Vol offense a work in progress

Tennessee's offense isn't exactly on fire but it's on track. And that's enough to bring a smile to the face of offensive coordinator Randy Sanders as the Vols prepare for this Saturday's game at Florida.

''We've got some ironing-out to do,'' Sanders said. ''I hope we continue to get better every week. I hope we get better this week, get better against Florida and continue to get better when we're in the seventh, eighth, ninth, 10th week of the season.''

The Vols are coming off a 34-24 defeat of Marshall that easily could've been a 55-24 romp. Mark Jones and Jayson Swain dropped touchdowns passes, and Casey Clausen missed a wide-open Derrick Tinsley on a swing pass that would've produced another TD.

''That was a joke,'' Sanders said of the Clausen-to-Tinsley misfire. ''I told Casey before we ran it, 'It's a touchdown. Just get your head around, make sure they (defenders) close, and it'll be a touchdown.'

''I think the guy was too open for Casey to throw it. He kind of babied it. It would've been nice to score that touchdown, really put the game away and everybody could slap high-fives and celebrate on the sideline.''

Even though the Vols blew 21 points vs. Marshall, Sanders saw a lot of positive signs.

''We finally quit making some mistakes,'' he said. ''We finally started getting people in the right places. And we had some receivers step up and make plays for us.''

James Banks caught a short slant pass and turned it into a 24-yard touchdown. Tony Brown made a leaping catch of a 27-yard toss for another TD. Freshman Jayson Swain made a pair of key third-down grabs, one of which gained 35 yards and set up a crucial field goal.

''The first touchdown James Banks made a tremendous play,'' Sanders said. ''Tony Brown made a catch. Jayson Swain had a couple of big catches for us. It was good to get those things under our belts and make some plays.''

Banks has 11 catches for 125 yards and two touchdowns thus far, making him far and away Tennessee's top pass catcher. He could develop into a Kelley Washington-type threat in time.

''He's not there yet but he has the potential to be,'' Sanders said. ''He's a great athlete who can run around and make plays but he's still learning to play receiver. I expect him to continue to get better and better.''

While Clausen and Banks spearhead the passing game, tailback Cedric Houston (160.5 yards per game) is handling the ground game.

''I like that we've run for over 500 yards in the first two games,'' Sanders said. ''It's nice to be able to call runs and get yards.''

With both the ground game and passing game producing yards, the Vol attack features a nice balance that should give Florida's defense a lot of problems this weekend.

''I like where we are,'' Sanders said. ''We're still leaving some plays out on the field, still having a few too many penalties that create bad down-and-distance situations for us. But I think we're way ahead of where we were last year.''


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