Knowing and growing

Knowledge is power, which is why Tennessee's 2008 offense was about as powerful as a popgun. Members of the attack unit didn't know what they were doing, and it showed every time they took the field.

The Vol offense still isn't a juggernaut, as the eight sacks it suffered in Friday's scrimmage clearly attests. But, thanks to a simpler scheme, the players at least understand their assignments this spring ... even if they don't always execute them properly.

"I feel we're way past where we were last year," receiver Gerald Jones said following Friday's scrimmage. "This time last year, we were still making mistakes all around. The receivers didn't know where to go. The quarterback didn't know where to throw the ball, and the linemen didn't know who to block."

Jones was Tennessee's leading receiver last fall, even though he caught a mere 30 passes for a so-so 323 yards. He believes the passing game will be a lot more productive in 2009 because of the lighter mental load being placed on Vol quarterbacks.

"I don't think the reads for the quarterback are so complicated, like they were last year," Jones said. "They had to worry about too many things. It was too complicated for a first-year (starter at) quarterback."

Senior Jonathan Crompton recently described the 2009 offense as "more quarterback friendly" than last year's. Jones adds a hearty amen to that.

"This year it's read the defense. If it's this defense, you go here. If not, you go here," Jones said. "It's simple. It's easy reads for the quarterback and easy throws. They make plays, and I think everybody else makes plays, too."

Because the new offensive scheme is less taxing mentally, the Vols are able to play more instinctively and aggressively.

"Most definitely," Jones said. "It helps us to relax and have faith in one another. We know that, whoever is in, they'll make a play and they'll be in the right spot."

The reduced mental workload is proving quite beneficial for Tennessee's quarterbacks. Jonathan Crompton, who completed just 51.5 percent of his passes last fall, was 8 of 11 on Friday. B. J. Coleman, who completed just 50 percent last fall, was 11 of 16.

Obviously, the better the quarterbacks play, the better their head coach feels.

"I think I'm a lot more comfortable with the quarterbacks," Lane Kiffin said following the scrimmage. "The other guys we've been able to work with in offseason training but the quarterbacks, because they have a ball, it's kind of hard.

"I'm starting to understand their personalities, starting to understand how they are in the huddle. It's really good for me to get a chance to be out here with them in the huddle, so I get a good handle on them."


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