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This was billed as a game between two NFL caliber quarterbacks; Mike Glennon (NC State) and Tyler Bray (Tennessee). For half of the first quarter it was, and then Bray and Tennessee hit their stride. One of the interesting matchups for this game was supposed to be the Tennessee passing game against the NC State pass defense. This was supposed to be a matchup of strength against strength; however NC State’s secondary struggled all night to keep up with Tennessee’s receivers. The Volunteers jumped on top 22-7 after one quarter and never looked back, winning 35-21. Tennessee missed a bowl last year, finishing 5-7. If they can keep the team healthy, they should be back in a bowl game this year.
Here are my thoughts on the draft eligible players that played in the game. I will start with the winning team.
Tyler Bray – QB- Jr: In 2011, Tennessee had a 3-1 record after 4 games, Bray was completing 68.5 % of his passes, with 11 TD and only 2 interceptions. Against, Georgia, Bray injured his thumb and ended up missing 5 games. Even after returning he wasn’t the same QB, completing less than 50% of his passes. This year Bray is healthy and last night it showed. He completely carved up the Wolfpack secondary and surprisingly singled out their best corner to exploit for 41 yard and 72 yard touchdowns in the first quarter alone. Bray showed off his strong arm by dicing up the outmanned secondary. He had good timing with his receivers, saw the whole field, eluded the rush and got rid of the ball. His only mistake was a fumble at the goal line to end the first half, but even that was a questionable call. Bray completed 27 of 41 for 333 yards with 2 long TD.
Rajion Neal – RB – Jr: Rajion Neal played more receiver last year than he did at running back. This season he is trying to make a full time position change to running back. Neal looked good at times, setting up his blocks well and making people miss. The worry is with him running between the tackles. At times he looked good running inside, but he still seemed to want to bounce it outside and even seemed to frustrate Coach Dooley. If Tennessee is going to be a force in the SEC, they will need an inside running game so it will be interesting to see if Neal can adapt and get the tough yards when the Vols need it. He carried 22 times for 53 yards and 1 TD.
Ben Bartholomew – FB – Sr: Bartholomew is a versatile guy that the Vols can move around. He can play fullback, but he can also line up as a tight end and get downfield in the passing game. He is good at both run blocking and catching the football. He caught 2 passes for 19 yards.
Cordarrelle Patterson – WR- Jr: Cordarrelle Patterson burst onto the college football scene last night! In the 1st quarter alone, he had a 41 yard TD catch and a 67 yard TD run on a reverse! Many people wondered if Tennessee would miss Da’Rick Rogers who was kicked off the team just before the season started. If last night was any indication, they will be just fine with Patterson. Patterson is a JC transfer and this was his first time as a big-time college football player and he didn’t back down a bit. He is an electric player with 4.3 40 speed and he’s a threat to go the distance every time he touches the ball. He had 6 catches for 93 yards and a TD. He also had 2 carries for 72 yards and 1 TD.
Justin Hunter – WR – Jr: Last year after only 2 games, Hunter had 16 catches for almost 300 yards and 2 TD. The next week against Florida, he injured his knee and was lost for the season. This was his first game back and initially looked rusty. While Patterson was scorching the secondary, Hunter was fairly quiet. The Wolfpack adjusted by giving Patterson more attention, and then Hunter began to make an impact. He became a lot more comfortable in the 2nd half and he began to get open. Defenses are going to have a hard time against Patterson and Hunter. They will have a hard time shutting down both receivers. Hunter finished with 9 catches for 73 yards.
.Zach Rogers – WR – Sr: Rogers is the third member of a very strong receiving corps. He is a complete receiver that is fast, but also willing to go over the middle. He beat David Amerson on a 72 yard TD catch.
Dallas Thomas – G – Sr: Thomas did a good job pull blocking and leading sweeps. The Vols line did a good job against the Wolfpack defense and Thomas was part of that success.
Zach Fulton – G – Sr: Fulton teamed with Thomas to dominate in the third quarter. The Vols were trying to pound on the Wolfpack and run the clock in the 3rd quarter and Fulton helped them to be successful. He threw key blocks in the red zone that resulted in a rushing TD.
Jacques Smith – OLB – Jr: Jacques Smith was a defensive end last year. This year as the Vols switched from a 4-3 to a 3-4, they moved Smith to linebacker. He was all over the field, making plays everywhere.
Herman Lathers – MLB – Jr: Lathers missed the entire 2011 season with a fractured ankle. He had a good first half, putting pressure on the QB and making plays in pass defense. Sadly, he was sidelined with a shoulder injury in the 2nd half. Hopefully, it’s not too serious. Lathers was diagnosed as a ten-year old with bone cancer. He’s a guy you want to root for so I hope he doesn’t miss any time with this injury.
Dontavis Sapp – LB – Jr: Sapp showed that he can be a 3-down linebacker. He had 1 sack but also looked good in coverage. He showed good instincts in making a tackle for a loss on a screen pass.
Prentiss Waggner – CB – Sr: Waggner is a versatile player that can play corner or free safety. He looked really good last night, making a great play on a pick that he returned 55 yards then was tackled by the turf monster. He would have scored on the play, had he not fallen. He did equally well in man and zone coverage. He has very good anticipation and breaks well on the ball.
Eric Gordon – CB – Jr: Eric Gordon is a core special teamer for the Vols. He also got some time at corner. He was equally good in run support and defending the pass. He showed good ball skills and picked off a pass.
Byron Moore – S – Jr: Moore does a good job playing centerfield and reading the QB’s eyes. He had 1 interception in the game.
Mike Glennon – QB – Sr: Glennon is a quarterback with good size (6’6”) and a good arm. He had enough talent that NC State coach Tom O’Brien was willing to let Russell Wilson transfer last year. When Glennon is in rhythm, he looks very good. He is smooth, moves around well in the pocket and does a good job delivering the football. Last night, he started the game well and it looked like the game might be a shootout, but then it just fell apart. The Vols picked off Glennon 4 times. Tennessee had a span of just over a minute in the 1st quarter where they scored 16 points. Glennon seemed to be pressing the rest of the night, trying to bring his team back. He was 27 of 46 for 288 yards with 1 TD and 4 picks.
Mustafa Greene – RB – RS Soph: Led the team in rushing in 2010, but was out all of 2011 with an injury. He looked good in his first game back. He showed good burst to the hole and ran with physicality. He is part of a 3 back rotation, but he got the majority of the carries with 11 carries for 53 yards.
Tobias Palmer – WR – Jr: Palmer is the Wolfpack’s big play guy. He is very elusive after the catch. He had a big 4th down conversion and also a 43 yard kickoff return. He finished the night with 4 catches for 28 yards.
Quinton Payton – WR Jr: Payton seemed to be open all night. He has good speed and gets good separation. If the ball is thrown high he can out-jump the DB to make the catch. He had catches of 38 and 49 yards and ended up with 4 catches for 129 yards.
Bryan Underwood – WR – RS Soph: Made a very good TD catch by getting high above the defender. He had 3 catches for 9 yards and 1 TD.
Darryl Cato-Bishop – DE – Jr: Cato-Bishop does a good job getting off of blocks and had a tackle for loss on 4th down to turn the ball over on downs.
Rickey Dowdy – LB – Jr: Recovered Tyler Bray’s fumble on the goal line.
David Amerson – CB – Jr: Amerson was my top rated corner coming into the season. He led the country in interceptions last season. Last night was a rough one for him. Tyler Bray attacked him early and beat him on 41 yard and 72 yard bombs for touchdowns. To his credit, he kept his head up and improved his play after getting beat early.
Brandon Bishop – S – Jr: Forced a fumble by Tyler Bray on the goal line that was recovered by his teammate to end a scoring threat just before the half.
Earl Wolff – S – Jr: Wolff is good in run support. He was making tackles all over the field and does a good job tackling in space. He had 1 tackle for loss.
by Dwayne Wilton