"We've got a lot of different things from what we did last year," junior tailback Montario Hardesty said recently, "which I think is going to get defenses in the SEC where they ain't going to know what to study for."
Asked what sort of changes Vol fans will notice this fall, Hardesty replied: "We line up in different sets. Our blocking scheme is different. We were in no-huddle (last fall), and now we're back in the huddle."
From the players' perspective, the biggest change between the 2008 offense and the ones that preceded it is the pass-protection scheme. First-year coordinator Dave Clawson's approach is a lot different than predecessor David Cutcliffe's.
"The hard thing for me to do – and everyone else – is learning the protections," Hardesty noted. "Once the O-line learns the new protections, I think everything will fall into place."
Because Clawson's West Coast Offense represents such a departure from Cutcliffe's offensive system, No. 1 quarterback Jonathan Crompton has been putting in a lot of hours with the receivers and running backs during the summer in hopes of getting everyone on the same page.
"We've got a new offensive coordinator," Hardesty said, "and we've been trying to get together, so there will be less learning and all of us can just play ball naturally. In the spring, there was a lot of thinking instead of a lot of playing. I think we've just got to go out there and play football."
Whereas Cutcliffe essentially phased the fullback out of UT's offense the past two seasons, the blocking back appears to be making a comeback under Clawson's guidance. No one is happier about this than Hardesty.
"It's always good to have a lead blocker in front of you," he said. "This offense is geared more toward running the football. I think we're going to run the ball a lot more than we did last year, so I'm really excited about that."
Hardesty also is really excited about challenging good friend Arian Foster for supremacy at tailback. Foster rushed for 1,193 yards and 12 touchdowns as a junior last fall, but Hardesty plans to mount a serious bid for the No. 1 job once preseason drills commence Aug. 2.
"I'm going to go as hard as I can because I want the playing time he got," Hardesty said, flashing a big grin. "I'm going to compete hard with him."