With future NFL quarterback Tyler Bray running the show and healthy again, offensive coordinator Jim Chaney has his top arm back on the field. But, as any signal-caller is quick to admit, a ground attack is a QB's best friend.
With that being the case, Vol QBs Bray, Matt Simms and Justin Worley were left hanging more times than not in 2011. To see where Tennessee ranked in rushing offense, it takes some scrolling and clicking to get on down to the triple figures as it came in at No. 116th in the land with 90.1 yards per game.
"On offense, obviously we're going to have to find a way to run the football a lot better than we did last year," coach Derek Dooley said at the start of spring ball. "That's going to be a big emphasis this spring. We're thin at wideout anyway, so it's a good excuse to go out there and hammer it every day to try to figure out how we're going to run the ball."
Last season the Volunteers averaged 332.7 yards per game, which ranked 104th nationally. They converted 40.9 percent of third-down opportunities, good enough for 56th in the land.
Not coincidentally, the two teams playing for the BCS National Championship were also among the country's best in turnovers lost as LSU and Alabama accumulated just 22 combined. The Vols weren't atrocious in that department, handing out 18.
To keep safeties out of the box and linebackers guessing, the aforementioned wide receiver talent must realize its potential. Justin Hunter's health coming back from an ACL tear must steadily improve. Da' Rick Rogers needs to leave the doghouse behind and build on his All-SEC sophomore campaign. Cordarrelle Patterson has to get through the summer fully qualified and with at least some knowledge of Chaney's offense.
InsideTennessee will continue to bring its subscribers the lowdown on the Big Orange as the spring and summer progress toward kickoff against NC State at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Aug. 31.
To get a listen at what Bray told reporters this week about his surgically-repaired thumb and taking on the role of a leader, click play on the video below:
The competition to be the team's top tailback is wide open. Listen to one of the best candidates to earn the starting job as Marlin Lane goes on record in this video:
Looking to move up the depth chart amongst the wide receivers is Vincent Dallas. Check out what the sophomore said on camera below: