Vols lacking weapons?

Many fans believe Tennessee is losing football games because it is losing the weapons race. They are convinced that the Vols lack the difference-makers other SEC programs have.

The man who has most to gain by blaming Tennessee's 2-3 record on its talent level, however, disagrees.

"I don't think there's any question that we have those weapons," head coach Phillip Fulmer said during a break in preparations for Saturday's 3:30 kickoff at Georgia. "It gets back to everybody being on the same page. Everybody's got to do their job or it's very difficult to execute properly."

Still, Tennessee's weapons can't match those of the Bulldogs. Georgia is better at quarterback (Matthew Stafford over Nick Stephens), at running back (Knowshon Moreno over Arian Foster) and at receiver (A.J. Green and Mohamed Massaquoi over Gerald Jones and Lucas Taylor).

Stafford, Moreno, Green and Massaquoi are proven difference-makers. That's why Georgia has averaged 34 points per game en route to a 4-1 record and No. 10 national ranking. Until Stephens, Foster, Jones and Taylor prove to be difference-makers, the Vols will continue to average a paltry 18 points per game.

"That's what you're seeing: Somewhere along the line somebody makes a special play," Fulmer said. "We've got guys that are certainly capable of doing that. A lot of it starts with the quarterback and his ability to make plays."

Offensive coordinator Dave Clawson readily concedes that big plays make the journey to the end zone a lot quicker and a lot easier.

"I thought there were a couple of chances this past Saturday (vs. Northern Illinois) that we were an arm tackle away from breaking a big one," Clawson said. "The draw play to Montario (Hardesty) that got us down inside the 10 ... he's a guy away from scoring a touchdown. The screen that we threw to Denarius Moore ... he was an arm tackle away from making that a big play. The counter play that we ran with Arian ... he was a guy away from making that a big play."

Apparently, the biggest difference between Georgia's skill players and Tennessee's is this: Georgia's make plays. Tennessee's ALMOST make plays.

"We need to have guys make people miss," Clawson said. "We had guys one on one in space (vs. Northern Illinois), and we need to make those type of plays. We ran a draw play and we're one on one and a guy slips. And we get the ball on the edge and there's one guy to beat and it's a tough angle – and we don't score.

"A lot of our drives, we've been running the football and running the football and we get down there and I think at times it's a block away or a play away. And that sounds very cliche' to say, but it's the truth. "

Some fans are satisfied with UT's talent level but believe the scheme is the reason for the offensive struggles. Again, Fulmer disagrees.

"We're not in a place where we can say it's a scheme problem," he said. "It's an execution problem. Ours has been more of a physical breakdown – at different times by different positions – and something, thank goodness, that is fixable."

The first two things that need to be fixed are Tennessee's third-down and Red-Zone production. The Vols are 11th among SEC teams in third-down success (32.9 percent) and 10th in Red-Zone success (scoring just 70.6 percent of the time).

"Our third-down production and our Red-Zone production have not been nearly what we expected it to be," Fulmer admitted. "We've dug ourselves a pretty deep hole, offensively, by those inconsistencies."

Making matters worse is this: Opposing defenses don't have to stop Tennessee. The Vols are doing a bang-up job of stopping themselves.

Fulmer said it best: "Not only are we not making the plays to win the game but we're making the plays that lose the game."


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