Tennessee fans had waited for months to see the debut of first-year head coach Butch Jones and the brand of football he would bring to the Volunteers program. And after his rousing debut the wait was well worth it.
Austin Peay is not exactly the same type of test the Vols will face during SEC play, but the signs were evident during the drubbing of the Governors who failed to score for the first time in 84 games. Tennessee did not commit any penalties, ran for more than 300 yards, won the turnover battle and played efficiently at quarterback.
The most important aspect of note from Jones’ first win at Tennessee was he played 10 true freshmen. Tennessee is going to experience some growing pains this season as a result of their youth, but you have to be impressed with their leadership on both sides of the ball.
Having veteran players mentor and take young players under their wings to show how them to practice, comfort themselves off-the-field and compete on Saturday’s is an intangible that won’t show up in the box score.
Tennessee certainly has some things to work on like developing a down field threat at wide receiver and if Justin Worley is capable of being more than a game manager. However, after one game the positives outweigh the negatives, and that’s all you can ask for at this point.
The offensive line opened up holes so big for Rajion Neal, Deanthonie Summerhill and Marlin Lane that the trio averaged nearly eight yards per carry, and that style of play will keep them in games against deeper and more talented teams.
The potential for upsets exist with a disciplined defense that’s not committing penalties and a strong ground game. With the best offensive line in the conference an upset over an overrated Florida team wouldn’t be surprise me.
Enjoy the process and trust in Jones to get Tennessee back to prominence, because it is going to happen and sooner rather than later. He is changing the culture from the stink left by his two predecessors, and for the first time in a few years Tennessee is heading in the right direction.