Why doesn't screen work?

One reason Tennessee's offense has not produced as many big plays as it did in some previous years is that the Vols no longer enjoy rousing success running the screen pass. The screen used to be the staple of their attack.

''We've had some success with some of the wide receiver screens,'' offensive coordinator Randy Sanders noted this week. ''But one of the screens that used to be a highlight-tape play for us hasn't been successful for us the last two years. We hurt people with it for so long that people know they've got to stop it when they play it ... and we had so much success with it that other teams are running the same play, and (defenses) see it so much more now.

''We've had some success with the running back screens but not to the degree I'd like.''

Another reason the screens haven't worked as well this year is personnel. Tailbacks Cedric Houston and Jabari Davis simply aren't as dynamic as predecessors such as Charlie Garner, Jamal Lewis and Travis Stephens.

Obviously, the wide receiver screens work better when thrown to explosive talents such as former Vols Peerless Price, Cedrick Wilson, Donte' Stallworth and Kelley Washington than they do when thrown to such current wideouts as Tony Brown and C.J. Fayton.

In addition, top-notch wide receivers make the tailback screens work better. The more an opposing defense ''sends the house'' on an all-out blitz, the more likely a screen is to work. Since Tennessee's wideouts are little better than average, UT foes rarely resort to an all-out blitz.

Finally, you need agile linemen to run interference on the screen pass, and this year's Vol blockers aren't as nimble as in years past.

''We've got a good offensive line -- they do a great job -- but we don't have an athlete like a Chad Clifton out there on the perimeter making blocks,'' Sanders said. ''We don't have guys who can do what Jarvis Reado, Josh Tucker and some of those guys were able to do.''

To recap, the failure of screen passes to produce big plays this year basically can be traced to three factors:

1) Opponents are better prepared to stop them
2) Tennessee's backs aren't very elusive in the open field
3) Tennessee's linemen aren't particularly adept at downfield blocking


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