Clausen likes Vol attack

It's awfully early, but Tennessee quarterback Casey Clausen already sees signs that the Vol attack will be more potent than a year ago.

For one thing, he believes he has more weapons at his disposal.

''Yeah, definitely,'' he said recently. ''Going into last year, we had two pretty good weapons in Kelley (Washington) and Jason Witten. We were looking for that other (outside) guy opposite of Kelley, and we never really found that guy.

''Once our main big-play guy (Washington) went down, that made things real tough. Jason is a real good player but when your tight end is your big-play threat, that makes it difficult. Teams were double-teaming and triple-teaming him, which made it even tougher on Coach (Randy) Sanders to call plays and made it tougher on us to execute. Knowing we couldn't stretch the field vertically made things real, real tough.''

With the switch of safety Mark Jones and backup QB James Banks to receiver -- along with the arrival of four talented freshman pass-catchers -- Clausen is convinced he WILL be able to stretch the field by completing some deep balls this fall.

''I'm not going to change my style of game,'' he said. ''My strength is throwing the ball down the field. Ever since I've watched Tennessee and ever since I've been here, we had been able to do that. But last year we weren't able to do that and we struggled.''

Last year, Tennessee's receivers struggled just to line up correctly. This year, they're more experienced and more competent at carrying out assignments and making some plays.

''This first few days of practice we've been doing that,'' Clausen said. ''We're going to find the best three, four, five guys that can 1) line up right, 2) know where to be and 3) make things happen when they catch the football.''

This time last year Clausen recognized that Tennessee's wide receiver corps was substandard and asked that Jones or fellow safety Rashad Baker be moved to shore up the position. The request was denied. This year he says the outlook at receiver is much brighter.

''Where we are now and where we were last year at this time is a big step up,'' he said.

One reason is the presence of talented freshmen Robert Meachem, Jayson Swain, Bret Smith and Bill Grimes. Clausen likes what he has seen from them thus far.

''They've all got talent,'' he said. ''The thing about them is they're physical and they compete. They might get jammed on one play but the next play they're out there competing. I told them, 'You've come here for a reason -- to compete and try to win a starting job.' They've taken that pretty much with open arms. We spend a lot of time going over signals and film study, and they're doing the best they can to try and get on the field.''

Another factor which could make Tennessee's offense more explosive is the fact there's more quickness at tailback.

''I think so -- with Ced (Cedric Houston) and Jabari (Davis), Troy Fleming and Gerald Riggs,'' Clausen said. ''The guy that's the wild card is Corey Larkins. He's a guy who, when he gets the ball in his hands, can make something special happen. He's a dynamic player who has excellent speed and good hands coming out of the backfield. When teams rush four and drop six or seven, it's going to be a key for me to find those guys underneath and let them make plays.''

With better receivers and faster running backs, Tennessee should boast more quick-strike ability than it had a year ago. That should mean more points than a year ago.

''We have to score in four-, five-, six-play drives,'' Clausen said. ''Even people in the NFL can't (put together) 10-play drives. The big play is something we have to have this year in our offense, whether it's running the ball or throwing the ball. We've got to 1) dictate to the defense what we want to do and 2) take advantage of what they're giving us and make those big plays down the field.''

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