The Govs didn't pick up their first first down until the 5:14 mark in the first quarter.
But the Vols' lack of depth was exposed.
With starter LaDarrell McNeil and "next man in" Malik Foreman on the field, Austin Peay chipped away at the secondary. The Vols allowed 130 yards threw the air in the third quarter alone. Foreman gave up passes of 33 and 36 yards. Long drives that require substitutes and nickel and dime packages will challenge this squad.
For the first time in a long, long time, the special teams' woes weren't connected to the leg Michael Palardy. But, the Vols' kickoff team missed several tackles.
Defense — B
Offense — A
Special teams — B+
Danny Parker's thoughts
It's hard to imagine the 2013 season and the Butch Jones era at Tennessee getting off to a better start than what they did in the first half against Austin Peay. On top of that, it has to be momentum building to hold onto the shutout after what went down last fall defensively.
What I expect this team to do if it is going to upset any of its top 5-7 opponents (depending on Vegas) is what it did early and often against the Governors — run the football. Running backs coach Robert Gillespie stresses physicality with his guys and that is starting to show on the field. Rajion Neal (who is working on a solid spin move) averaging 8.8 per clip was most impressive. Then, Deanthonie Summerhill picking up 67 yards on just nine attempts tells me all I need to know for now.
If you've been a member of InsideTennessee for terribly long, you know my thoughts on the quarterback situation. However, you have to tip your hat to Justin Worley for his performance managing the offense and making decisions. His wideouts did him several favors as he wasn't crisp and threw behind players or short several times but most were catchable balls (if you can touch it, catch it). I have to assume he'll improve as the rust falls off. He also netted 5.2 on the ground.
The number of freshmen, redshirt freshmen and walk-ons that saw the playing field was alarming and telling as to how tender the depth is on The Hill. The team is already without Riyahd Jones, Curt Maggitt, Jacques Smith and Corey Vereen — at least for right now.
Michael Palardy had himself a perfect start to a senior year. We will see if he can build off that and create some confidence for when he needs to make big-game kicks. Coverage teams were loaded with linebackers and running backs and showed a solid output.
Defense — A+
Offense — A-
Special teams — A+
Randy Moore's thoughts
About what I expected against an inferior foe.
Justin Worley (11 of 13, 104 yards) quieted his critics – for now – with a solid opening performance. Rajion Neal piled up 141 first-half yards and finally showed some big-play ability by breaking a career-long 47-yard touchdown burst in the first quarter. The offense cooled considerably with Nathan Peterman and the second-team supporting cast playing the final two quarters.
Nose tackle Daniel Hood seemed to be everywhere in the first half, recording an interception, a huge hit on a tackle for loss and a tipped pass. Tennessee's pass defense held up well except for completions of 35 and 32 yards to Darryl Clack over the head of freshman backup Malik Foreman. Foreman atoned somewhat with an interception on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Michael Palardy kicked well, especially considering how tired his leg had to be after booting five PATs and seven kickoffs in the first two quarters. He launched a 53-yard punt and nailed a 37-yard field goal in the third quarter. Coverage was generally good except for a kickoff return that went for 36 yards thanks to a rash of missed tackles.
Defense — A-minus
Offense — A
Special teams — A
Josh Woodward's thoughts
Well, the Butch Jones era started with a bang tonight at Neyland Stadium. The Vols looked prepared and sound on both offense and defense. The most impressive thing for me was no penalties. I would really like to know how many teams that installed a new offense and defense started the season with zero penalties, all I can say is WOW.
Defensively, they simply out matched Austin Peay, but I like how the defense played with an aggressive nature. The linebackers looked good. Sapp has some speed and Brewer's transition looks like a great move. Johnson is outstanding on the run and was around the ball all the first half. The young secondary didn't really get tested, they looked good in coverage and will be challenged next week when Western Kentucky comes to town. Daniel Hood has to be the player of the game with his tip and interception in the first half, very athletic play for the big man.
Offensively they looked great running the ball as Rajion Neal added a nice spin move to his game and has some nice speed on the edge. Marlin Lane also looks good between the tackles as he bounces off tacklers well. The offensive line needs to finish blocks and Worley needs to throw in front of his receivers, as he threw behind them most of the night. The receivers did a good job of catching those balls that were behind them. Overall I thought they looked great considering they have a new offense and are breaking in a new quarterback.
Special teams wasn't really tested tonight. Palardy did fine on kick off's and punts. He also hit his only field goal attempt. Coverage was fine most of the night, they did lose containment on a couple of returns and that is my only complaint. Devrin Young looked good on returns and didn't have any mistakes. He gets positive yardage on returns, but just doesn't garner that break away speed.
Defense — A+
Offense — A
Special teams — B+
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