Virginia Tech Hokies v. University of Tennessee Volunteers
Saturday, September 10, 2016
Bristol Motor Speedway, Bristol, TN
Score: Tennessee (45), Virginia Tech (24)
Notable Prospects Entering the Contest
Josh Dobbs, QB, Senior, #11: It was nice to see Dobbs rebound as a runner; although I continue to get the sense that this isn’t a NFL Quarterback as I watch more and more of Dobbs play. Dobbs’ athletic ability and open field skills as a runner make him a legitimate threat in the backfield; yet there is an overall lack of consistency in timing and pocket awareness that is difficult to overlook. For yet another week Dobbs made some baffling decisions with the football: he threw an ugly interception in the second half and showed little regard for throwing late across the middle on another potential turnover. Dobbs’ running style compliments the Vols’ downhill attack with Hurd very well; he has found success reading defenders on the option. Dobbs does throw a pretty ball at times and flashes with touch. Not seeing the progression you want to from a Senior QB early on in the season.
Jalen Hurd, RB, Junior, #1: Hurd’s ability to generate yards after contact was a big factor in the game vs. the Hokies; breaking the spirit of defenders by twisting, contorting and driving the legs to churn out extra yards. Hurd continues to prove his strength as a north south runner; he has long strides that create a natural barrier to planting the foot firmly into the turf and breaking angles laterally. Hurd does not have the open field wiggle or suddenness in the backfield to regularly create runs on his own but he’s a pleasantly smooth athlete for his size and should not be underestimated in one on one situations. Rotating with fellow RB Alvin Kamara takes away a lot of receiving opportunities for Hurd but he did also illustrate clean hands on a reception in the flat on Saturday night as well.
Josh Malone, WR, Junior, #3: Malone continues to emerge as Dobbs’ favorite target on the field. One week after pulling Tennessee out of a dogfight with Appalachian State courtesy of two clutch catches (a 3rd and long conversion and subsequent 60+ yard touchdown catch), Malone once again flashed in limited targets. Malone first showed some nice creativity after the catch to generate a first down and later in the game went up high and out-jumped a VT defensive back on a 50/50 ball for another long touchdown reception. Malone has size and has now flashed high point ability as well. Perhaps his emergence will bring more out of QB Joshua Dobbs deeper into the season.
Derek Barnett, DE, Junior, #9: Barnett had a quiet evening; he failed to generate a consistent level of pressure from either interior or perimeter rushes. Barnett was handled trying to run the edge track fairly consistently and was unable to leverage and squeeze angles effectively to prevent himself from being pushed past the pocket. This performance was slightly disappointing; however there are still a handful of net positives to take away from the game. Barnett was tasked at times with spying the short areas of the field and looked adequate at dropping off of the LOS and taking away interior rush lanes. Down the stretch Barnett was rotating in and out, I would like to see more reps on obvious passing situations to further process his skills as a boundary pass rusher.
Jalen Reeves-Maybin, LB, Senior, #21: Reeves-Maybin hardly had a strong performance. Too frequently did JRM leave his feet and lunge into tackle attempts. He appeared to be a little too juiced after missing most of the Appalachian State contest via a targeting penalty. Reeves-Maybin got caught up in trash on a long touchdown run for the Hokies and was also guilty of a number of other plays in which he overran the ball carrier and failed to re-direct and impact the run. JRM continues to be a plus mover in space but by and large this was one of his sloppier performances.
Cam Sutton, CB, Senior, #23: Sutton followed up an excellent performance on opening weekend with yet another strong effort. Sutton has always had the ball skills and physicality to be a high end CB prospect but there were lapses of both in 2015 that needed to be amended. This high end effort will go a long way in easing those concerns if it carries itself well through the season. Sutton was a force as a boundary run support player and consistently carried leverage over-top of routes in zone. Sutton was guilty of biting on a double move early in the game but was bailed out by an underthrow, which Sutton ripped out of the receiver’s hands effectively to tear away a potential long completion.
Virginia Tech Offense
Bucky Hodges, TE, RS Junior, #7: Hodges was solid, yet unspectacular. His targets (and the Tennessee rush) did not give him many opportunities to get open in space. If anything this game is a testament to Hodges’ versatility, moving around the set and working in a number of roles in different formations. While I don’t think Hodges’ athletic skill set will lend itself to reps as a ball carrier like the Hokies did at times; I can certainly see Hodges working flexed out from the slot. He rolled into breaks easily, similar to Jace Amaro at Texas Tech. Whether or not Hodges’ route running skills and suddenness can stand up against NFL competition (unlike Amaro) is going to require further attention. Easy hands catcher on pass targets.
Isaiah Ford, WR, Junior, #1: Ford had a nice start to the game and benefitted from some soft coverage courtesy of whoever happened to be playing across the field from Cam Sutton. Ford is quick and shows nice range on his catch radius, registering 5 receptions for just over 50 yards receiving. Ford failed to find any space vertically to attack the Vols but was effective on some sharper in breaking patterns. A bleak middle of the game caused Ford to disappear but it was no fault of his own: The Hokies couldn’t squeeze the football to keep possession and when they did a disruptive Tennessee front seven swarmed the passing game. Look for a production rebound from Ford in the coming weeks.
Other Players that Flashed
Corey Vereen, DE, Senior, #50 (Tennessee)
Travon McMillian, RB, Sophomore, #34 (Virginia Tech)
Best Players on the Field:
Cameron Sutton, CB
Jalen Reeves-Maybin, OLB