Obviously I took a lot of notes on Virginia Tech’s players, but I also took note of what some Tennessee players were doing. I took notes on their two best WR’s Gerald Jones and Denarius Moore, brief notes on their TE Luke Stocker, their MLB Herman Lathers, their OLB LaMarcus Thompson and their freshman safety Janzen Jackson. I liked what I saw from all of them, but they had their ups and downs.

Jones has pretty good size and hands, and emerged as a reliable target for Crompton during his junior season.

Gerald Jones had a pretty good game and only had one drop plus two good catches he made with his hands from what I saw. He was pretty consistent in this game, but he also let a pass or two get into his pads which is something I did not like. He was routinely open on curl routes near the sideline and did a good job of making catches with his hands there. He seemed to do a good job of finding a hole in the zone and making a catch there. His biggest challenge coming into his senior season will be to clean up his hands, continue to improve his route running and he needs to just be more consistent. He had something of a breakout year last year as a junior as he matched and exceeded his career totals from his previous two seasons in catches and yards and almost matched his career total in touchdowns (he had four last year and his previous career total was 5). It will be interesting to see how he does this year, because I honestly like him in the mid-late round range right now, especially if he can knock this bad habit of letting passes get into his pads.

Moore has great speed and has shown some impressive route running, but he needs to be more consistent catching the ball with his hands.

Denarius Moore had more ups but also more downs in this game. He had a couple of nice catches that he made with his hands away from his body, and really showed some nice route running ability when he burned Kam Chancellor deep in the 2nd half and when he set up a play action pass well when he faked a block and then darted into the end zone for a touchdown. He had three good catches, but he also had two huge drops. The biggest drop could have been a game-changer for Tennessee as it was on the same play when he burned Chancellor deep. He faked a post to the outside and then darted back down the seam and he completely turned Chancellor around and got at least four yards of separation. The ball was on target and it got to him more or less in stride but he tried to catch it up against his pads and it fell to the turf. If he makes that catch or tries to secure it with his hands first and then cradles it against his body it is almost certainly a touchdown that would have brought Tennessee within six points. Instead it was a drop and Tennessee would later punt the ball away on that drive.

Moore has great speed (4.42 timed speed) and he has great quickness to get in and out of his breaks, and really showed some dedication to his route running in this game. But he has to clean up those drops because you can’t drop a pass like that in the NFL if you want to stick on a roster. He also dropped another touchdown pass later in the game, but he was diving for it as it was a little low and he got hit as the ball got there. It hit his hands and it would have been a nice catch, but regardless of the circumstances it was still a drop. So like I said, Moore had an up and down game, but those dropped touchdowns will probably haunt him for a long time. That is, before he makes up for them by improving his hands and making more big plays as a senior than he did as a junior. Like his teammate Gerald Jones he matched and exceeded his career totals in receptions and yards but he also exceeded his career totals in touchdowns as a junior. If he improves his catching ability he could move up boards quickly with his speed and route running ability, so I am excited to see him play this year.

Luke Stocker was not overly involved in this game and I didn’t take any notes on him as a blocker, but he had a decent game receiving. He had a couple catches, both of which he made with his hands away from his body, and showed some toughness making a catch in traffic and dragging a defender for some tough yards after the catch. I don’t know why Tennessee doesn’t involve him in the passing game more as he seems to have reliable hands. Hopefully next year he will have a more significant role in the passing game.

Lathers has decent size, pretty good instincts and plays well when he can play downhill versus the run.

Herman Lathers looked pretty good to me in this game. He is a little undersized for the MLB spot as he is only 6’1”, 213 pounds right now, but he should put on more weight before his sophomore year. Despite being a little light, he did a good job versus the run. I am not sure how good his change of direction ability is, but when he can play downhill versus the run and shoot a gap he is very effective. He is a pretty good tackler but he missed a tackle or two on Ryan Williams (but so do a lot of people) over the course of the game. Overall I was impressed with him versus the run, but didn’t see much one way or another versus the pass since VT didn’t involve Greg Boone in the passing game at all. He had a pretty good season starting as a freshman, so I am interested to see how he does as a sophomore now that he has some experience.

Thompson is undersized but he packs a punch as a hitter.

LaMarcus Thompson had a pretty solid game, especially versus the run, and made me check on his measurables and his production from the past season. He had 35 tackles, seven tackles for loss, one sack, one QB hurry and one forced fumble. He isn’t very big at 6’1”, 221 pounds, but he looked good supporting the run in this game. He will be a senior this year, so it will be interesting to see if he can put on a little weight. I don’t know how good he is in coverage, but even if he doesn’t do that well he should get a shot as a late round pick or a UDFA because he is a good tackler who really packs a punch as a hitter. He strikes me as a late round pick who will make a team because he will be able to contribute positively on special teams. How he performs as a Senior will determine whether he ever improves his stock beyond that.

Janzen Jackson had a pretty good game. He seems to be a good tackler and he may be the next great playmaking safety for the Volunteers. He got into some trouble earlier in the year as he was potentially involved with an armed robbery and back in August he was held out of practice and forced to run for the duration of that practice because he missed curfew. He seems to have some issues with maturity, but he sure is talented. He had a very nice play when he picked off Tyrod Taylor to end a drive late in the 1st half when VT seemed to be on the move to pick up either a touchdown or a field goal. He is athletically gifted and has a lot of potential, but you have to wonder if the light will come on for him and he will keep himself out of trouble or if he will let off-field issues derail his career. NFL teams will not pick guys with serious character concerns early in the draft anymore, so if he keeps this up he will plunge his stock when he finally declares for the draft later in his career. However, I liked how he looked on the field, especially when he made that nice leaping grab to pick off Tyrod Taylor.

So that is all I have to say about Virginia Tech-Tennessee. If you actually read all of this I commend you for it because it was at least six to seven pages on Microsoft Word prior to the addition of photos. Hopefully you liked what I had to say, and feel free to comment if you agree or disagree with anything I wrote in here.

Thanks for reading!

–Tom Melton

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