Another 'typical' Tennessee offense

Injuries and inexperienced tailbacks have limited Tennessee somewhat this year. But averaging more than 400 yards per game, once again the Volunteers sport a dangerous attack. <br><br>"They're a typical Tennessee offense," Tide Defensive Coordinator Carl Torbush said. "They can run the ball well, even though they're throwing the ball more and better than they ever have."

"Right now Tennessee is a lot more multiple on offense than I've ever seen them before," Torbush continued. "But they still have the ability to line up with two tight ends, with two backs, and pound you. If they get in a tight, close ball game, I believe they'd have no problem doing just that."

Though this year's team lacks a dominant tailback, the Volunteers can still run the football. (GettyImages)

Casey Clausen, the starting quarterback, sat out Tennessee's last game, recovering from an injured shoulder, cracked clavicle, or broken collarbone---depending on which story out of Knoxville you believe. But in his absence freshman James Banks showed excellent athleticism. "You can't prepare for one quarterback or another," Torbush said. "You've got to prepare for Tennessee's offense and understand that when each one is in there they're going to do certain things a little differently."

Now in his third season as a starter, Clausen leads the SEC in virtually all relevant quarterback statistics. Torbush provided a scouting report. "Clausen is very smart. He's been through the wars. He knows where the soft spots are in the defense. He moves in the pocket extremely well. He will scramble. He's obviously a tough kid. He's not scared to pull the ball down and go for a first down.

"He hurt us a couple of times last year running the ball. Once we get him scrambling we've got to get him on the ground."

Injuries have hit especially hard on the UT line, but Torbush doesn't expect a drop-off in performance. "Their offensive line will be outstanding, and they always are," he said. "They've got a couple of guys that are injured, but they've been able to replace them with the same type athlete. I don't think they'll miss a beat. They're a very physical line. They can control the ball on the ground if they try to."

For the first time in several years the Volunteers are missing a dominant athlete at tailback. But that doesn't mean the position lacks for talent. "Their running backs are really good football players," Torbush said. "They've played four guys. They're all very good SEC football players. They're young and are going to be around a long time.

Injured or not, Casey Clausen is a dangerous quarterback. (GettyImages)

"Jabari Davis is a strong, physical guy. He reminds you of Musa Smith. He's maybe a little more powerful. Davis is a hard running back.

"Cedrick Houston is a good player. Houston has been out, but they expect him back this week.

"Derrick Tinsley catches the ball well. Both Houston and Tinsley are good receivers.

"They also use Troy Fleming at fullback. He's a multiple guy. He's diversified enough that they use him in the one-back set."

And of course it wouldn't be a Tennessee team without a bevy of fleet wideouts. "Their receiving corps is the same type you're accustomed to," Torbush said. "They've got size and excellent speed. They catch the ball well. I'm impressed that they block well."

Though he hasn't made many friends among the national press (or even among his teammates), former pro baseball player Kelley Washington is the featured receiver in the Tennessee attack. "We're not going to find a better raw athlete anywhere in the country than Washington," Torbush said. "He can catch the deep ball. But what separates him is catching the short ball. Because of his size and strength he can pull away from a defensive back in a heartbeat. He has the body of a linebacker and the athleticism of a quarterback.

He won't win many popularity contests, but Kelley Washington is a talented player. (GettyImages)

"When he first got there they were talking about his phenomenal arm. But they had good quarterbacks ahead of them, and he was too good an athlete to waste him as a backup. They moved him to wide receiver, and the rest is history."

Torbush believes Washington's physical maturity and strength are his greatest assets. "I knew he was a good player, but once I saw him on ESPN with his shirt off I got real impressed. Washington looks like a body builder. He's a well-built guy. You've got to do a great job tackling. He hurt us as much last year on the jail-break screens as much as anything else."

Bama's biggest cornerback stands no taller than 5-11, so scheming to contain Washington will not be easy. Torbush explained, "Ideally you'd like to have a cornerback big enough to line up against him, but we don't. So you've got to be smart in mixing it up. You can't try to bang him, because he'll run you over and push you off of him. And you can't play off him, because you'll get in a one-on-one tackling situation and get in a bind. It wouldn't surprise me for him to go in motion, take a pitch and then throw it deep. We'll mix coverages up and know where he's at."

But as good as Washington is, Torbush quickly points out that Tennessee is definitely not a one-man show. "Jason Witten is as fine a tight end as there is in the country," Torbush said. "He's very athletic. They've taken their offensive scheme to another level because of his athleticism. He'll line up as a wide receiver, in the backfield and at tight end. For his size he runs extremely well in space."

Injuries have forced the Vols to scramble, but there are still plenty of athletes on the offensive line. (GettyImages)

In last year's 35-24 Tennessee win, Witten caught seven passes for 91 yards and a touchdown. "He was the difference against us," Torbush recalled. "He got two key first downs on plays we should have tackled him, but he just overran everybody we had. I think Witten at his position is as dangerous as anybody we've played. He's a really hard guy to get on the ground. He's got soft hands, and he can catch the deep ball."

Injuries at quarterback, tailback and along the offensive line have Vols fans worried, but Torbush knows Alabama must play its best game to win. "I know Tennessee has been banged up a little bit," he said, "but one thing they've done a great job with over the years is recruiting. Over the years when they've lost players they've done a great job of replacing them with great players."

And thanks to the SEC office, once again Tennessee benefited from an off week before their showdown with the Tide. "They've had two weeks to prepare for us," Torbush noted, "so we'll probably see a few things different than we have seen."

BamaMag Top Stories