Vol attack 'grounded'

Phillip Fulmer loves to "pound the rock," but he may need a new sledgehammer.

Tennessee's ground game has been largely unproductive through the first five games. The Vols are averaging just 99 rushing yards per game. That's barely half of last season's average of 186 per game.

What's wrong?

"If they (defenders) can put one more guy up there (in the box) than you can block," Fulmer said, "it's hard to come out of there."

The antidote to this, of course, is to hit some big pass plays that will discourage opponents from crowding the line of scrimmage. However, the Vols completed six passes of 20 yards or more vs. Georgia but still averaged less than two yards per carry (26 rushes, 48 yards) in a discouraging homefield loss.

The problem is, even with those six 20-yard gainers, the Vols weren't putting points on the scoreboard. Georgia was willing to let UT throw for 310 yards because the Dawgs routinely shut down Tennessee once the Vols got into scoring territory. The closer you get to the goal line, the less space there is for receivers to maneuver … and the more important a competent running game becomes. As previously noted, Tennessee's running game is not very competent right now.

The Vols have run a lot of plays this year out of the shotgun, which is more of a passing formation. Fulmer says this was not a factor in the ground game's poor showing against Georgia, however.

"We can do some of the things out of the shotgun we do out of the I," he said. "It (shotgun) gives you an advantage if they (defenders) spread out with you, and Georgia did."

Some fans blame the offensive line for Tennessee's run-game woes. Fulmer concedes the line play could be better but doesn't blame the linemen for that.

"I'm disappointed that we haven't had ‘em all together (due to injuries)," he said.

Some observers think the offense has become too predictable, and opposing defenses know all of UT's tendencies. Fulmer dismisses that idea, too.

"We've always prided ourselves on being a chameleon offense (capable of changing looks)," he said. "We've just had way too many dropped balls, penalties and such."

One thing Fulmer and the fans can agree on is this: Tennessee's ground game is not playing up to its potential.

"I thought we'd be more productive in the running game," Fulmer said. "I don't think we've played as consistently as we can. But we've played hard."


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