UT lags in flags

Tennessee is relying more than usual on freshmen and sophomores this season, so it isn't surprising that the Vols have made a lot of mistakes. What IS surprising is how few of those mistakes have resulted in penalties.

Tennessee has been flagged fewer times (26) and for fewer yards per game (39.2) than any team in the Southeastern Conference this fall.

Even head coach Phillip Fulmer finds that a little surprising, considering the overall youth of his team.

"I looked out there Saturday (vs. Georgia) and there were seven sophomores, three juniors and a senior out on the field at the same time – Erik Ainge being the senior," the head man said. "You have to take your hat off to the coaches for the job they've done on both sides of the ball and to the players."

Fulmer believes the best way to eliminate penalties in games is to eliminate them in practice. It's the only measure available to a coach looking to control the costly mishaps.

"It's in practice where you manage it," the head man said. "You do the crowd noise (as a distraction) and you make it hard on 'em – demand proper alignments and assignments and techniques. It becomes ingrained in them."

Fulmer said the Vols historically rank among the least-penalized teams in the SEC.

"We've rarely been outside the top two or three," he said. "This year it's been real good. Not helping the other team ... that part we've done well."

Although no penalty is good, Fulmer figures some are a lot better than others.

"If you have penalties, you hope they're aggressive penalties," he said. "You hope it's not prior to the snap (false start, delay) or something that's going to cause you not to have a chance."

In addition to committing relatively few penalties, Tennessee has committed relatively few turnovers this fall. Unfortunately for the Vols, the turnovers they have committed resulted in two fumble-return touchdowns and an interception-return touchdown.

"We've been going in a good direction," Fulmer said. "We just haven't played consistently, as far as penalties and taking care of the ball. We're plus-3 (on turnovers) but the ones we had were huge ... they gave up scores."


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