Scott Hall’s take
Finally the injuries caught up with Tennessee.
It's really hard to know exactly what the game today would have looked like had the Vols had even a small portion of the normal playmakers on the field. The offensive line was dominated but played three players not in the starting lineup in Venzell Boulware, Marcus Tatum and Drew Richmond. Mike Debord just had no answers for the Alabama defense. Jalen Hurd returned to the lineup but really struggled and continues to do so this season.
Defensively the Vols just couldn't overcome injury after injury. The defensive tackle position is quickly being a serious issue with Kyle Phillips moving inside and playing a number of reps after Khalil McKenzie became the latest casualty. Derek Barnett continues to be one of the biggest playmakers to ever wear the orange but just isn't getting any help from the opposite side. Bob Shoop’s secondary gave up way too many big plays.
The Vols finally get a much-needed bye week and have plenty of reasons to look forward to the rest of the season. They can't afford another loss or their hopes of getting a rematch against either Alabama or Texas A&M are dead. Tennessee desperately needs to get healthy between now and South Carolina or what once looked like an easy last five games will be far from it.
Special teams: C-
Danny Parker’s take
Alabama showed why it’s the No. 1-ranked team in the nation. Tennessee learned it better get healthy and may want to crank it up another notch in recruiting if wants to turn another corner in returning to being one of the nation’s elite.
People can say what they want about excuses — Alabama may have beaten any team in the nation Saturday — but the Volunteers are a complete M.A.S.H. unit right now. The personnel on the field in the second half looked more like what we see for the Orange & White game rather than a key contest in the Southeastern Conference. For example, a fourth-string linebacker started, a 270-pound freshman offensive tackle played his first college snaps, the No. 6 defensive tackle recovered a fumble, a redshirt freshman offensive guard started his first game — and we could keep going.
No matter the injuries, if Tennessee ever wants to impose its will on opponents like Alabama, it’s going to have to get bigger and stronger, especially on the offensive front and at tight end. That was a complete mismatch much of the afternoon versus the Crimson Tide, who outgained the Vols 594-163.
Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara netted 2.3 yards per carry on a combined 21 attempts. This Tennessee offense will never win football games with a stat like that, especially when quarterback Joshua Dobbs had seven attempts for a net of minus-31, which includes sack yardage lost. Kamara returned to the game in the second half with a brace on his left knee, so perhaps we should have seen John Kelly sooner. Kelly certainly earned some playing time with how he played in College Station.
On the positive side, defensive end Derek Barnett is a man. This isn’t breaking news, but he continues to impress. Where was Corey Vereen? LaTroy Lewis? When Alabama run the ball off the right side, there was rarely anything there but green grass. Would be curious to see how much of ‘Bama’s 438 rushing yards came off right tackle.
Elliott Berry was impressive as a fourth-string WILL linebacker, especially in the first half. Would’ve been better if he could have redshirted his first season on The Hill as he could be a major contributor in 2018 if he was eligible.
Aaron Medley isn’t expected to get any death threats after this year’s Alabama game, making a 37-yard field goal, an extra point and getting a touchback on 1 of 3 kickoffs.
No matter Medley’s solid effort and Trevor Daniel averaging out to a solid day, Tennessee gave up a 79-yard punt return for a touchdown, which costs them two letter grades. That cannot happen.
The Vols needed the bye week before the Texas A&M trip, but they’ll take it now before Eastern Division games load up the schedule.
It’s crazy how many fans are already complaining about this coaching staff when I’m guessing a vast majority predicted a 10-2 season, including a 2-2 mark through the four-game gauntlet. Tennessee still controls its own fate in the East and it’s still in the longshot picture for the College Football Playoff if it runs the table and beast the West winner in Atlanta. When was the last time the Vols controlled the divisional lead going into late October? Something positive worth pointing toward.
Special teams: D
Jesse Smithey’s take
While defensive end Derek Barnett’s play Saturday against Alabama further solidified his pro ability in front of a roster full of NFL scouts, he proved to be the only constant from 2016’s season thus far that carried over into the 49-10 loss.
Tennessee found itself down big at the half again — this time, 21-7 — but there was no miraculous comeback. Not even a smidgen of a rally, really, as had become the Vols’ custom.
Alabama’s 79-yard, punt-return TD by Eddie Jackson to open the fourth quarter made for a 42-10 lead and sent fans to the exits. Bo Scarbrough then ran 85 yards for a touchdown with 11 minutes, 38 seconds to go. Alabama finished with 438 yards rushing and 594 total offensive yards.
Tennessee had but 163 total yards on 63 plays. Even reliable punter Trevor Daniel shanked a punt Saturday.
All-purpose back Alvin Kamara seemed to be a play-calling afterthought for Tennessee — one week after piling up 312 total yards on 30 touches against Texas A&M. He finished with 28 yards on 10 touches against Alabama.
Running back Jalen Hurd returned to the lineup after missing the Texas A&M game, and the Tennessee coaches’ devotion to using him as a focal point provided for a stagnant, predictable offensive attack against Alabama’s vaunted defense. The offense lacked imagination, confidence and motivation.
The Vols performed like a team desperate for a bye week after having played Florida, Georgia and Texas A&M in the three weeks prior to taking on the nation’s top-ranked team.
That stretch took its toll on Tennessee. The energy wasn’t there, and the injuries had mounted too high.
The obvious concern going forward is how Tennessee’s patchwork defense and makeshift offensive line will finish out the regular season. They didn't have enough Saturday to stop Alabama freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts, who ran for 132 yards and three scores on 12 carries and threw for 143 yards.
Can they slow him if they see Alabama in Atlanta for the SEC Championship? Can they even make it there?
Special teams: C+