My favorite saying, when I don’t know what else to say, is “Oh my,” on loan from Dick Enberg.
Tennessee is going from bad to worse.
If the Volunteers lost the Georgia State game because they spent too much of August preparing for Florida, they didn’t learn much. The Gators picked them apart and clobbered the scattered pieces.
You may have heard that the Vols were their own worst enemy. Not so. Indeed, they made many mistakes but that fourth quarter Florida ground attack was overwhelming, 10 yards per run, get out of the way or get trampled.
Earlier in the season, the Vols said they were flabbergasted by their own ineptness. The way they lost to Brigham Young was deemed unacceptable. This defeat comes with dire warnings.
There are more difficult challenges ahead. We don’t know how good are the Gators but we firmly believe Georgia and Alabama are better. Everybody on the remaining schedule (except bye) may be too tough. That includes UAB. The 3-0 Blazers are well-coached. Tennessee isn’t. Errors and blunders pile up around the feet of coaches – whether they accept responsibility or not.
Here is a capsule synopsis of one half of the problem. If Tennessee flipped a pretty penny to decide whether to pressure Florida’s new quarterback or defend downfield, the coin must have landed on its edge. The Vols did neither.
Substitute Gator Kyle Trask, redshirt junior, hadn’t started a game since childhood. He completed 20 of 28 for 293 yards and two touchdowns. He was seldom harassed. Open receivers were running around everywhere. Take your pick. The middle was wide open.
It seemed there were times when defensive people in key positions had no idea what they were doing. Cornerback Alontae Taylor, apparently in park, allowed another receiver to fly past him. Maybe he was supposed to have safety reinforcement. The pass was inaccurate or that would have been BYU 2.
For the opening series, Tennessee had pass defenders stationed here and there but they did not defend. On the second play, senior safety Nigel Warrior was beaten by Florida wide receiver Trevon Grimes for 43 yards. A minute or two later, tight end Kyle Pitts got away from junior safety Theo Jackson for a 19-yard touchdown catch.
So, you thought Tennessee’s scheme and defensive execution were somewhat ineffective? How did you like the offense? Jarrett Guarantano was the fall guy. He was ceremoniously replaced by freshman Brian Maurer at the beginning of the third quarter. The rookie brought some energy and led the drive to the field goal. He also threw into triple coverage.
Guarantano has not played well this season. He has been slow to make decisions. Some have been wrong. He has missed open targets but he hit Gator DB Marco Wilson dead center for interception No. 2.
In most cases, Jarrett did not commit infractions that killed potential scoring drives, a hit after the whistle or the facemask foul 20 yards from the play.
Guarantano did more than his share to enhance the reputation of the Gators’ swarming defense. It finished with four sacks, eight tackles for loss, three picks, six pass break-ups and one fumble recovery.
The pass that Jauan Jennings didn’t catch may have been thrown too hard. Jarrett was not sent forth to face the press.
Jeremy Pruitt is paid to talk. He is trapped between the proverbial rock and a hard place. This is his team that looks very bad. There is a volatile quarterback dilemma, externally if not internally. Guarantano appears deeply troubled. Maurer believes he can play.
I believe, if there is a way to unravel the many tangles, that Tennessee’s best chance to win a game is with the far more experienced Guarantano. That is not a popular opinion.
The crowd that doubts Pruitt’s ability to eventually become a head coach has at least doubled. That opinion could be contagious. If players catch it, you’ll see the carnage. If top prep prospects believe what rivals are telling them, heaven help us.
After the Derek Dooley era, after the Butch Jones crash and burn, after the 2018 November collapse and the first two games this season, I thought Tennessee football could not get any worse. It did.
A lot of things have gone wrong.
One friend, Tom King, thinks this is it, that Rocky Top has finally hit rocky bottom. Another friend abandoned the telecast at 12:19 p.m. on Saturday and went out to do yard work. That is scary.
Tennessee has entered the disaster zone. It is a maze. In the weeks ahead, Pruitt will be looking for a way out. I sure hope he finds one.
Marvin West welcomes reader remarks or questions. His address is firstname.lastname@example.org