Holding on

Despite a 1-2 record heading into Saturday's game at Auburn, the Tennessee Vols are clinging to the hope they can turn things around. First, though, they have to stop clinging to opponents.

Holding calls wiped out two of Tennessee's best gains and helped doom the Vols in last weekend's 30-6 loss to Florida. The first saw a Chris Scott hold nullify a 26-yard run by Arian Foster. With the 10-yard penalty tacked on, the Vols lost 36 yards due to that one infraction. The second saw a Josh McNeil hold nullify a 16-yard pass/run from Jonathan Crompton to Montario Hardesty. That represented a 26-yard swing.

Given how hurtful those two holding penalties were, you'd think offensive line coach Greg Adkins would be pretty upset. You'd be wrong, though.

"Penalties are part of the game," he said. "When you look at why things happen – was it a technique issue, was it an effort issue or what? I thought both of them were great examples of guys trying to finish a block.

"Was it called holding? Yes, it was. Could it have not been called holding? Probably could've. But there were some others that probably could've (been called) that they didn't, so I think those things kind of work themselves out."

Except for the two holding calls, Tennessee's run blocking was reasonably good vs. the Gators. The Vols gained 96 yards on 31 attempts. That doesn't sound like much until you consider UT's rushing totals vs. Florida in 2006 (minus-11) and 2007 (37).

Adkins described the run game vs. Florida as "solid ... productive," but added: "I'd like to have gotten a few more yards. We had a few yards called back because of some (holding) penalties."

Three games into the 2008 season, Tennessee appears to be much better at running the ball than it was at this point in 2007.

"The yardage is up a little bit," Adkins conceded. "I look at the yards-per-carry and the production of the player at what we ask him to do. So far, it's been fairly good. Can it improve? Absolutely."

Improvement this weekend is unlikely, since Tennessee is facing an Auburn team that ranks No. 10 nationally in total defense and No. 19 in rushing defense. The Tigers' defensive line is one of the best the Big Orange will face.

"Their pad level is outstanding," Adkins said. "They're down there (low to the ground) and they're fast. They move 'em some to try and get them on the edge, so we've got to be down the middle of them and try to finish 'em."

Tennessee's top offensive line reserve, Vladimir Richard, was limited in practice this week due to a sore knee but should be available for duty against the Tigers.

"Hopefully, Vlad will be ready to go," Adkins said. "Ramone Johnson is the next guy (in the guard rotation) and we may work Cody Sullins some at guard. Or we may bump Chris Scott inside a little bit and play Ramone at tackle. We've practiced those scenarios before things happen and you lose a guy to injury."


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