Tennessee’s youth has sometimes been used as a crutch, but Saturday it also served as a boost in the Vols’ 38-7 loss to No. 1 LSU.
Three of Tennessee’s top four tacklers Saturday were true freshmen. Linebacker A.J. Johnson led the team with 11, defensive back Brian Randolph had nine, and defensive lineman Curt Maggitt added seven.
“They’re going to be really good players, all three of those guys,” UT coach Derek Dooley said. “Right now they’re not; they don’t have the physicality to hold up in this kind of game, I don’t think, because they’re young, their bodies.”
Johnson’s previous career-high was seven tackles against Florida. In five games before Saturday, Johnson had 21 tackles.
“I believe that was one of the most physical games we’ve came out and played,” Johnson said. “In the first half we were all hyped up and ready to play.”
 Senior defensive tackle Malik Jackson, who had eight tackles, commended Johnson on his growth this season.
“Yeah, A.J. is coming out, he’s doing remarkable things. Eleven tackles against the No. 1 team in the nation isn’t easy by far,” Jackson said. “He works really hard during the week. He’s really smart, you know, he’s kind of a mental guy. He goes out there every week, just gets in his playbook and gets it out there in practice, messes up, which is what you’re supposed to do in practice. Comes into the games and tries to be flawless.”
Added Dooley: “A.J. especially has more physicality than anybody we have in the back seven. I told you all this was going to be his kind of game. He’s got stature that can compete against these type of teams. And that’s what we have to keep improving on. This is a stature game.”
Young contributing
True freshman Devrin Young had another good day kick returning, handling five for 135 yards, including a 60-yard return, which was the longest of the season for UT.
 “He’s doing good. Had another good return. He had a couple good returns,” Dooley said.
As Dooley eluded to after the loss to Georgia, Young also made it on the field for a few offensive plays, including a 21-yard reception on a dump pass.
 He rushed twice for negative 5 yards.
Simms in for Bray
Senior Matt Simms started his first game at quarterback since Tennessee’s game at South Carolina last October due to Tyler Bray’s broken right thumb suffered during the Georgia game. Struggling with timing and accuracy, Simms finished 6-of-20 for 128 and two interceptions.
“I played terrible,” Simms said. “Yeah, simple as that. I played terrible.
“It was a good defense and they played hard for the whole game. I am really disappointed in myself for the two first-half turnovers. You can’t do that against a good team.”
Dooley wasn’t as hard on Simms.
“Matt did some good things,” he said. “There are some throws he is going to want back.”
Les Miles’ Mad-Hattery
Tauren Poole’s 2-yard touchdown run and a Michael Palardy extra point pulled the Vols within 14-7 of the Tigers in the second quarter, but LSU coach Les Miles wasn’t so sure.
Miles, known as the Mad Hatter for his trick plays and unusual mannerisms, wasn’t so sure whether Palardy’s extra point, which was ruled good on the field, actually went through the uprights.
So he challenged it.
“I just challenged it,” Miles simply said.
Up next
It doesn’t get any easier for Tennessee this October. The Vols’ visit to No. 2 Alabama on Saturday was announced for a 7:15 p.m. EST kickoff on ESPN2. Tennessee lost 12-10 to the top-ranked Crimson Tide in its last visit to Briant-Denny Stadium when Terrence Cody blocked Daniel Lincoln’s last-second field goal attempt.
Tennessee returns to Knoxville on Oct. 29 to play No. 14 South Carolina.