Rating Tennessee's Performance Against Auburn

Here's the top to bottom ratings for Tennessee's game vs. Auburn. Grades of 90-100 are regarded as championship quality. Grades of 80-89 equate to top 25 worthy, grades of 70-79 are winning marks. Grades of 60-69 are minimum to a winning effort against unranked teams. Any grade below 60 is considered failing.

RECEIVERS (90): Outstanding play by Mark Jones, James Banks, Tony Brown and Chris Hannon to keep Tennessee's one-dimensional offense viable against a solid Auburn defense that was playing with a two-touchdown lead most of the game. Jayson Swain also contributed a couple of plays in limited action. This was one of the biggest question marks before the season began but it's become an asset despite the fact five of the top seven wideouts are playing college receiver for the first time. Brown's fumble and Hannon's drop were the only real negatives of this unit.

QUARTERBACK (87): Casey Clausen kept his head, and team, in the game against adversity and a swarming Auburn defense. He may have held the football too long on a few occasions when he would have been better served to throw it away, and his interception to end the game was a poor choice given that it was first down, but credit Auburn's DB with making a good play. Without Clausen's poise and senior leadership this contest could have easily turned into a rout.

SPECIAL TEAMS (84): Another good performance by Tennessee's kicking and coverage units. Not a great performance by Dustin Colquitt's impossibly high standards, but he punts the ball 40 yards even off the side of his foot. Protection almost allowed one block and Wilhoit badly missed his only field-goal attempt. Corey Larkins doesn't get the heart racing when he drops back to receive kickoffs. Punt returners are usually steady but rarely spectacular. Overall this is the most consistent of area of play for Tennessee this season.

OFFENSIVE LINE (70): That UT's offensive line was able to provide adequate protection despite the fact Auburn knew the Vols were going to pass on virtually every down was commendable. However Tennessee has no semblance of a running game with four yards rushing on 16 attempts including sacks. Tennessee should be able to get enough surge up front to gain positive yards even when defenses are stacked to stop the run. O-Line play has brought up as many questions as it has answered this season which makes it something of an enigma to this point.

SECONDARY (62): Yes, the Vols defensive backs surrendered a couple of easy TD passes and failed to make numerous open field tackles. However, in their defense, Auburn's running game was headed downhill for 60 minutes which left secondary members one-on-one too many times against outstanding backs. Still, Tennessee didn't allow any long TD runs which means it made more than a few touchdown saving stops. Gibril Wilson's big hit on Carnell Williams created the only turnover for Tennessee and Vols came up with a couple of key breakups to prevent first downs and give the ball back to the offense during fourth-quarter comeback. Starting safeties Wilson and Rashad Baker combined for 20 tackles in the game. Lack of a strong pass rush and success of Auburn's ground game makes DBs difficult to evaluate.

LINEBACKERS (59): This is another hard position to appraise in light of poor play by UT's defensive line which should ideally keep O-line off linebackers. Without the latitude to seek and destroy, Tennessee's athletic linebackers seemed ordinary. Conversely, Auburn's linebackers were protected by front four which allowed them to clean up. The biggest disappointment was poor tackling by linebackers and the inability to make big plays. In truth, Auburn's backs dished out more punishment than Tennessee's linebackers.

RUNNING BACKS (Incomplete) There weren't enough carries to give any substantive grade, and offense didn't find a way to incorporate the backs running skills into the passing game. However after seeing Demetris Summers and Carnell Williams the last two weeks, this unit doesn't look as strong by comparison as it initially appeared. One question: How is it opponents can stack against the run and stop it cold while Tennessee can stack against the run and not even slow it down?

DEFENSIVE LINE (42): The first line of defense was M.I.A. against Auburn which distorts the performance of the entire defense. Forget the concept of penetration or getting pressure on the passer, Tennessee's defensive tackles couldn't even hold their ground. When that happens the entire defense breaks down and that's what happened for much of the game against Auburn. One question: How does a rotation of 300-pound linemen manage to vanish into thin air?

OVERALL (57): Tennessee lacked focus and fire after a couple of tough games while Auburn was lying in wait after back-to-back breathers. The ability to run and stop the run is essential to the success of any football team at any level of play. Right now, the Vols don't appear capable of doing either. Corrections and adjustments will have to come quickly with Georgia coming to town. Otherwise, it will be a long game and, perhaps, an even longer midseason slide.


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