This isn’t just because Tennessee football held Logan Marchi to under 70 yards passing, although that is a huge part of it. You would expect the Vols secondary to come through in that regard against an FCS team, even as they transition to the 3-4 defense. But individual Vols cornerbacks specifically stood out to make this worth something.
Bryce Thompson came away with an interception and two tackles for a loss. Marquill Osborne blocked a punt and ran it back for a touchdown. Osborne also had a 26-yard punt return. Since the issues in the passing game against WVU largely fell on the safeties, cornerbacks haven’t shouldered a lot of blame yet. By playing well on Saturday, their stock overall is now up.
Darrin Kirkland Jr.
For the second straight week, Darrin Kirkland Jr. was one of our top performers in a game. This is the same guy who came off a season-ending injury last year and nearly quit the team. But, likely due to his photographic memory, he is picking up the 3-4 scheme quickly. And he’s making plays in it, regardless of the offense.
A week after leading his team in tackles, Kirkland came away with a pick-six. Simply put, he is delivering for the Vols on a consistent basis. He came through once against the air raid and another against a balanced pro style. So for right now, this guy is worthy of individual recognition on the Vols. Whether or not it lasts remains up for debate.