Vols notebook: Brandon Turnage turns the Tide on his Tennessee playing career

Tennessee Athletics photo by Andrew Ferguson / Tennessee redshirt sophomore defensive back Brandon Turnage, a transfer from Alabama, closes in on South Carolina quarterback Luke Doty during Saturday's 45-20 blowout victory by the Vols.

KNOXVILLE - Brandon Turnage rarely got on the field during his two years in Alabama's secondary, and a similar story was unfolding this season after he transferred to Tennessee.

The 6-foot-1, 186-pound redshirt sophomore was sorely needed Saturday due to injuries to leading tackler Theo Jackson and Doneiko Slaughter, and Turnage responded in a big way, leading the Volunteers with 14 tackles and two tackles for loss during a 45-20 whipping of South Carolina inside Neyland Stadium.

"Coming from Alabama, every day in practice was really kind of like a game," Turnage said. "So in game situations now, it doesn't really affect me because of how I've been coached in the past by Coach (Nick) Saban and now these new coaches. All these guys have really prepared me."

Turnage played at the very end of Tennessee's 38-6 win over Bowling Green in the season opener and didn't see action during the 41-34 loss to Pittsburgh. He collected his first two tackles for the Vols during the 56-0 drubbing of Tennessee Tech but never played in the 38-14 loss at Florida.

Even last week against Missouri, Turnage was on the field for just three plays with the defense in addition to his role on kickoff coverage.

"He played rock solid today," Tennessee coach Josh Heupel said. "It was a great effort by him."

Turnage said he chose Tennessee as his transfer destination because of Heupel, defensive coordinator Tim Banks and longtime Southeastern Conference secondary coach Willie Martinez.

"Honestly, it was truly a blessing," Turnage said of his big afternoon. "Every week, Coach Heup talks about everybody being ready and everybody being prepared. My name was called, so I had to go out and do what I had to do.

"It's been a great experience learning from these guys. They really know what they're talking about."

Back on target

After leading the Vols with four catches for 62 yards in the season opener, sophomore receiver Jalin Hyatt had virtually disappeared other than a 10-yard carry at Florida.

On Saturday, the 6-foot, 175-pounder had three receptions for 21 yards, including two for 14 on Tennessee's first possession. His first catch went for 11 yards, while his second was a 3-yard touchdown for the game's first points.

"We believe in Jalin as a player," Heupel said. "We believe in him in competitive situations. He's only going to continue to get better. As young as we are in this offense, some of them are young as football players, but I thought Jalin had a really good day today."

Ratings discrepancy

South Carolina punter Kai Kroeger, who accounted for the only points of the third quarter with a surprising 44-yard touchdown pass to Payton Mangrum that made it 38-14, finished with a passer rating of 799.6.

Gamecocks edge-rusher Jordan Burch, who was intercepted in the end zone by Jaylen McCollough on second-and-goal from the 2 in the first quarter, finished at minus-200.

It's not every game where two teammates have a passer rating separated by a fraction under 1,000 points.

Odds and ends

Tennessee increased its series lead to 28-10-2 over the Gamecocks with its third straight win. .. Senior defensive tackle Matthew Butler recorded a sack while losing his helmet, and redshirt junior weakside linebacker Jeremy Banks tallied 1.5 sacks but also was flagged for roughing the passer. ... Quarterback Hendon Hooker on what he told receiver Cedric Tillman after a catch over the middle in which Tillman was shaken up: "I told him I would take him out to eat." ... Velus Jones had two punt returns for 33 yards. ... The Vols were 8-for-9 on third-down conversions during the first half. ... Heupel on whether he liked the fact he could use Tennessee's sluggish second half as a teaching moment: "I don't think I liked it during the last 30 minutes of play."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524. Follow him on Twitter @DavidSPaschall.