Vols tight ends to prove worth

Slowing down SEC pass rushers isn't an easy task. Can Tennessee find time for its quarterback to distribute the football and move the chains? Read below.

As Tennessee saw in Norman, the offense doesn't work with its quarterback on the ground with the football in his hands.

The harsh reality of having to replace every starting offensive linemen is smacking the Volunteers in the face now that they've reached the the portion of their schedule that includes some of the country's elite.

The teams that consistently win in this football conference have tremendous depth, whether it's in the offensive front, whether it's in the defensive front," coach Butch Jones said. "It's really program depth more than anything. That's a luxury we don't have right now, but we'll get there. We'll get there through recruiting and we'll get there through development.

In spite of having an FBS-leading 22 true freshmen on the field, including the right side of the offensive line, Tennessee finds itself at 2-1 with a nice amount of "calluses" heading into the Southeastern Conference schedule.

Every practice rep and in-game snap does Team 118 and the program's future some good, but winning now is as important as anything else. In order to do that, Tennessee must keep quarterback Justin Worley healthy, off his back and utilizing one of the best wide receiver corps in the country.

Defenses throughout the fall are going to unleash pass rushers the exact same way Oklahoma did until the Vols prove they can burn blitzes or block all comers. One avenue to do so is by having tight ends chip defenders on the edge and give Worley a safety valve, which should both give the senior triggerman more time and a near-sighted option when progressions don't yield downfield options.

Wednesday practice notes

Freshman Ethan Wolf took steps forward this summer and earned the starting job against Utah State in the opener, becoming the first Tennessee tight end to ever do so. The former Scout four-star quickly pulled in eight catches for 46 yards before being blasted slightly above the knee against Arkansas State, causing him to miss the Oklahoma game.

"You can see the skill-set that he brings to the tight end position," Worley said of Wolf. "The pass catching, the run blocking. Having him back and having him healthy is huge for our offense."

In Wolf's absence came another former Scout four-star in Daniel Helm, who caught 35 touchdowns in his prep days. However, Helm has been slowed by an ankle.

Jones says both will trip to Georgia for Saturday's contest (TV: ESPN 12 p.m.) and both will be available.

If indeed they are, the Vols can use both to offset the speed and athleticism of Georgia linebackers Leonard Floyd, Amarlo Herrera, Jordan Jenkins and Ramik Wilson. The group enters with a total of 13 tackles for loss and six sacks.

Learn more about the Tennessee offense and the game plan to upset No. 12 Georgia this weekend, click play on the InsideTennessee videos below:

Mark Elder video interview

Ethan Wolf video interview

Justin Worley video interview

Danny Parker is currently the Managing Editor, Recruiting Analyst and Staff Photographer for InsideTennessee.com. He was previously the sports editor at Shelbyville Times-Gazette. He joined the Scout team July 2011.
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