UT Is Highly Inoffensive

You've heard of offenses that are so inept they are like watching paint dry; well Tennessee's 2005 offense has been like watching paint peel, crack, flake off and fall to the floor.

The former is boring to watch while the latter is painful, because the athletes populating UT's offense are simply too good to play so bad. In that respect, Tennessee's offense has managed to turn underachieving into an art form. The lineup that started against Georgia featured seven high school All-Americans, but it struggled to score 14 points at home. Furthermore, the first touchdown was on a one play, one-yard drive and the second came on the game's final play, long after the issue had been settled.

Firmly believing to understand something you have to study it, I have given the Georgia game at least five viewings with numerous rewinds as well as stop action, slow motion and frame-by-frame diagnosis. Let me hasten to add that it doesn't take any expertise or high technology to do this, but it does take a lot of time, a high tolerance for pain and an unrelenting drive to fathom what was unfathomable six weeks ago. Let me qualify that statement by saying two losses after five games is hardly shocking given the strength of UT's schedule, but the puny production and punchless ground attack wasn't what a world of experts envisioned from the Volunteers this season.

While game study process was illuminating it was hardly Moses-to-the-mountain enlightening. You don't get the entire picture pass routes and coverage. Also without knowing how the plays are drawn up you can't be sure who missed an assignment. Nevertheless, you do get a good idea of who is playing well and how defenses are being deployed. As a result of this time and effort I have come to the conclusion that there are no easy explanations or simple solutions for Tennessee's offense. The failings are obvious but there is a complexity of contributing factors, and plenty of blame to go around.

Solving the problems will require a total team commitment with a solitary goal of improving each week. In order to get everyone on the same page, the Vols might want to script the first 10 or 15 plays each game, ala Bill Walsh and the San Francisco 49ers. That way there would be no doubt about the play or assignments when the team comes out of the gate. Without the pre-snap guessing game and beat-the-clock contest, the Vols might actually develop some rhythm and get a lead against a good team.

Tennessee could also go to a hurry up or no-huddle mode to prevent defenses from shuffling personnel packages, and plotting blitz schemes. At the very least it keep O-linemen from going stale in their stances, waiting through the various checks and faux audibles. Additionally, it would allow the offense to dictate pace and get into a more aggressive mind set, thus avoiding the paralysis through analysis that appears prevalent to this point.

The bottom line is the Vols have to run the football effectively to control the clock and field position. They have to be balanced on offense or they will continue to fall short of their goals.

Here's the top to bottom offensive ratings for the Tennessee-LSU game. Grades of 90-100 are regarded as championship quality. Grades of 80-89 equate to top 25 worthy, grades of 70-79 are average marks. Grades of 60-69 are passing but problematical and won't be good enough to defeat a quality opponent. Any grade below 60 is considered failing. We have broken down the units this week to offense and defense.

RECEIVERS (84) This was an improved performance by UT's wideouts as they managed to get off the line of scrimmage better and gained some separation. There were still some drops, but not as many as in the LSU game. UT's receivers picked up some yardage after the catch. Robert Meachem's 24-yard TD is the type of play. Bret Smith had 85 yards in four receptions with a long of 33 yards, and Jayson Swain added 65 yards in four receptions. Tennessee's quartet of veteran widouts — Chris Hannon, Smith, Swain and Meachem — combined for 15 catches and 240 yards. However, freshman Josh Briscoe was stripped of the football after a first down catch during a critical point of the second half.

QUARTERBACK (75) Rick Clausen appeared more physically limited against Georgia which may have been due to his assortment of injuries. He missed an open Bret Smith for a touchdown and on the next play forced a pass into coverage that was intercepted. Although he connected on 21-of-36 passes for 310 yards in the game, he didn't convert enough third down passes to sustain drives as the Vols finished only 5 of 15 in that category. He also failed to secure the ball on a blind side sack when he should have anticipated pressure. However you have to wonder why Tennessee's coaches elect to protect his blind side with their least accomplished pass blocker. If Clausen had the support of a running game his job would have been a lot easier.

RUNNING BACKS (62) This was probably Riggs' worst game of the season with 19 carries for 54 yards. Blocking wasn't good but when it was he didn't always find the hole or hit it in time. He also missed a couple of cutback opportunities and has developed a tendency to bounce everything outside. His long gain was 14 yards and he didn't break tackles with any regularity. Arian Foster continues to show promise. He gained 14 yards in only two carries added a couple of catches for 17 yards. An excellent cutback runner Foster is due more playing time. Cory Anderson had a greatly reduced role with Tennessee running so much of its offense out of the shotgun, but did catch a 12-yard pass. UT's backs can do a better job blocking, too.

OFFENSIVE LINE (59) All you need to know to know UT's O-line gets a failing grade against Georgia is this: 48 rushing yards in 26 carries. The Vols had a total of four first downs on the ground and averaged a measly 1.8 yards per carry. Throw in a couple of sacks and a variety of penalties and Tennessee's line play was thoroughly disappointing. The Vols didn't always use a tight end which presented match-up problems when it came to blocking Georgia safety Greg Blue, who finished with 13 solo tackles. UT's decision to forego the fullback in favor of the bunch formations also limited the ground game.

OVERALL (70) This grade takes into consideration a good game and effective execution by Georgia. Still the Vols need to find an offensive identity and develop a clear vision of how to best utilize their resources. It's going to take more than tinkering to gets this unit on track this season.

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