Tennessee is up 28-0 on Tennessee Tech at halftime, but it has not all been pretty for the Volunteers so far. Here are some key observations from the first half of play.
Offensive Line Struggles
This unit has used a couple of different combinations today, but they have not been as dominant as you would expect against Tennessee Tech. The unit has missed blocking assignments and allowed Hendon Hooker to be hit on more than one occasion. The Vols rushing attack has not tried to do anything flashy, but outside of some Hendon Hooker scrambles, they have not been able to create but a handful of explosive plays. This unit needs Cooper Mays back in a bad way as they continue to try and mesh together. Hendon Hooker still made plays against an inferior team despite the struggles from this group.
Injuries Becoming a Concern
The Vols were already without a key list of players for today as they held a handful out to try and stay healthy, but their have already been several concerns today. Hendon Hooker got undercut and came up gingerly. He was able to return, but he still seems to be favoring his lowering body. Cade Mays and Cedric Tillman both were evaluated on the sideline in the first half, but they did return to the game, so that is a positive sign. The Vols should be able to get them some rest in the second half. Kingston Harris has been the sixth man off the bench, but he was banged up late in the half. The Vols need to be healthy for next week's matchup against Florida.
Wide Receivers Stepping Up
Velus Jones Jr. appears to be returning to form, as he is playing angry and making the most of his touches. He has been working back from an injury sustained in fall camp. JaVonta Payton has made several plays down the field and in intermediate situations, while Walker Merrill has looked confident getting most of the snaps at the slot. This is a good sign for Tennessee on all fronts as they have wrested Jimmy Calloway and Jalin Hyatt, other than one shot play to Hyatt.
Third Down Woes
Tennessee was 0-6 on third down in the first half. That will not work in any other game, but the Vols did convert three fourth downs. Josh Heupel has to find a way to be more efficient in third down. Be it via read option or moving the pocket to force the defense in bad spots, something has to change on this front.
Get Some Guys Rest and Allow Your Depth to Work
The header for this one pretty much sums it up, but Tennessee cannot afford anymore injuries, and they need to get some young guys valuable reps. Tennessee Tech is not going to come back, so get these guys experience.