Mike DeBord likes to say that every game has a story.
Each chapter of Saturday’s story involved a healthy dose of running the football with Jalen Hurd and quarterback Josh Dobbs, which DeBord said limited the amount of passing opportunities he called as the ground game racked up 254 rushing yards in a 28-27 loss to Florida.
“The story of that game was we were running the ball very effectively,” DeBord said Tuesday. “There were times I probably could have gone to the passing game more, but when the run game is going good, we stayed with the running game. We’ve got to get our passing game involved more. I will do that. We will do that, but in that game, we were running the football.”
The first-year Tennessee offensive coordinator dialed up only 17 passes in the entire game against the Gators, which he said was by design. Quarterback Josh Dobbs targeted seven different players Saturday, but the Vols could only muster 83 yards in the air and are No. 102 in the country in passing yards per game.
Tennessee is the only team in the SEC that doesn’t have a 100-yard receiver, and DeBord recognized the frustration that could be building in the locker room with his receiving corps.
“I’m sure the receivers are probably a little frustrated,” he said. “If I was a receiver I would be too because they’re competitors. They want the ball. Everybody wants the ball. That day is coming. We’re going to get the ball to them. I told them that too.”
The Vols’ next opponent, Arkansas, gives up 264 yards a game in the air and DeBord knows he’ll have to attempt to exploit that to win.
"They play both man and zone, and it's just people in space making plays," DeBord said about Arkansas' vulnerability on pass defense. "That's what that is."
Going for two
DeBord also backed his head coach’s claim that kicking the extra point after a touchdown in the fourth quarter put Tennessee ahead by 13 over Florida was the right call. Jones received criticism for not going for two and putting the Vols ahead by 14 with 10:19 to play, but according to DeBord, that was too much time on the clock to not kick the extra point.
“That was a decision based upon time," he said. "If it was less time, then we would have gone for two. But with that much time left, basically, you do normally go for one.”
Debord also mentioned that he’s been in similar situations like that before as a coach and usually kicks the extra point.
“It’s a decision that you make at that time,” he said. “You don’t know what’s going to happen 11 minutes later.”
|Tennessee freshman linebacker Austin Smith|
Sink or swim Smith
Austin Smith is the strongside linebacker when Tennessee is in the 4-3 formation. That much has been established. The freshman, who is still learning on the job, will either sink or burned depending on which metaphor you like to use. Smith is replacing starter Curt Maggitt, Tennessee’s do-it-all hybrid linebacker/defensive end who is out with a bone chip in his hip.
“He’s going to be thrown into the fire,” defensive coordinator John Jancek said. “He’s going to be thrown in the deep end without a life jacket. He’s got to figure it out soon.”
The 6-foot-3, 236-pounder from Buford, Georgia, has one tackle in four games played.