Fast Track To Nowhere

Seven games into a coming-apart-at-the-seams 3-4 campaign, the big question on every UT fans mind persists: Is this the worst offense Tennessee has ever had, or is it the worst offense any preseason top five team has ever had?

Here's the top to bottom offensive ratings for the Tennessee-South Carolina 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. Special teams are also included in the defensive grades.

RUNNING BACKS (86) Redshirt freshman Arian Foster deserves a lot credit for stepping in for Gerald Riggs and posting a UT season high 148-yard game in his first career start. Sure he fumbled at the 1 yard-line, but it's hard to fault a freshman for giving extra effort. No doubt, he learned a critical lesson because he already had the first down when he fumbled the ball and had four more downs to score. Chalk it up to experience. Foster exhibited a knack for finding and exploding through holes. (He only had one run for negative yardage in 25 carries.) He demonstrated stamina and was the key component in Tennessee's go ahead drive in the fourth quarter. David Yancey (three runs for five yards) came in to relieve Foster and showed he is a serviceable back, but he lacks the size and open field skills to be viable tailback option. Tennessee needs to ready JaKouri Williams or LaMarcus Coker to take some of the load off Foster. It was a mixed bag for the fullbacks. David Holbert had a game-high 26-yard reception, but dropped a third down pass that would have moved the sticks on UT's last scoring drive. The Vols settled for a field goal and eventually lost the game. Cory Anderson had two carries for eight yards and caught one pass for five. He has yet to capture the form that made him one of 2004's most pleasant surprises.

OFFENSIVE LINE (72) Tennessee didn't dominate the line of scrimmage against a suspect South Carolina defense, but the Vols were productive on the ground, averaging 4.9 yards per carry. Making more liberal use of their three-point stances seemed to help UT get some surge up front, and the Vols only allowed one sack. Another poor snap in the shot gun formation exposed the need for more consistency from the center position. (Redshirt freshman Josh McNeil can't get ready soon enough.) The Vols cut down on motion and procedure penalties which was a positive sign. The O-line will need to take it up another notch on Saturday in South Bend, but the signs of progress against S.C. were encouraging.

RECEIVERS (52) Another below average game for UT's wide receivers who seemed to have problems getting open and were MIA on down field blocks. The longest reception by a wide receiver vs. S.C. was 17 yards by Robert Meachem. His five other catches netted 27 yards. Jayson Swain had two receptions for 14 yards, Bret Smith had one catch for 10 yards and C.J. Fayton had two for minus-seven yards. Add it up and UT's wideout corps finished with 11 receptions for 61 yards for a less than robust 5.5 yards per catch. At times it appears the wideouts and the QBs aren't in the same book much less on the same page.

QUARTERBACKS (46) Easily the worst in a below par season for UT's signal callers, who combined to connect on 14-of-32 for 99 yards, one interception and no TDs. This game wasn't up to Division I standards much less SEC or Tennessee standards. The fact they retired Peyton Manning's jersey on the same night just made this outing all the more painful. Kudos to Rick Clausen for giving up No. 16 and for coming off the bench to lead UT on a go ahead scoring drive. Otherwise there wasn't much to praise about the play of either QB. (See related story on QB play for further details.)

OVERALL (57) When your best offensive weapon against one of the worst defenses in the SEC is your punter, you know there are serious problems.


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