Hendon Hooker was a Heisman candidate and arguably the favorite until his season-ending injury. Insanely, Joe Milton III’s stats were more efficient. As a team, the Vols completed 68.7 percent of their passes on the year and averaged just over 10 yards an attempt with 38 touchdowns and three picks. Hooker and Milton also combined to rush for 122 yards and five touchdowns.
Running back: A-
The Vols were No. 26 in yards per game with 199.46 and No. 31 in yards per carry at 4.96. Jabari Small did average under five yards per carry, but Jaylen Wright had right at six. Those two combined for over 1,700 all-purpose yards and 25 total touchdowns. Dylan Sampson added 421 all-purpose yards and six touchdowns. Those three easily warrant an A grade.
Wide receiver: A+
Not many schools can lose their go-to receiver and still have the best passing offense in the nation. That’s a tribute to the great play of the Vols’ quarterbacks and their depth at receiver. Jalin Hyatt alone gives the group an A+ as the Biletnikoff Winner who had 67 catches for 1,267 yards and a school-record 15 touchdowns. Bru McCoy and Ramel Keyton combined for over 1,200 yards and five TDs. Squirrel White and Cedric Tillman each had over 400 yards.
Tight end: A
Princeton Fant’s versatility alone gave this unit an A. He had 22 catches for 241 yards and three touchdowns on the year, but he added five rushing touchdowns on six carries. Add in a touchdown pass he threw, and he did it all. Jacob Warren added 12 catches for 163 yards, and Tennessee football should be in good hands with him returning.
Offensive line: A-
Darnell Wright anchored this group at right tackle. The Vols were down at No. 45 in fewest sacks per game, but that’s still above average. They also ran the ball well throughout the year. On the interior, Cooper Mays, Jerome Carvin and Javontez Spraggins were always reliable, and Gerald Mincey developed at left tackle as the season went on while Jeremiah Crawford did his part.
Overall offensive grade: A+
Whenever you lead the nation in yards per game and points per game and are second in the nation in points per play and yards per play, there’s not much to criticize. Tennessee football lived up to every part of the expectations that were set when Josh Heupel was hired this year.