Changes coming in UT offense

With David Cutcliffe down to his final game as Tennessee's offensive coordinator, a lot of fans want the Vols' head football coach to change the attack next year. Many of them want him to incorporate the spread option.

Phillip Fulmer smiles at such talk. He says the Vols change their offense EVERY year. And, as for the spread option, he says it ALREADY is featured in the Big Orange playbook.

Lip service? Perhaps. But Fulmer suggests there will be more change than usual in the offense for 2008. For one thing, there will be a new offensive corodinator. He'll operate within boundaries set forth by Fulmer – as Cutcliffe did – but the new guy is sure to bring in a few wrinkles of his own.

In addition to a new coordinator, the Vols will break in a new quarterback in 2008, since four-year starting quarterback Erik Ainge will be playing his collegiate swan song Tuesday in the Outback Bowl. His successor – whether it be Jonathan Crompton, Nick Stephens or B. J. Coleman – will have the '08 attack tailored to his strengths and weaknesses.

"We've always tried to adjust our offense to the abilities of the quarterback," Fulmer said. "We'll tweak it and make it what it needs to be to help us win (by building) around the strength of our team and around the strength of our quarterback."

The spread option is the rage in college football these days, and many Vol supporters are clamoring for Tennessee to adopt it. Crompton, Stephens and Coleman are all better runners than Ainge, so that's another factor in favor of incorporating the spread option into UT's attack.

"We've ALREADY incorporated some of it … as a change-up," Fulmer said. "All three of those quarterbacks coming back are pretty good runners. Not Gerald Jones-type runners or anything like that but they certainly are capable of doing some of that (spread option)."

As much as Fulmer likes the idea of having a quarterback who provides a rushing dimension, he is not willing to adopt the spread option as a full-time attack. He believes teams who expose their quarterbacks to potential injury-causing hits on a regular basis are taking a huge risk. He offers the Oregon Ducks as Exhibit A in this argument.

"They're playing their fifth-team guy going into the bowl game," Fulmer said, later adding: "There's a balance there (between overprotecting your quarterback and endangering him) because they're going to get hit in this league."

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