Vol offense is on fire

The question before Vol offensive coordinator Randy Sanders was this: The day after you decided to go with freshman quarterbacks Brent Schaeffer and Erik Ainge, what would you have said if someone told you Tennessee would be averaging almost 40 points and more than 500 yards per game after three games?

''I don't think there's any way I would've believed it,'' Sanders replied. ''I thought those two guys were talented enough and I thought receivers would be good enough and I thought we'd be able to run the ball. But I didn't think we'd be doing that AT THIS POINT.''

Three games into the season, however, Tennessee is averaging 38 points per game. The Vols are averaging 263.3 rushing yards per game, 240.3 passing yards per game and 503.6 total yards per game.

Clearly, everything has fallen into place for the Big Orange attack. The rookie QBs are playing like veterans, the line is opening gaping holes, the backs are hitting those holes and the receivers are catching everything within reach. And, unlike 2002 and 2003, the offense isn't stopping itself. Tennessee's attack unit has been guilty of just four penalties and four turnovers in the first three games.

''The whole key for us has been four offensive penalties for the year,'' Sanders said. ''We went through the last game without turning it over and we've had very few negative plays. We're managing the down-and-distance and staying on track. And we haven't had a 20-yard run called back because somebody wasn't lined up right.

''Right now when we make a play we're reaping the benefits of that play, instead of having to overcome the penalty and make another one.''

Head coach Phillip Fulmer said in preseason that the veteran players would have to carry a bigger share of the load in support of the young QBs. That appears to be happening.

''No doubt,'' Sanders said. ''I think that started as soon as we got back to Knoxville last year after the Peach Bowl, when everybody knew Casey (senior QB Casey Clausen) wasn't there. Whoever the quarterback was, everybody was going to have to be that much better to give us an opportunity.''

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