Airing it out

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Akron won't beat Tennessee this weekend but the Zips may well embarrass the Vols.

That's because Akron has a passing attack capable of putting up mind-boggling numbers and Tennessee has a secondary capable of giving up mind-boggling numbers. This combination could make for an entertaining Saturday evening at Neyland Stadium.

In their 66-6 Game 3 blowout of Morgan State the Zips completed 44 of 59 pass attempts for 565 yards. All three totals established school records, with the attempts total also setting a Mid-American Conference record.

First-year Vol cornerbacks coach Derrick Ansley has never seen anything like that performance in his seven years as an assistant.

"Not in my short career, I haven't," he said. "Those guys are explosive on offense now. They try to get 80-85 snaps per game, so we've got to do a good job of getting off the field and our offense has got to do a good job of controlling the clock and we've got to do a good job of making plays when they put it in the air."

The Zips, coached by former Auburn head man Terry Bowden, feature an attack quite similar to the high-scoring one Mike Leach ran at Texas Tech in the early 2000s. They basically play hurry-up for four quarters, running the ball only to give the quarterback's arm an occasional rest.

Vol assistant Derrick Ansley will see his position's players put to the test against Akron.
(Danny Parker/
"They're a spread team, and they try to go fast, kind of like the old days at Texas Tech with Leach," Ansley said. "They're going to snap it fast, so we've got to get lined up, get the calls and be ready to play."

Getting lined up correctly is not a given for the 2012 Vol secondary, which has given up pass completions of 75, 49, 32, 32, 28, 26, 25, 24, 23, 20 and 20 yards in the first three games. Akron should be able to pop some big plays, too, especially if the Zips again put the ball in the air 59 times.

"It's a great challenge for the secondary and, as a secondary coach, this is the kind of game you like to see," Ansley said. "They're not going to be fancy. They're going to come out in four-wide (receiver sets) and they're going to try to go fast, so we've got to do a good job of covering."

Rather than fret about last Saturday's meltdown against Florida, Tennessee's defensive backs had better focus on the Akron air raid this week.

"Absolutely," Ansley said. "The guys are prepared and they're ready to go."

Actually, some of the guys are prepared and ready to go. Freshman backups Deion Bonner and Daniel Gray are still feeling their way along.

"They're real close," Ansley said. "It's a long season. It's only Week 3 going into Week 4, so it's a lot of development to get them where they need to be as far as getting it done. They're going out there this week and showing us that they're trying to do that. Are they where they need to be? Not yet. Are they getting close? Absolutely.

Although Tennessee is a prohibitive favorite, Akron's aerial circus should give the Vol secondary a stern test.

"Not just the secondary," Ansley said. "The front also. You can't have good pass coverage if you don't have a good rush, so it goes hand in hand. We're going to find out this week who's going to rush the passer. We're going to find out this week what linebackers can drop into the right positions and we're going to find out what secondary guys can cover and make the right adjustments in the back end. Absolutely, we're going to find out a lot about our defense."

The key question: Will the Vols like what they find out?

Tennessee defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri spoke with the media earlier this week in this video:

Have a listen to what Ansley said about the Zips and other topics in this HD video:

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