Keeping it simple

The more you hear, the more convinced you are that Tennessee's offensive scheme was too complex in 2008 ... and the more convinced you are that will not be the case in 2009.

Player after player is using terms such as "much simpler" and "less complicated" and "more quarterback-friendly" to describe the new attack scheme being installed this spring by head coach Lane Kiffin.

In addition to simpler plays, the Vols are running fewer plays this spring. Kiffin's philosophy is that it's better to do a few things well than to do a lot of things half-decently.

"We won't run a lot of plays during the spring as far as different run schemes," the new head man said recently. "That's not who we are. We've got to learn who we are. We've got to learn how to run zone. We have a ton of work to do up front and with our backs in the run game."

Further complicating matters for the 2008 offense was the decision to flip-flop the guards and tackles on a regular basis. A dismal failure, this strategy seemed to confuse Tennessee's blockers more than opposing defenders.

There will be no flip-flopping under Lane Kiffin. In fact, he wants his linemen working at one position and one position only for the time being.

"We don't want to do too much right away because you'll fall into guys not getting really good at anything," the head man said. "We won't move guys too much."

Of course, if Tennessee's five best offensive linemen turn out to be three guards and a tackle, Kiffin will move one of the guards outside.

"We've got to figure out our best five and where to play 'em," he said. "You'll see guys move a little bit, but early on we've got to leave guys at their spots. As we go and they get that down, we'll start moving 'em around and cross-training them."

Moving a guard to tackle, or vice-versa, won't be a huge adjustment, Kiffin says, because there aren't going to be that many plays to learn.

"The system does help with that a lot because we don't run a bunch of different run plays," the head coach said. "It's a lot easier in this system to go from tackle to guard, from one guard to the other guard or from guard to tackle."

Although receiver Gerald Jones had some success as a direct-snap tailback in the so-called "G-Gun Package" last fall, Kiffin has no desire to complicate practice by fooling with gadget plays at this time.

"We can't afford to do that right now," he said, "because it takes so much practice time away from running basic football."

Kiffin is so determined to get the Vols competent at "basic football" that he is forcing himself to install the new offense at a deliberate pace.

"You look at the whole team together and you say, 'OK, we've got to take this slow.' We've got to really get good fundamentally," Kiffin said. "Where it becomes an issue is being an offensive guy; you want to install so much.... All of the stuff that we'll eventually get to, you want to see right away."

Kiffin installed the scheme at a much quicker pace when he was offensive coordinator at Southern Cal a few years back but that situation was different than the one he inherited at Tennessee.

"We've really had to scale back our installs from the last college place I was at because those guys had a couple of years in (the system)," he said. "Here we have 18 pass concepts Day 1, as opposed to 35 (at USC) because you had guys that were returning and knew your system. I still think we're doing enough to challenge our guys."

Although Tennessee will play the celebrated "Tampa-2" defense, Kiffin insists it won't look all that complicated this spring.

"It is a defense that operates on being very disciplined," he said. "It's not a defense that runs a million things. It gets really, really good at a few things instead of being average at a bunch of things.

"You won't see a bunch of different fronts, a bunch of different blitzes out there. You'll see us playing our base stuff. We have to learn to play with great technique and with great fundamentals before we move on to doing a lot of different things."


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