Guessing game

Monday night's opener between Tennessee and UCLA has coaches from both teams in the dark ... literally. With so many new faces in key roles, the coaches are spending hours in the film room trying to get some idea of what to expect.

Consider:

Vol defensive coordinator John Chavis must study film of the 2007-08 Tennessee Titans to get a feel for the play-calling tendencies of Norm Chow, UCLA's first-year offensive coordinator. Chavis must study 2007 film of Mount San Antonio Junior College to assess quarterback Kevin Craft, who will be starting in his debut with the Bruins. And, of course, Chavis must study film of last year's UCLA team to get a line on the rest of the Bruins' offensive personnel.

The task is no easier for UCLA defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker. He must study film of the 2007 Richmond Spiders to get a feel for the play-calling tendencies of Dave Clawson, Tennessee's first-year offensive coordinator. Walker must go back to 2006 Vol game film to find the last time UT quarterback Jonathan Crompton saw significant action. Finally, Walker must review film of the '07 Vols to get a line on Crompton's supporting cast.

Bottom line: This game will resemble a gag-gift office party. No one has any idea what to expect.

"Opening games are always tough, particularly when you have coaching changes," Tennessee head man Phillip Fulmer conceded. "But that goes both ways. They don't know what they're going to get from us, either."

That's true. The Vols will unveil a new coordinator (Clawson), a new scheme (West Coast) and a new quarterback (Crompton) who hasn't seen meaningful action since facing LSU and Arkansas in November of 2006.

"The fact that we are breaking in a new quarterback makes it even more interesting, I think," Fulmer said. "Jon had some experience at this level with the two games he's played significant roles in and a lot of practice snaps. I'm anxious to see how he does."

When asked if the fact UCLA is unfamiliar with him may help UT, Clawson quipped, "I don't have to worry about that.

"I'm sure they've watched film of Tennessee last year for our personnel and I'm sure they've watched film of Richmond to see the things we did last year," he added. "I'm sure it's a guessing game on their end, too."

Because there is so much personnel turnover from year to year in college football, openers always feature an element of the unknown. There's just more of that element than usual in this UT-UCLA opener.

"Whenever you go into the first game of a season, you always prepare for the unexpected," Clawson noted. "In openers you have to be sure you're doing things your players are comfortable with, so you can fix the problems.

"There is going to be a look, a blitz, a coverage UCLA is going to run that we didn't see on film from last year. If we're running something we're comfortable with, we're able to make the adjustment. If you're trying to put 15 new things in there that maybe haven't faced a lot of different coverages, then it's hard to fix it."

Clawson is hopeful Tennessee's players are familiar enough with their new scheme to execute it reasonably well Monday night. He's realistic enough, however, to know that some glitches are inevitable.

"It's Game 1, with a new offense," he said. "At some point I'm sure there's going to be a circuit blown but we're going to try to keep it to a minimum and run plays the players are comfortable with."


Inside Tennessee Top Stories