Devil's Advocate (WKU)

Many Tennessee football fans blame the failures of 2008 on the installation of a new offense. Those same fans base their hopes for 2009 on the installation of a new offense.

Ironic, isn't it?

A lot of Vol supporters decided that 2008 offensive coordinator Dave Clawson confused Vol quarterbacks with an overly complex attack that produced a paltry 17.3 points per game en route to a 5-7 record last fall. The Clawfense didn't appear overly complex Thursday night, however, as his Bowling Green Falcons upset Troy 31-14. His quarterback didn't appear confused, either, completing 32 of 44 passes for 339 yards.

That raises the question: If the Clawfense wasn't to blame for Tennessee's offensive ineptitude last fall, what was?

Perhaps the Vols simply had too few playmakers. If so, they'll be down one more in Saturday's opener vs. Western Kentucky since star receiver Gerald Jones is nursing a high-ankle sprain.

Granted, the Big Orange has a couple of future stars in tailback Bryce Brown and wide receiver Nu'keese Richardson. They'll be playmakers in time but expecting true freshmen to be difference-makers in their college debuts is asking a bit much.

Then there is UT's suspect offensive line. The starting right tackle will be junior Jarrod Shaw, who saw two games of mop-up duty in his first three years on campus. The starting center will be fifth-year senior Cody Sullins, a former walk-on who saw five games of mop-up action during his first four years in the program. Sullins will be entrusted with making the line calls against a Hilltoppers' defense that provides more looks than a kaleidoscope.

Vol head coach Lane Kiffin admitted that "Their defense can really mess with your protections because they do so many things out of multiple fronts and out of moving personnel and shifting them around."

One final factor that could make Saturday's game a lot closer than Tennessee fans expect is this: It's difficult to prepare for an opponent when you have no idea what that opponent is going to do. With new coordinators on offense and defense, Western Kentucky is sure to throw some unexpected wrinkles at Tennessee this weekend.

"With two new coordinators who were not calling the plays last year, you don't really know what to expect," Kiffin said. "Without a spring game on television, we are going in and preparing for everything we can.

"But, at the end of the day, it will be about us (because) we don't really know what they are going to do."


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