Tennessee needed a team effort to reach eight wins this season. There was no season-long superstar to carry the Vols.
Coach Butch Jones needed contributions from players deep on the depth chart. That made for plenty of post-season award candidates. In 2015, there was a quarterback that was always a threat to tuck-and-run. There were a pair of running backs with complementing styles. Defensively, there was a rock at safety, a shutdown cornerback and an up-and-coming star linebacker.
Plenty deserve praise. However, a select few made it to our list. Here are this season’s award winners:
Team MVP: QB Joshua Dobbs
It’s easy to critique Dobb’s occasional errant passes but the Vols wouldn’t have had near the success they enjoyed without the junior quarterback. With 430 yards from scrimmage in a comeback win against Georgia, Dobbs saved the season.
Defensive MVP: LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin
A star in the making, Reeves-Maybin led the Vols in tackles (99), tackles for a loss (13) and was second on the team in sacks (5). The junior did all that while helping bring along freshman linebacker Darrin Kirkland, Jr.
Best Freshman: LB Darrin Kirkland Jr.
It was just a matter of time until Kirkland, Jr. got the hang of things. The freshman finished fourth in tackles (60) despite receiving far less playing time early in the season. Defensive tackle Shy Tuttle, who suffered a season-ending injury against Georgia, and offensive linemen Jack Jones and Chance Hall deserve an honorable mention for the 2015 Freshman of the Year Award.
Biggest Surprise: OT Chance Hall
No one thought Tennessee needed Chance Hall to be a starter when he signed with Tennessee in February. Injuries forced the former 3-star prospect into the lineup. He started six games and performed well, despite the lack of in-game experience.
Best Play: Fourth-and-Pearson
The season was going awry with Tennessee down 24-3 to Georgia and staring at a possible 2-4 record. Then, receiver Von Pearson saved that game and, perhaps, the season with a sliding 6-yard catch on fourth-and-4 that propelled the Vols to a 38-31 victory. Tennessee would go on to win five of its next six games.