Offensive notebook

If Tennessee didn't have the youngest offensive line in all of college football prior to this weekend, it surely does now.

The Vols played the second half of Saturday's 31-17 loss to 10th-ranked Florida with a blocking front that featured one senior (guard Jarrod Shaw), two sophomores (tackle Dallas Thomas, center Darin Gooch) and two true freshmen (tackle Ja'Wuan James, guard James Stone).

Gooch started in place of junior Cody Pope, who is recovering from a stinger and a concussion. Stone played the last two quarters as a fill-in for redshirt freshman JerQuari Schofield, who was injured in the first half.

The incredible youth of Tennessee's O-line proved to be a recipe for disaster against a massive Florida front four that recorded six sacks and limited Tennessee to 29 net rushing yards on 23 carries.

"They're good up front, big and physical," Vol head man Derek Dooley said of the Gators. "They were packing the box. We weren't taking any heat off the run game because we weren't completing a pass, either. It was tough plowing out there....

"Some of our young guys had some big eyes out there."

- Tennessee had a chance to take a 10-7 lead early in the second quarter, facing a third-and-goal at the Florida 3-yard line. Matt Simms' pass to the back of the end zone was underthrown and intercepted by linebacker Jonathan Bostic, however.

"It's a play we've run a lot," Dooley noted. "Matt did a good job in practice, missing high. You want to either throw it up high toward the crossbar on that play or hit the swirl underneath. He just shot it a little low."

Simms conceded as much.

"I just didn't throw it high enough," he said, "and maybe babied it a little bit."

- After going 2-for-15 vs. Oregon and 2-for-13 vs. Florida, Tennessee has converted on a meager 14.3 percent (4-for-28) of its third-down opportunities the past two weeks. The Vols were a modest 5-for-15 in Game 1 vs. UT Martin of the Football Championship Subdivision.

"Three weeks in a row we've been terrible on third down," Dooley said. "We've just got to keep working it and executing in the pass game. You can't sit there and say, 'We've got to stay in third-and-medium.' You're going to have some third-and-longs, and you have to convert 'em.

"We're not very good on third down, and there's a lot of reasons for it. They're correctable over time. They (Florida front seven) were doing a lot of stuff with our young linemen. All of those junk pressures ... it's hard."

It's especially hard for an offense that relies on a first-year starter at quarterback, five new starters in the offensive line and two freshman receivers.

"Some of the throws were wrong reads and inaccurate, and some of the receivers weren't doing the right things, so it's a real collective effort," Dooley said. "We're all pitching in on poor third downs, I can assure you."


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