KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — It wasn’t supposed to be a competitive game between Tennessee and Indiana State, and it wasn’t. The Vols, playing for the second time in five days, easily handled Indiana State in a 42-7 win Saturday.
With the victory, Tennessee is now 2-0 with Florida up next on the schedule (though Hurricane Irma potentially could lead to some kind of change).
Here are five takeaways from the win against Indiana State.
Jarrett Guarantano finally played and was only OK
The backup quarterback always tends to be the most popular player on the team. Redshirt freshman Jarrett Guarantano hadn’t played a meaningful game in more than 20 months, but that hasn’t stopped many Vols fans from wanting him to be the starter. In his debut Saturday, he went 4-of-12 for 41 yards and one touchdown. Guarantano’s performance proved that starting Quinten Dormady was the right decision (even if Dormady had a second half to forget against the Sycamores).
John Kelly impresses again
Running back back John Kelly bided his time behind Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara for most of the past two seasons. But if the first two games of 2017 are any indication, it begs the question of why he didn’t get more playing time before. Kelly led the Vols in both rushing (80) and receiving yards (60) against the Sycamores – and a considerable number of those yards were gained after initial contact. The competition is about to get tougher, but you can expect to see Kelly continue to put up big numbers.
Kick returns pay dividends
Going into the season, Tennessee’s Evan Berry was considered one of the best kick returners in the nation. So to see highly regarded freshman Ty Chandler bring the opening kickoff back 91 yards for a score shows that Tennessee is explosive and deep with worthy return men. Unless the kicker can get the football to the end zone, pooch kicks will become more common against Tennessee. As a bonus, Marquez Callaway is an explosive player returning punts for the Vols, highlighted by a 36-yard return he had Saturday.
Trevor Daniel is a weapon
Tennessee has its fair share of punters playing in the NFL, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Vols senior Trevor Daniel in the pros next season. Against the Sycamores, Daniel punted four times, averaging more than 47 yards a boot, with three of them inside the 20. He is one of the more underrated players on this team, and has been throughout his Tennessee career.
The starters stayed in the game
Tennessee was in control in the second half. Yes, Indiana State scored a touchdown, but that was on a short field after a Tennessee turnover. But even with the game in hand, Butch Jones kept Dormady, Kelly, Callaway and other key starters on the field longer than many Vols fans preferred. Remember, this is a Vols team that already has suffered big injuries (linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr. and wide receiver Jauan Jennings), with two more notable ones – tight end Eli Wolf (ankle) and defensive back Justin Martin (stinger) – sustained against Indiana State. With Florida a week away, this was a golden opportunity for Tennessee to get important players extra rest and give younger players some much-needed reps. Both happened, but they probably came later than they should have.
(You can follow Mark Nagi on Twitter @MarkNagi)
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