Tennessee's domination of Tennessee Tech meant Vols lovers getting a first-hand look at members of the Team 120 roster that hadn't received as much playing time to date.
Twenty-eight points before Tennessee punter Trevor Daniel made an appearance meant Butch Jones could unload the bench with nearly 35 minutes of game time to go.
The exit of senior quarterback Joshua Dobbs midway through the second quarter meant valuable reps and playing time for sophomore Quentin Dormady, who wasted no time once getting onto the field. The former Scout four-star’s first pass of the afternoon was one of the better thrown balls of the 267 Tennessee has attempted in its nine games. The Texan connected with Tyler Byrd on a skinny post for a gain of 33 yards.
The chunk play was followed up by a Carlin Fils-Aime 2-yard touchdown run, which extended the lead to 35-0.
Dormady, who entered Saturday with 26 career pass attempts, quickly caught stride again the following series. He connected with Brandon Johnson for 11 yards, followed by a 13-yard strike to Marquez Callaway. The drive eventually stalled and was capped off with a 19-yard Aaron Medley field goal to close the half out with the Volunteers leading 38-0.
The central theme for the waning moments of the opening half: underclassmen aplenty. Byrd, Callaway, Fils-Aime and Johnson are all true freshmen that were all imported from out of state to The Hill this summer.
Johnson saw his most significant time, hauling in five catches, including a 21-yard hookup from Dobbs in the first quarter.
Callaway hadn’t had a breakout game. Late in the fourth quarter, Callaway gathered in a punt and tore up the field for a 62-yard punt return for a touchdown. Jones added in the post-game that Callaway had shown a knack for playmaking in the return game in practice, and that he will be an option at that spot from here on out.
Production off the bench was essential with a depleted roster. Many saw significant time on the field and took advantage of that golden opportunity.
“We had a lot of players get valuable playing time and they deserved it,” Jones said. “Anytime you gain live game reps it’s beneficial. Playing time is sacred.”
The offensive line also saw a lot of switching up throughout the game. The Volunteers rolled out a starting front of (left to right) Brett Kendrick, Jashon Robertson, Coleman Thomas, Dylan Wiesman and Chance Hall. Jack Jones, whom had been dealing with a thumb injury and coming off surgery, saw time at center, along with Charles Mosley at guard and Drew Richmond at tackle. Austin Sanders, who saw some time at guard in the second half, came off shaken up at one point but the injury was never specified and didn’t look serious.
Micah Abernathy found his way back from the injury report and checked into the game early in the second quarter, putting forth a good effort including a few tackles and a key pass break up midway through the second quarter. After Evan Berry was shaken up on a play, highly touted freshman Nigel Warrior entered. Many had been anxious to see Warrior — and rightfully so. Warrior made the most of his opportunity and led the Volunteers with seven tackles, while also showing great closing speed and an apparent nose for the ball. Speed is something that position had been missing in previous weeks.
JUCO transfer Jonathan Kongbo made the most of his reps. Kongbo was in the backfield on many plays and provided valuable pressure on the quarterback. Though only credited with one tackle, Kongbo had arguably his best game yet in a Volunteer uniform. Darrell Taylor is another beneficiary of the situation, seeing his playing time upped. Taylor finished the game with three tackles.