Of all the plays that could’ve stood out during Tennessee’s loss to West Virginia on Saturday (both positive and negative), one play stood out as a subtle combination of both.
The Vols faced a 3rd-and-1 situation in the second quarter. Trailing the Mountaineers 10-0, running back Tim Jordan bounced to the outside and gained the necessary yards for a first down.
Good play, right?
Yes, and no.
The good — Tennessee’s offensive line created a running lane for Jordan to plow through.
The bad — Jordan decided to run elsewhere.
Maybe Tim Jordan thinks he’s Michael Jordan. Much to the dismay of Jeremy Pruitt, Jordan often ignored holes and played football’s version of hero ball. He did pick up a first down, but Pruitt wants to establish positive habits as early as possible. Instead of taking the easy yards provided to him, he went for the YouTube highlight reel, which meant absorbing unnecessary punishment.
Nothing gets the blood pumping more than a run like that. What should get Tennessee more excited than the testosterone of Jordan’s punishing runs are the big boys in the trenches.
The offensive line was a horror show during the first few possessions — the first play from scrimmage featured an embarrassing whiff of a block from grad transfer Brandon Kennedy; West Virginia was able to apply pressure without blitzing; and there were an absurd amount of negative plays.
Yet the Vols’ front five rose like a phoenix from the ashes of ineptitude. Quarterback Jarrett Guarantano rested comfortably in the pocket on several occasions. The result was the best game of his young career.
As previously mentioned, Tim Jordan didn’t run through the holes, but the holes were present. Chalk it up to inexperience, a problem that should fix itself through proper coaching.
If the line’s rapid improvement throughout the game wasn’t impressive enough, consider the following — Star left tackle Trey Smith lost valuable offseason reps due to health concerns, Chance Hall lost practice time due to injury, and Brandon Kennedy is new to the program.
Once the offensive line discovers its chemistry, the ceiling of Tennessee’s entire offense rises. Not only will the Vols score more than 14 points, but they’ll control games and keep a fatally flawed defense off the field.
Regardless of what anybody says, there are no moral victories in sports. The Vols are 0-1 and are fortunate to play ETSU and UTEP as buffers before a brutal stretch of conference games until late October.
However, with each passing the game, the offensive line will only grow stronger, giving the Vols a chance to avenge an embarrassing debut to a promising season.
Featured image courtesy of USA Today Sports