KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee football finally got back in the win column in what proved to be a game of firsts.
The Vols (4-5) earned a 24-10 victory over Southern Miss (5-4) in their homecoming game, and they did it with a lot of fresh faces in new positions.
Two true freshmen, quarterback Will McBride and offensive lineman Riley Locklear, saw the first action of their careers because of severe attrition at their positions, while redshirt freshmen Ryan Johnson and Devante Brooks got their first career starts.
Tennessee’s injuries on the offensive line have been well documented, with incumbent offensive tackles Brett Kendrick and Drew Richmond the most recent to be ruled out with injuries.
That led the Vols to use their sixth different offensive line combination this season, but they still managed their first game-opening touchdown drive of the season. Redshirt freshman QB Jarrett Guarantano scored the first rushing TD of his career to cap a nine-play, 49-yard TD drive.
Here’s a look at player firsts:
Tennessee QB Will McBride
McBride, a true freshman from League City, Texas, came off the bench in the first half after Guarantano got his ankle rolled on the TD run. McBride’s stat line — 1-of-8 passing, 13 yards — is a bit misleading. McBride had two passes dropped, and a would-be touchdown sailed just beyond a receiver’s fingertips.
OL Trey Smith
Head coach Butch Jones said Smith is the first true freshman story start a game at left tackle since 1988. Smith, a Freshman All-America candidate, started the first eight games at offensive guard.
OL Devante Brooks
Brooks, a redshirt freshman from St. John’s College High School in Washington, D.C., started in his first game since 10th grade. Brooks suffered torn ACLs before his junior and senior years of high school. Brooks projected as a tight end with the Vols before growing into an offensive lineman.
OL Riley Locklear
Locklear, a true freshman from Huntington, W.V., saw his first career action when Brooks and Coleman Thomas were forced out of the game with injuries. Locklear, like McBride a spring semester enrollee, had hoped to redshirt this season.
WR Jordan Murphy
Murphy, a true freshman and spring semester enrollee from Hattiesburg, Miss., made his first career catch (12 yards) against his hometown school on Saturday night.
OL Ryan Johnson
Johnson, a redshirt freshman from Brentwood, Tenn., got his first career start at right guard. Johnson also played left guard when an injury led to an in-game line shift.
CB Emmanuel Moseley
Moseley, who has started all nine games this season, got his first interception of 2017. Previously, Moseley’s most recent interception came against Northwestern in the Outback Bowl following his sophomore season (2015).