Quarterback, Tyler Bray, in the pocket surveying the field.
The Tennessee Volunteers are off to pretty good 3-1 start. There are some, however, that think it should be 4-0. It's hard to disagree with this sentiment, given the expectations going into this season.
There is a great opportunity for this team to exceed all expectations.
The opportunity to severely underachieve is also present.
The Vols are about to enter the heart of their schedule with a four-game gauntlet that most teams wouldn't be able to come out of unscathed.
This stretch includes trips to Georgia, Mississippi State, and South Carolina, plus a visit from the current number one team in the country, Alabama.
That's a tough stretch to say the least. Before looking ahead to that, however, it may be a good idea to look back at the games that have already passed.
There have been quite a few bright spots for the Vols in the early going this season. There have been some dark clouds and some that have been downright hard to watch.
With all that being said, now is a good time to take a look at the good, the bad, and the ugly for Tennessee through their first four games.
Wide Receiver, Justin Hunter.
The biggest bright spot for Tennessee this season has been their dynamic passing game. Prior to the season starting, it was dubbed "shock and awe."
It hasn't been quite that, but has been extremely good. Their ability to strike quickly has given them a leg up in just about every game thus far.
The Vols are averaging over 341 passing yards per game, ranking eighth nationally. They are also ranked 24th in points per game with 38.
Quarterback Tyler Bray is the linchpin that makes this dynamic passing attack go. His attitude and decision-making have been questioned in some spots, but overall have been very good.
Bray is off to a great start to this season, passing for 1,301 yards and 12 touchdowns. He is also completing 64 percent of his passes so far this season.
He is not accomplishing all this on his own, however. Bray has a top level receiving corps at his disposal to throw the ball to.
This corps is led by Justin Hunter, who has 30 catches for 410 yards and four touchdowns. There is also Cordarrelle Patterson on the other side. Patterson has 19 catches for 259 yards and two touchdowns.
They are backed up by a group of young receivers that are getting better by the week.
It is possible for the quick striking ability of this offense to expand to greater heights as the season continues.
AJ Johnson missing on a tackle.
Going into this season, Tennessee began the transition into a new defensive scheme. There have been quite a few growing pains in the first few games.
To this point, they have been a bend-but-don't-break defense. They've shown the ability to stiffen up as their opponent gets closer to the goal line.
This is is usually classified as a good thing, but when you break it down, it falls on the bad side.
This defense is prone to giving up big plays. In the last game against Akron, they gave up a 70 yard rushing touchdown to a backup running back.
They also gave up an 80 yard run to Florida's Trey Burton.
For the most part, the front seven of the defense have been solid. There have been a few big plays that could have been prevented, but pretty good overall.
Although, they do give up a lot of yards.
In the four games, they have given up a total of 1,570 yards to opposing offenses. Here is a breakdown of each game:
- NC State: 408 total yards
- Georgia State: 263 total yards
- Florida: 555 total yards
- Akron: 344 total yards
The biggest weakness for this defense has been the young secondary. Even into the fourth game, they seem to be having communication issues.
The Vols are giving up yardage in bunches in the middle of the defense. This is something that needs to be corrected in a quick fashion. If not, teams in the SEC will exploit this to big gains.
Head Coach, Derek Dooley.
The ugliest part of Tennessee's season thus far was the final 18 minutes of the game against Florida. By all appearances, it looked as if they quit as soon as the Gators went up.
This is something that has plagued this team since last season, when they appeared to quit by closing out with a loss to Kentucky.
The body language and facial expressions tell you all you need to know about that game.
The Vols are an excellent team when they have the lead. When they get behind, it seems their ability to execute goes out the window.
It's not necessarily that the team quits, but it looks like they lack the grit to play from behind. They're not able to take a shot from their opponent. They're not able to respond to it.
This is something that the Vols are going to need to learn to do hastily, given the schedule they have over the next month.
If they are unable to respond when they're down, things will get rocky on the top in a hurry.