Four plays away

As sluggish as their offense has looked to date, the Tennessee Vols are four plays away from being on a reasonably good track heading into Saturday's game with No. 4 Florida.

That's the word from first-year offensive coordinator Dave Clawson.

Tennessee's offense leads the SEC in total yards (457.0 per game), yet no one in Big Orange Country seems impressed. That's because the Vols managed just 17 points in a Game 1 loss at UCLA and looked sloppy in Game 2 against a UAB team that ranks dead last among 119 Div. 1-A programs in total defense.

Though far from satisfied with Tennessee's showing to date, Clawson says the outlook would be an awful lot brighter if just a few snaps from the UAB game had turned out differently.

"If you switch four plays," he said, "I think we come out of that game feeling, 'Boy, we really got a lot better.'"

One of the four plays in question was a pass Jonathan Crompton threw into double coverage from his own end zone that the Blazers intercepted at the Vol 44-yard line.

Another was an overthrow of tight end Brandon Warren, who was running free down the middle.

Another was a drive-killing illegal-shift penalty that turned a third-and-one into a third-and six.

Another was a likely touchdown pass that tight end Luke Stocker dropped near the UAB 25-yard line about a minute short of halftime.

Clawson frowned as he recapped the miscues: "If we don't throw that interception from our goal line coming out ... if we don't miss Brandon open in the middle of the field ... if we don't have a false start on third-and-one ... if we don't drop a ball right before halftime, things could've been a lot different."

Those four plays probably cost Tennessee 14 points, which would've turned a 35-3 victory into a 49-3 triumph. Even failing to execute those plays, though, Clawson detected notable signs of improvement from Game 1 to Game 2.

"We played a lot more consistently," he said. "I don't think the talent level was as good at UAB as it was at UCLA, and we understand it elevates to a whole new level this week.

"What you watch on film is: Are guys stepping the right way? Are they blocking the right guys? Are they sustaining blocks? Are they playing with effort? Those things are going on. Our guys have played extremely hard."

Still, there is no comparison between the UCLA and UAB defenses Tennessee has faced thus far and the Florida defense the Vols will be challenging Saturday at 3:30 in Neyland Stadium. Clawson realizes this.

"We're two games into the season," the coordinator said. "We made a lot of progress from Week 1 to Week 2, and we'd better make a lot more progress from Week 2 to Week 3."

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