A different slant

Tennessee's passing attack has a new slant this year and, appropriately enough, it features a strong emphasis on slant routes.

The Vols executed the slant pass with surprising efficiency from the first spring workout right up through last weekend's Orange & White Game. The key is for the receiver to either muscle or juke his way inside the defensive back. Since this leads the receiver into the middle of the field, he needs to be physical enough to take a shot from a linebacker without losing the ball.

It bears noting that Tennessee's three most physical receivers – 6-3, 207-pound Quintin Hancock (8 catches, 96 yards, 1 TD), 6-2, 218-pound Brandon Warren (4 catches, 50 yards, 2 TDs) and 6-1, 190-pound Denarius Moore (3 catches, 47 yards) – were the three most productive receivers in the Orange & White Game. A lot of their catches and yards came on slant routes, which could be a staple of the Vol offense in 2009.

"To be a good offense you've got to be able to throw slants," sophomore quarterback B. J. Coleman said. "Slants complement your run game. If people can't stop you from throwing slants they're not going to be very successful stopping that type of offense.

"Slants can turn into huge plays. He can catch a slant at eight yards and turn it up and make a 25-yard run out of it just by breaking one tackle."

Since defensive backs routinely overplay receivers to the inside in an effort to take away the slant route, the route-runner needs to be either exceptionally strong or exceptionally shifty in order to counter this move. Tennessee's receivers did a good job of countering all spring.

"All of the receivers have done a great job and Coach (Frank) Wilson has done an awesome job getting those guys inside those corners for us," Coleman said. "They're making big plays, and you saw some of those (in the spring game)."

In addition to running their routes more physically, Tennessee's wideouts are blocking downfield more physically than a year ago. That was one of the most encouraging developments of spring practice.

"You've got receivers blocking downfield awesome," Coleman said. "It makes a huge difference in a touchdown and a 15-yard gain if you've got the backside receiver cutting off that corner when the back makes a break. I think those guys did a heck of a job."

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