The eyes have it

You can make a pretty strong case that Cincinnati's best play isn't even in the Bearcats' playbook.

Tennessee's Game 2 opponent seems to be at its most dangerous when quarterback Zach Collaros is flushed from the pass pocket and forced to ad lib. If the defense ignores him, he usually scrambles for a nice gain. If the defense attacks him, he usually flips the ball downfield for an even nicer gain.

Vol defenders must be alert to each possibility Saturday afternoon, and the best way to stay alert is to keep your eyes wide open. Just ask Tennessee defensive line coach Lance Thompson, who has watched hours of film on Collaros this week.

"The big thing is, when you rush this kid you can't take your eyes off of him," the Vol aide said. "You've got to have your eyes on him and you've got to be in front of him. You can't be high (pushed to the outside) and be by the quarterback because he kills people."

In last Saturday's opener Collaros completed 12 of 19 passes for 134 yards and four touchdowns, with five rushes for another 25 yards. Those numbers are even more impressive when you consider that he compiled them while playing roughly half of the Bearcats' 72-10 blowout of Austin Peay.

The Governors got little pressure on Collaros last weekend, which may have been to their benefit. When he's pressured and forced to improvise, his mobility opens up the field for his pass catchers.

"We made a scramble tape, and when he's out of the pocket their receivers do a great job downfield of finding spots to get open," Thompson said. "It's like a designed play. When he breaks out of the pocket they know exactly where they're going and usually the result is a big play for their offense. He causes you a lot of issues — with his feet and his arm."

Making Collaros all the more dangerous is the fact he has two quality weapons at his disposal. He has a superior tailback to hand the ball to in Isaiah Pead (7 carries, 87 yards in Game 1) and a superior receiver to throw the ball to in D.J. Woods (4 catches, 59 yards in Game 1).

"Their quarterback, their running back and their wide receiver are big-time," Thompson said. "It's kind of like South Carolina. They've got a great quarterback, good running back, good receiver and they can execute that offense."

The obvious key to harnessing Cincinnati's offense is for Vol linemen to get pressure on the quarterback without letting him escape the pocket. They failed in this quest a few times in last Saturday's opener vs. Montana, whose quarterback isn't nearly as elusive as Collaros.

"We had some young guys in there and there were a couple of busts in containment of the quarterback," Thompson noted. "He got out and scrambled a couple of times when we had him (hemmed) in there."

Still, the Vols' front four did a reasonably good job of pressuring the quarterback in the opener.

"They had 12 what we consider drop-back passing situations, and we were efficient on nine of them," Thompson said. "From that standpoint we were good. We played the screen game well. We're trying to teach guys what we call FBI - being smart and playing with football intelligence."

The Vol aide was particularly pleased with the Game 1 play of junior college transfer Maurice Couch at nose tackle.

"Mo did some really good things, especially for the first time out on this kind of stage," Thompson said. "I was really pleased with Mo. He's a force in the run game. If he's taking up two blockers and we've got a free 'backer or a free second-level player, that's a good job."

Couch wasn't the only D-lineman who performed well for the Vols, however. The front four as a unit played solid football for the most part.

"I thought it was a good first game as a starting point in terms of their effort and their toughness," Thompson said. "I was disappointed a little bit in the second group on that last drive but, other than that, I thought we played steady. It was nothing to get excited about but a good first game."


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