Tennessee offensive coordinator Mike DeBord isn’t afraid to put in the extra hours preparing for a game. He might even have gotten a glimpse of some of the Kenny Chesney concert Friday night as he loves to get to the press box long before kickoff.
It’s high in the sky where the second-year Vols playcaller likes to make any last-second adjustments to his gameplan. DeBord has proven he is up to the task of having his offense prepared to strike first.
“The really good playcallers are so prepared from studying the opponent’s tendencies and they have a good feel for what the defense is trying to do and some of that feel comes from the scripted plays,” Tennessee’s all-time leading receiver Joey Kent said. “Transitioning from the scripted plays is where they earn their money. For example, being one or two plays ahead in their mind with setting up a play-action pass, double move, when to use tempo and where to attack the defense running the ball.”
Under DeBord’s guidance, the offense has been down right unstoppable on the first drive of every game. That certainly didn’t change in the opener against Appalachian State.
After falling behind 7-0, Tennessee marched crisply down the field and had seemingly scored a game-tying touchdown but wide receiver Preston Williams couldn’t maintain control after hitting the ground in the end zone.
On that opening drive the Vols kept the chains moving with five first downs. Joshua Dobbs was far from his best, but he did prove to be sharp on the opening drive.
Dobbs completed four of his first five passes including a conversion on third-and-seven to Williams for 16 yards. Tennessee junior running back Jalen Hurd also had a fast start with 26 yards during that opening drive with his longest rush from scrimmage — a 13-yard gain.
Tennessee has just punted twice after the opening drive in DeBord’s first 14 games with the Vols. Only one of those was a three-and-out with six resulting in touchdowns. Four drives ended with Aaron Medley lining up for a field goal and two ended in turnovers. Those drives have been of the long-sustained variety, averaging eight plays with 6 of 14 being double-digit snaps.
DeBord leans on 30 years of coaching experience and in that time he has become efficient in watching film and preparing his team.
“We usually script out about the first 15 plays,” DeBord said. “We had very good success with that last year having a very high tendency of scoring. We went right down the field this week (against Appalachian State).”
Everyone wearing orange on gamedays is waiting for the offense to sustain the same level of success as the game moves past its initial stages.
Appalachian State found a way to confuse the Tennessee offensive line and quickly took the Vols out of any rhythm they had found. DeBord said the O-line’s inability to protect Dobbs made it hard to throw downfield.
“We went down the field twice but ended up in second-and-long,” DeBord said. “It’s hard when you see things but those second-and-long plays make for tough series. We have worked hard this week and I am sure we will hold up.”
Look for redshirt junior running back Alvin Kamara to get the ball more in Bristol.
“We want to get him the ball. We had 15 plays called this week where Alvin was an option but he may have not been open on those plays,” DeBord said.
In the Battle at Bristol, DeBord will be the pit crew chief in charge of having his offense running like a well-oiled machine from the command of gentlemen start your engines to the drop of the green and checkered flags.