Short-yardage woes

Converting on short-yardage runs, a recurring problem for Tennessee's offense in 2007, continues to vex the Vols in 2008.

Three times Tennessee needed just one yard for a first down in Saturday's Orange & White Game. Three times the Vols' running play came up short.

Mid-term freshman tailback Tauren Poole was stopped for no gain on a second-and-1, then thrown for a two-yard loss on third-and-1.

Later in the scrimmage sophomore tailback Lennon Creer was dumped for a two-yard loss on a second-and-1.

Blessed with size (225 pounds) and experience (fifth-year senior), Arian Foster probably could have helped in these situations but Tennessee's coaches were reluctant to risk injuring their star tailback in a meaningless scrimmage. As a result, he carried just one time for eight yards in the spring game.

"We held out Arian Foster, obviously, who we think is going to be a heck of a back for us," head coach Phillip Fulmer explained. "It was great to get that kind of work for those other backs."

Creer rushed 10 times for 59 yards in the Orange & White Game and carried 10 times for 47 yards a week earlier in Spring Scrimmage No. 3 on April 12. He has struggled mightily in short-yardage situations, however.

Consider his work in the April 12 scrimmage:

Creer was stopped for no gain on first-and-goal at the 1-yard line and again on second-and-goal. Quarterback Jonathan Crompton sneaked across the goal line for the score on third-and-goal. Later in the scrimmage Creer was stopped for no gain on a third-and-1. Quarterback Nick Stephens sneaked for the first down on fourth-and-inches.

Creer subsequently was stopped for a gain of one on a first-and-goal from the 2-yard line. Crompton sneaked into the end zone on the next play. Creer later was dropped for a four-yard loss on a third-and-goal from the 1.

Even an experienced back like Foster experienced some short-yardage difficulties this spring. In the April 12 scrimmage he was stuffed for no gain on a second-and-1 situation, then barely got the necessary yard on third and 1.

Fulmer is aware that his backs have been stopped all too often in these situations, noting: "That's happened too many times this spring on short-yardage plays where we didn't get it stuck in there like we wanted."

Basically, the coach says the problem is that Tennessee's tailbacks are running too upright in these situations, instead of lowering their shoulders and powering their way forward. This seems to be hampering Creer, in particular.

"He had two or three chances to really stick it up in there," Fulmer noted after the Orange & White Game. "I want him to get his pads down better. But, overall, I thought he had a good day."


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