The Volunteers (4-1, 2-1 SEC) are coming off a narrow win over South Carolina and a loss against Auburn. In both games, they haven't been able to either run the ball or stop the run, two staples of the Phil Fulmer era in Knoxville.
Tennessee's stable of running backs - which includes Cedric Houston,
Jabari Davis and freshman Gerald Riggs Jr. - carried the ball only nine
times against Auburn, and the Volunteers totaled only 4 rushing yards as
a team. In the last three games, Tennessee has rushed the ball 102 times
for 260 yards, averaging just 2.5 yards per carry.
Fulmer defended those numbers by saying his offense merely has been
taking what defenses give it, and he professed optimism the running game
will be there when Tennessee needs it.
"I think we can still run the football," he said. "We're
going to need to."
The Volunteers host No. 8 Georgia (4-1, 2-1 SEC) at 7:45 p.m. Saturday
in Knoxville, Tenn.
Georgia has been stifling against the run this year. The Bulldogs were
11th in the country in rush defense (79.5 yards per game) heading into
the Alabama game and allowed the Crimson Tide just 6 rushing yards in
the first half.
Fulmer said he expects his highly regarded offensive line to take much
of the heat for those numbers.
"Right now they should be ready for a lot of criticism because
you don't run the ball very well, that's where everybody is going to
look," the former offensive line coach said. "I think we can be much
more consistent than we have been on the offensive line, but I also
think we can be more consistent at a lot of positions."
Tennessee's offense gave up five sacks against the Tigers, which isn't
a good sign with Georgia's Thomas Davis coming off a two-sack game
"Yes, I would be very concerned about Georgia's pass rush,"
If Tennessee can't run the ball effectively against the Bulldogs, there
will be little reason for Bulldogs' defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder to hold Davis back.
Houston is the Vols' leading rusher with 442 yards on 86 carries. Davis
is next at 239 yards on 48 carries. Riggs, who has only four carries
this year, didn't play against Auburn because he stil has work to do on
pass protection but is still part of the plan, Fulmer said.
The frustration of Tennessee's backs can only heighten as they watch
opposing backs run wild. Auburn rushed for 264 yards last week and South
Carolina, which gained 111 on the ground against Georgia, rolled up 217
against the Volunteers.
The reasons for the recently porous run defense are many, Fulmer said.
"We're out of alignment too many times, missed too many tackles and
physically whipped too much," he said. "We can't win consistently
up that many rushing yards."
Fulmer may not have to worry this week because Georgia doesn't appear
capable of taking advantage of his team's struggles against the run. The
Bulldogs are averaging 141 yards per game on the ground but managed only
2.2 yards per carry against an Alabama team that was also struggling
against the run.
"We're not strong enough and physical enough to line up and hammer
ball," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "I'd be pleasantly surprised if
Tennessee's vulnerability is foreign
Dawg Post Top Stories
They Said It: Kirby Smart Talks GatorsATHENS - UGA coach Kirby Smart talks about UGA's upcoming game with the Gators.
Dawg Post2:45 PM
Dawg Post Monday Recruiting Update:Dawg Post takes a look at Georgia's current backs and their breakout games this past Friday. We also give an update on some of the state's top running back prospects in 2018.
Dawg Post11:25 AM
Florida and Georgia Pursuing Auburn CommitTray Bishop remains committed to Auburn, but he has two other SEC schools on his mind too. Florida will have him on campus soon and Georgia has hosted him twice in October...
Scout Football7:04 AM
Gators Listed as 6.5-pt Favs over UGAATHENS - Georgia will enter the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party an underdog for the second year in a row.
Dawg PostYesterday at 7:39 PM