Just give it to Ced

Today's lesson in irony: Offensive coordinator Randy Sanders has relied heavily on basic off-tackle running plays in Tennessee's first two football games, yet Vol fans aren't grumbling about ''conservative playcalling.''

That's because the off-tackle plays are working. And the reason they're working is simple: Cedric Houston is getting good blocking and making the most of his openings.

Houston rushed 19 times for 161 yards in the opener vs. Fresno State, then came back with 160 yards on 26 carries in Game 2 vs. Marshall. He single-handedly has accounted for one-third of UT's offense this fall (321 of 991 yards) and is averaging a whopping 7.1 yards per carry.

''I don't think there's any doubt that Cedric's our best player,'' Sanders said recently. ''Jabari's a nice back and has had some nice runs for us, but Cedric's the guy who's consistently getting it done. Right now you feel like you get a good at-bat whenever you give him the ball.''

Some of Houston's ''at-bats'' have been downright spectacular. He produced three runs of 20 yards or more in the opener, then added a 50-yard burst and a 35-yarder in Game 2.

Why the sudden rash of big gainers?

''My O-line and me reading my blocks a whole lot better than I was last year,'' Houston said. ''I feel pretty good out there. I'm just reading my blocks and running hard.''

Houston's big day against Marshall occurred despite the fact the Thundering Herd crowded the line of scrimmage in an all-out attempt to stop the run.

''I had to earn all 160 of them yards,'' Houston said with a grin. ''I told Coach Sanders we should've come out throwing a little more to open up the run but we got it going anyway, and I feel good about it.''

He also feels good about Tennessee's offense, which will be counted upon heavily Sept. 20 when the Vols face high-scoring Florida.

''I think the offense is going to do pretty good against Florida,'' Houston said. ''If the offensive line is doing what they do and the wide receivers step up and do their thing, I think we can beat Florida.''

Inside Tennessee Top Stories