Offense sputters

David Cutcliffe didn't like what he saw from Tennessee's offense during Saturday's scrimmage, and he's got only one more week to iron out some kinks.

But he promises one thing: The offense will get fixed.

``We're going to be a good offensive football team,'' said Cutcliffe, Tennessee's offensive coordinator. ``We're not going to be denied that. It's our job to get there.''

It won't be an easy job, not based on what happened Saturday.

A UT offense that averaged 18.6 points per game last season didn't show much against a defense that lost six of its front seven but still has some athletes.

``We have to get some rhythm and some confidence,'' Cutcliffe said.

It was easy to see the rhythm wasn't there. It's tougher to gauge the confidence.

Based on last season, you'd assume the offense needs an injection of confidence. Based on a scrimmage two Saturdays ago, you'd think the offense was headed in the right direction. Based on what happened April Fool's Day, you'd be a fool to think the offense has arrived.

Cutcliffe said it's made some progress, but not nearly enough.

``What we'd really like to do – which we can't because of injuries – is settle into units and become a well-oiled machine,'' Cutcliffe said. ``We tried to do that a little this week, but it didn't pay off as much as we thought.''

Of particular concern Saturday were drops passes by receivers – sound familiar? – offensive line unable to consistently run block or pass protect, and quarterbacks not throwing to the right spots.

``Consistency and finding out what the personality can be, I think, is still a little cloudy,'' Cutcliffe said. ``We weren't very good as a spread team and we weren't very good when we lined up and tried to knock people off the ball. That's not a good combination.

``I knew we had a long way to go, but today tells me we even have farther to go than I thought.''

And Cutcliffe's only got one week to get there before spring practice ends.

Does that bother him?

``It certainly does but I can't sit and moan and groan about it,'' Cutcliffe said. ``I've got what I've got so we've got so make hay while the sun shines.''

The sun wasn't shining on the receivers. If they do pushups because of drops, the wideouts might miss Sunday morning church services. They dropped that many.

``It was disappointing,'' Cutcliffe said. ``We're rolling people in and out. I thought we'd made great progress up until today. We've got some guys that have been dropping balls that have continued to drop balls. If they do that, they won't play.

``I certainly think Robert Meachem and Lucas Taylor have set the tempo. The rest of the guys are going to have to earn playing time. Bret Smith has gotten better, doing some good things in the slot. But if we were in two wide receivers today, it would be Meachem and Taylor in the ballgame.''

The receiving corps got a boost from basketball player Stanley Asumnu, who caught a 58-yard pass and converted a third-and-short with a nifty move on a reverse.

``He showed some ability to move and run on the reverse,'' Cutcliffe said. ``He's a big target. Let's see what happens.''

Cutcliffe has run a myriad of formations. For the most part, he said, the receivers and running backs have lined up correctly.

``Some of our guys we're asking to do a number of versatile things are having problems still,'' Cutcliffe said. ``But we're not going to back down from that. We're going to be multiple.''

Cutcliffe wasn't just bothered by the play of the receivers. He has concerns about the progress of the offensive line.

``I've said all along, it's about movement, the ability to move your feet and knock people off the ball,'' Cutcliffe said. ``We haven't shown consistency there.

``We've got a lot of people beat up, but you play the season with linemen beat up, generally. I'm concerned about our quickness. We're playing against a very fast defense and our defense is doing a lot of movement, a lot of things they're going to do this fall to be successful.''

Cutcliffe said his three quarterbacks – starter Erik Ainge, backup Jonathan Crompton and No. 3 man Bo Hardegree – have displayed a willingness to work.

``They're doing much better,'' Cutcliffe said. ``You can see the rhythm and tempo is better. They're throwing the ball with more authority. We just didn't throw it enough in the right places today.''

Cutcliffe would like to get that corrected, but he doesn't have much time. The spring game is April 8.

``They better not ask me what I want to have the practice schedule look like (for the final week),'' Cutcliffe said. ``It might be a long one.''

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