'The G-Gun Package'

Fans who left Neyland Stadium before Tennessee's final possession in last Saturday's 59-7 blowout of Louisiana-Lafayette missed the unveiling of the "G-Gun Package."

That's the name of the set that features freshman wide receiver Gerald Jones lined up as a shotgun-formation quarterback. If you combine G (for Gerald) with Gun (short for shotgun), you get the G-Gun Package. Tennessee ran just two plays using this formation vs. the Ragin' Cajuns but they were memorable. Jones bolted eight yards on the first, then raced 12 yards into the end zone on the second.

This is essentially the same package that produced negative results for Tennessee with Eric Locke behind center in the Southern Miss game of 2000 and with Lucas Taylor behind center in the Cal game earlier this fall. This time, though, the results were positive.

Like Locke and Taylor, Jones is a former high school quarterback who is making the switch to wide receiver in college. The difference is that the 6-0, 185-pounder from Oklahoma City looks more comfortable behind center than his predecessors. Offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe noticed as much when he installed the package back in August.

"I liked Gerald as a high school quarterback a lot," Cutcliffe said. "He has a quarterback mentality ... a take-charge mentality. He can handle cadence and he can manage the line of scrimmage. He's comfortable there. A lot of guys aren't real comfortable in that mode but he's a guy that's comfortable in that environment."

Shortly after starring in Tennessee's first preseason scrimmage, Jones suffered a hamstring pull that put him – and the G-Gun Package – on the shelf.

"We thought we'd lost him for the year, so we just dropped it," Cutcliffe said. "We're just getting back into that, and we felt like it was game-ready enough to use a little bit."

Asked if the Vols will use the G-Gun Package in upcoming games with Arkansas, Vanderbilt and Kentucky, Cutcliffe noted that "Game situations have a lot to do with that."

Tennessee does not change personnel when it switches to the G-Gun Package; Jones and quarterback Erik Ainge merely swap places. That raises an obvious question: What if an opposing defensive back takes a shot at the Vols' star quarterback?

"That's between the DB and Erik," Cutcliffe deadpanned. "Let's see if he wants to take that on. Erik's a 6-6, 225-pound guy and he knows how to take care of himself. I'd be interested to see how that matchup went."

Head coach Phillip Fulmer echoed those sentiments, noting: "He's a big boy. He can defend himself out there."

Ainge was even more amused when asked about the risk of lining up at wideout and taking a cheap shot from a defensive back.

"I played basketball in high school, so I'll just post him up," Ainge wisecracked. "I told Gerald yesterday 'If they don't guard me, you'd better throw me the ball.'"

The obvious advantage of the G-Gun Package is that it gives the Vols a running threat at quarterback. The obvious disadvantage is that it puts the Vols' best passer in position to catch passes instead of throw them. That's why it will be used sparingly, if at all, the rest of the season.

"If we get in a game where we're having a hard time on third-and-three to third-and-six – we're not getting it done – that's something you can do to change it up," Ainge said. "But I don't see that being a big part of what we do while I'm in the game. I don't think on three third downs in a row we'd take myself out and put in Gerald to run the football.

"It's a tool. He (Jones) is athletic and he can get big plays. If you can spring it on somebody when they're not expecting it, you can have a big play."

Even when it doesn't work, the G-Gun Package should keep opposing defenders on their toes and keep fans in their seats right up to the final snap.

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