Vols have big plans for Luke

Former Tennessee offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe's eyes used to light up whenever he'd discuss the many ways he planned to use 6-6 240-pound tight end Luke Stocker.

With Cutcliffe directing the program at Duke, however, Luke Stocker's primary use last fall was as a decoy. He caught just 13 passes in 12 games. He should double that total – perhaps triple it – in 2009, thanks to the arrival of a new coaching staff and the implementation of a new scheme that prominently features the tight end.

"It's a big part of the offense," Stocker said recently. "We've got to be blocking and be responsible for our pass routes. We've got to get open for the quarterback and we've got to make plays. That's what we're going to do."

Cutcliffe envisioned utilizing Stocker as a deep threat but that never materialized last fall. His biggest gain was 26 yards. Perhaps the pro-style offense of new head coach Lane Kiffin will enable Stocker to exhibit his home-run potential this fall.

"I hope so," he said. "Last year our whole offense struggled, myself included. I'm hoping this year we'll have a lot more opportunities and a lot more people have breakout seasons."

Although Stocker is still learning the new offensive scheme, he really likes what he has seen so far.

"A lot of places have the same kind of concepts," he said. "It's not too much different but there's little twists and tweaks that can make a big difference."

Like his offensive teammates, Stocker never quite got the hang of the West Coast attack Tennessee tried to install in 2008. The 2009 offense is a lot more to his liking.

"It is really simple," he said. "Last year's was quite complicated, with the line flipping and the terminology quite different."

The '08 attack was so involved that the Vols never seemed to be on the same page. The new offense should fix that, which will help Stocker.

"That'll help the whole offense, not just me," he said. "You've got to have 11 guys out there playing. You can't have 10 playing and one thinking. You've got to have 11 out there playing, and that's what we're trying to do."

Because the 2009 scheme is simpler, players can rely more on their athleticism. That should benefit a big, athletic guy like Luke Stocker.

"The less you've got to think, the better you can play," he said. "I've been playing sports all my life, and coaches always say, 'I don't want you out there thinking. I want you out there playing.'

"The less you think, the faster you are."

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