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Rocky Top at the bottom: Numbers show Tennessee football in awful shape

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Randy Sartin/USA TODAY Sports

The next coach at Tennessee will be taking over a team that looks to have some serious deficiencies.

Of the four primary team statistical categories – rushing offense, rushing defense, passing offense and passing defense – only three schools in the 130-team FBS rank outside the top 100 in three of those four lists.

East Carolina is one. UTEP is one. And Tennessee is the third.

The Vols rank near the bottom in three major team statistical categories, the only program in the Power Five with that dubious distinction. In addition, UT averages just 4.71 yards per play, which is 123rd nationally and ahead of only one Power Five team (Rutgers).

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There’s one area in which the Vols are truly doing well, and that is pass defense. Tennessee is only allowing 157.6 yards per game through the air, which leads the SEC and ranks fifth in the nation behind only Air Force, Michigan, Washington and Wyoming. A possible caveat: It is so only to run on the Vols, opponents may figure, “Why throw it?”

Rushing offense: The Vols are gaining 131.6 yards per game on the ground, 102nd in the nation and 11th in the SEC (Ole Miss, South Carolina and Vanderbilt are worse).

Running back John Kelly, when healthy, has been fairly effective; he has rushed for 711 yards, is averaging 4.6 yards per carry and has eight touchdowns. But apart from a 141-yard outing in a loss to Florida in September, he hasn’t gained more than 63 yards against any conference opponent this year.

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Rushing defense: This has been a disaster area. Tennessee is allowing 256.9 rushing yards per game, which ranks 127th in the nation and 64th of the 65 schools in the Power Five; only UCLA is worse. The Vols and Ole Miss, which is 126th in rush defense, are on a pace to become the first SEC defenses to surrender 3,000 rushing yards in a season.

For a team that has brought several elite talents to Knoxville during the Butch Jones era, this is tough to fathom.

Passing offense: Whether it’s Quinten Dormady, Jarrett Guarantano or Will McBride lining up at quarterback, the common denominator is that the Vols’ passing attack just isn’t good.

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