Same old same old?

With David Cutcliffe officially hired for his second stint as Tennessee's offensive coordinator, fans may be wondering if the Vol attack will be the same old same old – running the same plays from the same formations and in the same run/pass ratio it did when he held the job from 1993-98.

He says the answer is no. The offense will be different because he is different. Moments after being introduced as the new coordinator Monday evening he insisted he isn't the guy he was when he left in 1998. He served six years as head coach at Ole Miss and several months as an aide to Charlie Weis at Notre Dame before sitting out a year following open-heart surgery. Those experiences have expanded his knowledge of the game, he believes.

"It's grown a great deal," he said. "A lot of things changed at Ole Miss, due to the personnel we had available to us. There was not a coach there that knew this system. I taught all of those coaches who came from other systems our system but they also brought things from THEIR systems. There's adjustments that have been made through time.

"A lot of the philosophies remain the same but you learn a lot just sitting out. I've had a chance to watch a lot of tape. The short time with Coach Weis at Notre Dame was beneficial. You're constantly growing and learning, and that's a fun process."

Bottom line: Cutcliffe says his 2006 offense will NOT be a mirror image of the ones he fielded at UT in the 1990s.

"There's a good bit of difference in the passing game," he said. "Some of the pass routes are still there but it changed and evolved. We evolved at Ole Miss. There will be some different looks and things. That's just natural. A lot of the protection systems and things the players know well will be very much in line with what they've been doing. But from a route standpoint and some other things it'll be a little different."

Although some things have changed since his first tour of duty, Cutcliffe believes the fact Tennessee still runs the same basic offensive system offers some huge benefits.

What, for instance?

"Being familiar with the program, the expectations of the program and the philosophies of the head coach," he said, subsequently adding: "I think I know a lot about the personnel. That's where it all begins. People ask: What are you going to do? Good offensive coaches evaluate their personnel before they say, ‘This is what we're going to run.' We will make those decisions as we evaluate the personnel more closely."

Because he lived in Knoxville the past few months and followed UT's 2005 season closely, Cutcliffe already has some preliminary impressions about the personnel he'll have at his disposal.

"Understanding what you have available to you is a starting spot," he said, adding that he already has been thinking about how best to develop depth in the offensive line, utilize the tight end and make use of Tennessee's wide receivers.

"I've studied them running routes," he said. "Who's better at running what type of route? Who's the strong side receiver? Who's the slot receiver? Who's the weak side receiver? All of those things we've got a jump-start on because I've looked at that and thought about that all fall."

With Tennessee coming off a 5-6 season in which offensive production was abysmal, Cutcliffe is seen as a guy whose familiarity with the program can provide a quick fix. He won't say when but he fully expects the Vols to be back among the elite before too long.

"We've been really successful in the past," he said, "and I expect that to occur again."


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