Tennessee Volunteers Football: 5 Positives to Take Away from Florida
So Tennessee lost to a heavily favored Florida.
I'll be the first to admit that I was probably more upset than I should have been immediately afterward, but now that it's a few days later and I've calmed down, I'm starting to try and think positive.
There were still several good things that Tennessee showed in the loss to Florida.
Here are five:
1. Offensive Line Play Was Better
Florida sacked Bray twice and hit him quite a few times more. How is that good?
If you remember Tennessee's bowl loss last year to North Carolina, Tennessee gave up five sacks to a very good front seven.
Florida's front seven may be even better than North Carolina's squad was last year. Every one of their front seven is being looked at as a pro prospect—and Tennessee still just gave up two sacks.
That's even better when you remember that Bray spent more time looking for targets since his primary one went out with an injury five minutes into the game.
Tennessee's entire offensive line is made of sophomores (except Dallas Thomas), and all of them will return next year. They've already made big strides as pass blockers and it will only get better from here on out, even for the rest of this season.
With the possible exception of Alabama, no opponent Tennessee faces will have the front seven that Florida has. If Tennessee only gives up two sacks at most, they'll be fine.
2. Tennessee Still Fought Hard
Even without Justin Hunter, Tennessee only lost by 10 points to Florida on the road. That's not nearly as bad as it could have been.
Florida put up 33 points on Tennessee, which is more than anyone else has so far, but it's also Florida.
Tennessee isn't a team that shuts people down with their defense; it's a team that wins by putting up points. Taking out Hunter limited their ability to do that, and that's why Tennessee faltered.
I hate to be a "what if" guy, but the game certainly would've been a whole lot closer if Florida's defensive backs didn't have the freedom to double cover Da'Rick Rogers on every play.
Next year Tennessee will return pretty much every starter on the team, and Florida will have to play in Knoxville. Tennessee will get its chance.
3. Florida Is a Tough Team
If you're gonna lose to someone, it's better to at least lose to a good team.
I wasn't sold on Florida before this past week because they hadn't played anyone decent yet. Consider me sold.
Don't get me wrong, I hate Florida as much as the next guy, but they do look very good this year and may threaten South Carolina for the SEC East title. They have a tough schedule later in the year, so they'll be thoroughly tested by season's end.
I think at the end of the season, this loss will look a lot better than it looks now.
4. Tyler Bray Still Shows Promise
His completion percentage went down and he threw two picks, but Bray was still very impressive.
He was getting constant pressure in the pocket, his No. 1 receiver was out, and his No. 2 receiver was being double covered the whole game. There was also the lack of a run game giving him trouble and he was still able to throw for 288 yards.
To add even more difficulty, Tennessee was behind the whole time and had to play aggressively to catch up, which made Bray force less than ideal passes.
Tennessee was still better than Florida in third down efficiency, and that's one of the key figures for determining whether a quarterback is a contender or a pretender. That certainly means something.
Bray's completion percentage dropped to 54 percent, but if that's as bad as it gets, that's pretty dang good for a sophomore. Bray looks like legitimate first-round material, and if he keeps improving, he may end up being the first quarterback of his class selected in the draft.
Bray is obviously great, and as long as he's under center, Tennessee will still be a powerful offense.
5. There Are Other Good Receivers on the Roster
Justin Hunter is out for the season, but that isn't the end of the road for the receiving corps. Nine players caught passes from Bray against Florida.
DeAnthony Arnett was Tennessee's top recruit from his class, and he had eight catches for 59 yards. He seems to be ready to go right now.
Zach Rogers was great against Cincinnati but dropped some passes against Florida. Since he'll be a bigger part of the offense now, I expect him and Bray to develop a better harmony in the coming weeks.
Mychal Rivera was the leading receiver against Florida and is turning into a very dangerous tight end. He'll be a big part of the offense for a while now.
Then there's still Da'Rick Rogers, who was double covered almost the entire game but still grabbed five catches for 62 yards.
Tennessee's game plan was ruined the second that Justin Hunter was injured. The Vols were not ready to play without him. Tennessee gets a bye-week and an easy home game against Buffalo to figure out what they will do now that he's out for the season.
Tennessee's offense will recover by the time they face Georgia. It won't be what it once was, but there's still hope left for Tennessee yet. Don't count the Vols out yet—there's plenty of 2011 to go!