Tennessee at North Carolina State: Postgame Grades for the Volunteers' Win
Tennessee got the 2012 season started in style with a 35-21 win over the N.C. State Wolfpack at the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
On the heels of a late first-quarter flurry that saw the Vols score 16 points in a 38-second span, the Vols jumped on the Wolfpack and never looked back.
How did the team look in the opener? I hand out grades for each of the positions in this slideshow.
Overall Unit: A+
There's no question about this one, Tyler Bray deserves an A+. If I could add a few more pluses on the end of the grade, he'd deserve those as well.
What more can you ask for? The junior completed 27-of-41 passes for 333 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions against a VERY good N.C. State pass defense.
What's more, he didn't throw away from All-American defensive back David Amerson, and even appeared to be picking on him at times.
This was a statement game for Bray.
The Vols are going to live and die with his arm, and if he can repeat this performance in SEC games, he's well on his way to some postseason accolades.
Overall Unit: B
In Rajion Neal's first appearance as the No. 1 running back for the Vols, the junior rushed 22 times for 53 yards and a touchdown. Not bad, but certainly not impressive enough to declare that the Vols' rushing game is "back."
Marlin Lane was the star of the show.
Lane was the hotshot recruit that found himself buried at the No. 3 spot on the depth chart. That won't last for long. He gave this rushing attack a shot in the arm in the second half, finishing the day with nine carries for 75 yards and two catches for 19 yards.
Devrin Young only had two carries for minus-two yards. Certainly not impressive, but not enough of a foundation to base a judgement on even though he's listed as the No. 2 back.
Overall Unit: A
Tennessee's wide receivers were under the microscope on Friday against a very tough N.C. State secondary.
They didn't disappoint.
Junior college transfer Cordarrelle Patterson looked like Da'Rick Rogers' clone, catching six passes for 93 yards and one touchdown, while also rushing twice for 72 yards and another touchdown.
Safe to say that Patterson lived up to and exceeded the hype that followed him to Knoxville.
Justin Hunter had a nice return from his ACL injury, continually finding open space and catching nine passes for 73 yards. More importantly, he made a few big cuts to find extra room for first downs, which showed that his surgically repaired knee is good to go.
Senior Zach Rogers emerged as a weapon as well, beating All-American David Amerson deep for a 72-yard touchdown catch.
The Vols have one of the best wide receiving corps in the country, and they proved it on Friday.
Overall Unit: C
Tennessee's tight ends were largely MIA on Friday. Ben Bartholomew and Mychal Rivera combined for three catches for 31 yards.
Not bad, but not Jason Witten-like.
They were hit-and-miss in run-blocking as well.
As more teams focus on the bevy of Vol receivers, expect Rivera and Bartholomew to become bigger pieces of the offense.
Overall Unit: C+
Head coach Derek Dooley described his offensive line as "inconsistent" after the game, and that's the proper way to describe it.
They got blown off the line of scrimmage too often on running plays, including a key fourth down in the second quarter.
That's a bad sign, since this group was supposed to be one of the bright spots after keeping continuity throughout the offseason.
Tyler Bray wasn't sacked much, but he was flushed out of the pocket and forced to throw on the run more than Dooley wanted.
Overall Unit: B
Statistically, Tennessee's defensive line wasn't great. But they rarely are in a 3-4 scheme.
Tennessee held N.C. State to 120 yards on the ground, and got Wolfpack quarterback Mike Glennon rattled early in the game. That characteristic stayed throughout the entire game.
Glennon threw four interceptions, and while the secondary will get all the glory, they owe a lot of that to a consistent pass rush generated from Darrington Sentimore, Daniel McCullers and Maurice Couch.
Overall Unit: A-
If you didn't know the name "Curt Maggitt" before, you do now.
Maggitt sacked Glennon at his own 3-yard line, resulting in a safety for the Vols. That safety allowed Tennessee to score 16 points in a 38-second span, which was the biggest moment in the game.
Fellow sophomore A.J. Johnson wasn't anywhere near the form that made him a Freshman All-American last season, but he still added 3.5 tackles and found his way to the football often.
Overall Unit: C+
Byron Moore was great, notching eight tackles and picking off one pass. Brian Randolph was as well, adding 7.5 tackles and one tackle for loss.
But stats can be deceiving, and that was the case for Tennessee's secondary on Friday night.
Moore, Randolph, Prentiss Waggner and Marsalis Teague each had interceptions, but N.C. State wide receivers found themselves WIDE open early and often.
Had it not been for the pass rush rattling quarterback Mike Glennon, the Vols secondary would have been torched.
Don't let the stats fool you; the Vols secondary needs work...lots of it.
Overall Unit: D
Devrin Young showed that he can be a weapon on special teams, even though the impact of kick returners has been negated by new kickoff rules.
The sophomore returned two kicks for 45 yards, including a 35-yarder. He also added one punt return for five yards.
This unit gets a D because of kicking.
Matt Darr averaged only 38.6 yards per punt and Michael Palardy missed an extra point. You can't miss extra points.
Overall Unit: B
Derek Dooley had his team prepared for the big game, which is about all you can ask from a coach who's on the hottest seat in America.
Late in the third quarter with a chance to go up three scores, I didn't understand the mindset for throwing the ball considering Marlin Lane and Rajion Neal were seemingly getting things cooking on the ground.
It didn't cost Dooley on Friday, but it was still curious.
Defensively, Sal Sunseri's 3-4 defense was hit-or-miss. There were WAY too many open receivers, but it seemed like the more open Wolfpack players got, the more pressure Sunseri brought. That eventually led to Glennon getting rattled and the four interceptions.