Tennessee football report card: Grading the Vols on their 2021 season

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Nov 13, 2021; Knoxville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Volunteers quarterback Hendon Hooker (5) hands the ball off to Tennessee Volunteers running back Jaylen Wright (20) during the first half against the Georgia Bulldogs at Neyland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bryan Lynn-USA TODAY Sports+

Everybody is going to give Josh Heupel the most credit for Tennessee football shocking the world and finishing this year with a winning season, and they should. However, Heupel definitely had to play to his strengths, and that was hard to identify at the start of the year given all the attrition that took place within the program.

It got better as time went on, though, and that combined with Heupel’s system made it easier to tell where the strengths on the team are. Now, it’s time for a final analysis of all the different units for the year. Our grades for the Vols don’t just take in raw numbers.

We have to look at their efficiency and how they performed given the system they were in. Each position group will have a grade, and we’ll separate them with two slides for offense and one for defense, special teams and coaching each. This is our Tennessee football report card for their play in the 2021 season.

Offensive grades part I

Quarterbacks: A-

If not for the issues with Joe Milton III starting the season, this would have easily been an A. Hendon Hooker was second in the SEC in yards per attempt, first in touchdown to interception ratio and threw the fewest interceptions of any starter. Those things applied to the Vols as a team too, and Hooker’s and Milton’s rushing yards add to it. Taking too many sacks made this an A-.

Running backs: B

Jabari Small and Jaylen Wright in terms of efficiency did not do enough for this unit. Nine other teams had a starting running back averaging more yards per carry than both of them. UT’s rushing offense was helped a lot by the quarterbacks. What carried Tennessee football here was Tiyon Evans early. He averaged 6.5 yards a carry. That pushes this grade to above average.

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