UT to 'pound the rock' and Rutgers

With an experienced offensive line and a stable of ballyhooed young running backs, Tennessee's rushing attack was supposed to be unstoppable this fall. Three games into the season, however, the ground game is a lot like the Loch Ness Monster: Everybody's talking about it but nobody has seen much evidence of it. Tennessee is averaging 141 rushing yards per game and 4.0 yards per carry -- numbers which are OK but far from imposing.

So, what gives? For one thing, Tennessee may not be running the ball often enough to get its ground game untracked.

''I've called 136 passes and 96 runs,'' offensive coordinator Randy Sanders said. ''A big part of that the first two games was trying to get the passing game ready and give those (young) receivers the looks. The last game (vs. Florida), I really intended to settle in and run the ball a lot more. Before we really got a chance to do it, it was 24-0, and we had to scrap that plan. We didn't have time to run it and catch up.''

The Vols no longer have an excuse to keep the ground attack under wraps. The wide receivers have three games' experience under their belts now, and Tennessee should not have to play catch-up this Saturday against Rutgers, a 42-point underdog.

That's why I look for Phillip Fulmer to return to his roots and ''pound the rock'' this weekend. If Tennessee can't line up and run the ball against Rutgers, it's a safe bet the Vols won't be able to run the ball against anybody they face all season.

The Vols desperately need to get their ground game untracked. They'll need it against Arkansas, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, Miami, et al.

Offensive tackle Will Ofenheusle told me earlier this week that the Vol rushing attack will be fine once it gets a little more work.

''Just as you have to give a running back some touches to get him in a groove, an offensive line has to get in a groove, so you have to call some running plays,'' he said. ''I think as the season progresses, we'll be in situations where we need to run the ball down after down after down after down, and you'll see a very much more productive run team.''

Although Tennessee's run game has been quiet to date, Ofenheusle thinks there is reason for optimism ... and he offers a statistic to support his optimism.

''It may seem that I'm searching for something good but, in three games, none of our running backs has been tackled for a loss,'' he said. ''That's pretty good.''

Although the Vols are sure to be down after last weekend's disappointing loss to Florida, I suspect they'll be looking to vent their frustration a bit. Rutgers has the misfortune to be the ''ventee'' this week.

My predictions: Cedric Houston 105 rushing yards, Jabari Davis 70 rushing yards, Derrick Tinsley 60 rushing yards, Gerald Riggs, Jr., 50 rushing yards, Keldrick Williams 20 rushing yards ... Tennessee 45, Rutgers 7.

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