Poker-faced coach

Tennessee's offensive coordinator controls his emotions so well you figure he'd make a great poker player. After watching his attack unit sputter and wheeze throughout last Saturday's scrimmage, though, even he couldn't hide his concern.

Asked what his goal would be for the Vols' final week of spring practice, David Cutcliffe somberly replied:

"The first thing is to try to get some continuity and some rhythm so we can put an eight- to 10-play drive together. Right now that's a real challenge for us."

The play of the 2005 offensive line and receivers led to the post-season firing of line coach Jimmy Ray Stephens and receiver coach Pat Washington. Both areas are struggling again this spring, but Cutcliffe declined to single them out while panning the offensive execution.

"I'm talking about the whole offensive football team," he said. "I can't point fingers. The first thing I'm going to look at is effort. I don't want it to ever be an effort issue. I'm going to make sure we're getting the effort we need out of people."

Cutcliffe tried to soften the blow a bit by noting that spring practice is more about making personnel evaluations than making touchdowns.

"We're trying to look at individuals, see who our playmakers are and put ourselves in position to make plays," he said. "In scrimmages you've got a lot of things you want to look at and you're putting a lot of players in certain situations. You're thinking players, not plays, in spring practice."

Still, it would be nice if some of those players made a few plays. Cutcliffe conceded that this would be a boost.

"We're trying to build some continuity and confidence on offense," he said.

To date, though, the only confidence built this spring belongs to the Tennessee defense. Except for the first full-scale scrimmage of the spring, the defenders have dominated their offensive counterparts.

"Those guys have done a great job," Cutcliffe said. "They do a lot of things with cadence and things that create problems. But it's our job to solve those problems and we (coaches) need to help them more."

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