Top 10 games in 2021 by Vols returning for 2022

Nov 27, 2021; Knoxville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Volunteers running back Jabari Small (2) runs with the ball during the second half against the Vanderbilt Commodores at Neyland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bryan Lynn-USA TODAY Sports

Lots of the excitement surrounding Tennessee football this year is based off the returning players who had breakout seasons in 2021. Making up those breakout years were a few standout performances were nobody could ignore just what they did. Not all of those individual performances were in wins either.

As this post breaks down the best games of 2021 by returning players, more than a few came in losses. What’s key is whether or not their performance was relevant to the game itself and what level of competition they were facing at the time.

Given Josh Heupel’s system, offensive skill players are naturally going to have multiple big games, and that was certainly the case here. One player on here was mentioned three times. Let’s take a look at who made the list and for which outing. These are the 10 best single-game performances of 2021 by returning Tennessee football players.


Jabari Small

Running back Vanderbilt

15 carries for 103 yards; 2 TDs

Two of Jabari Small’s best games came in the opener and the regular season finale. He rushed for 116 yards and a touchdown against the Bowling Green Falcons. However, he carried the ball 15 times for 103 yards and two touchdowns against the Vanderbilt Commodores, so this game slightly gets the nod.

By this point, Tiyon Evans had transferred out of the program, so Small was clearly the sole go-to feature back, and he was living up to the hype. His first touchdown in this game was a six-yard run to give the Vols a two-score lead in the second quarter, going up 14-0.

Small then had an 11-yard touchdown early in the third quarter after a Vandy touchdown had cut it to 31-13. There was also a key 15-yard run by Small in the first half to set up Tennessee football’s only field goal in the game. He wasn’t the only game-changer, but he played a huge role in UT winning this game 45-21.

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