Copy Chief Gage Arnold traveled to Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Saturday to cover UT's game against Alabama. He assessed grades for each position based on the group's performance in the Vols' 45-10 loss to the Crimson Tide.
Justin Worley revisited his pre-Georgia inconsistences and was sporadic at best before smacking his hand on a helmet, which knocked the junior out of the game after halftime. True freshman Josh Dobbs took his first snaps and provided a much-needed spark to the offense, willing UT to 172 second-half yards and two scoring drives.
Running backs: D+
Rajion Neal and Marlin Lane simply had nowhere to run against an Alabama defense that is allowing a mere 98.3 yards per contest. Aside from a 43-yard scamper from Neal, the duo combined for only 52 yards on 19 carries. A consistent run game was never established by offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian.
Wide receivers/Tight ends: C-
Tennessee coach Butch Jones called UT's first half its "worst this season" with drops and a lack of separation from this group cited as one of the main culprits for the Vols' lackadaisical offensive performance. Freshman Marquez North made multiple highlight-reel grabs and continues to develop into a playmaker for UT.
Offensive line: C+
This bunch didn't allow a single sack of Worley or Dobbs but failed to do much else against a bruising Crimson Tide defense that held UT to a spotty 3 of 12 on third down conversions. UT's 127 rushing yards were 74 yards below its season average of 201.
Defensive line: D+
Just a week after posting four sacks against South Carolina, the pass rush was nonexistent for the Vols against a slew of future NFL picks that makeup the Crimson Tide offensive line. Defensive tackle Dan McCullers had two quarterback hurries, but Corey Miller was the only other member of the defensive line to register a pressure on Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron.
A.J. Johnson's 10 tackles led the team but the junior was consistently beat in coverage across the middle on crossing routes. The Vols allowed the Tide rack up 292 first-half yards and score on four of their five possessions. Running backs Kenyan Drake and T.J. Yeldon ran for 161 yards and three scores on 29 carries.
McCarron said he took the Vols' declaration of the Crimson Tide as "the red team" personally, and it showed. The senior picked apart Tennessee for 275 yards and two touchdowns, including a first-quarter swing pass to Amari Cooper where the sophomore simply outran the UT secondary en route to a 54-yard score. Brian Randolph's intermittent injury absence showed his glaring value to the unit.
Special teams: B-
The lone bright spot for UT came in the form of Devrin Young's 29.2 yard average on kickoff returns and Michael Palardy's continued resurgence. Palardy hit a 37-yard field goal and averaged 46.2 yards per punt. The only negative from the unit came from Alabama's Christion Jones, who logged kickoff returns of 57 and 49.
Game 8 GPA: The Vols earn a 1.71 Football GPA for their performance against Alabama.
Season GPA: UT possesses a 2.80 Football GPA for the season after Saturday's game, which is down from a mark of 2.96 following the South Carolina game.