Midseason review: Tennessee

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Finally, we have something on the field to judge first-year Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin by and not just something he’s said or done. The results the first half of the season have been mixed, but there are signs of hope. The Vols (3-3, 1-2) are coming off their best overall performance of the season in a 45-19 pummeling of Georgia two weeks ago. Quarterback Jonathan Crompton looked like an NFL prospect in that game after struggling to complete the simplest of passes for much of this season. Monte Kiffin’s defense has been the real deal. The Vols are ranked 13th nationally in total defense and have been in every game in which they’ve played. They played Florida straight up in the Swamp and didn’t back down. However, the home losses to UCLA and Auburn may come back to haunt them.

Offensive MVP: RB Montario Hardesty. One of the best stories in the league this season, Hardesty has shucked the injury-prone label and is on his way to a 1,000-yard season. He’s rushed for 672 yards through six games and also scored seven touchdowns. He’s a strong candidate for comeback player of the year honors nationally and is having a superb senior season.

Defensive MVP: S Eric Berry. Don’t be fooled by Berry’s lower interception numbers, although he did pick off Tim Tebow in the Swamp. The Vols are using him a little differently in this defense and playing him up on the line of scrimmage a lot more. He has 50 tackles to lead all SEC defensive backs, including 4.5 tackles for loss, and remains one of the most dynamic defensive players in the country.