"We haven't decided," head coach Lane Kiffin said this week. "That's something that's real easy to have ready because you prepare for two-minute (drills) every week. It could be something that down the road we look into. It all depends on how the game's going."
The head man described Tennessee's hurry-up performance in practices as "up and down," adding: "We've had times where we do well, but you never really know (how efficient it is) because the quarterback can't get hit in that period. It's kind of tough to gauge. But we've had some good days."
None of those "good days" happened to be Sept. 3, Sept. 10 or Sept. 17, however. All attempts to move the ball via hurry-up mode in Game 1 vs. Western Kentucky, Game 2 vs. UCLA or Game 3 vs. Florida failed miserably.
As Kiffin put it "Prior to the last game (Ohio U), we'd not been good in two-minute."
Yet, inexplicably, the hurry-up attack clicked in Game 4 against the Bobcats. Starting on their 30-yard line with just 40 seconds left in the second period, the Vols zoomed 49 yards in just five plays, enabling Daniel Lincoln to boot a 38-yard field goal on the final play of the half.
Perhaps buoyed by that success, Tennessee did it again in Game 5 vs. Auburn. Getting the ball with 90 seconds left to intermission, the Vols marched 71 yards in just seven plays and scored a touchdown with 28 seconds to spare.
When Auburn went up 23-6 in the fourth quarter, Kiffin decided his team "needed some juice and energy," so he again switched to hurry-up mode. Although soft coverage by the Tiger secondary undoubtedly contributed, the Vols' next three drives went as follows:
- Sixty-two yards in seven plays for a touchdown that narrowed the gap to 23-13.
- Seventy-two yards in 18 plays (the longest drive by an SEC team all season) for a field goal that trimmed the deficit to 23-16.
- Seventy-nine yards in five plays for a touchdown that still left UT on the wrong end of a 26-22 final.
Although Tennessee scored three touchdowns and two field goals in hurry-up mode the past two games, Kiffin isn't ready to pronounce his team a high-speed juggernaut.
"It's easy to sit here after that game and say, 'We should be in two-minute all the time,'" he said. "But it's easier to move the ball in no-huddle in that scenario. We're behind, and they (Tigers) decided not to blitz very much in the two-minute drill, which made some of it easier. If we'd started the game off (in hurry-up mode) it may not have been like that."
Then again, maybe it would've been EXACTLY like that. Maybe this Vol offense performs better when there's just enough time to execute and not enough time to think. It's a moot point, though, unless Kiffin changes his mind. At present, he isn't sold on the idea of making hurry-up mode the staple of Tennessee's offense.
"You struggle sometimes to get into a rhythm of run and play-action," he said. "If you are doing that, you'd better be a good pass-protection team and you better make plays down the field because your run game is going to be limited. Your play-action is definitely limited in that situation, and you're going to get people rushing you."
In addition, Kiffin said a no-huddle attack could adversely affect tailback Montario Hardesty, the SEC's leading rusher at 115 yards per game, since it typically is a one-back offense with no fullback to serve as lead blocker.
On the plus side, though, a hurry-up offense limits the defense's opportunity to change personnel and make schematic adjustments.
"It's harder to disguise on defense because the snap count's going to happen quicker," Kiffin conceded. "There's a number of things that are easier for the quarterback: You're usually in three-wide personnel, so you're not seeing a bunch of different fronts. Usually, defensive coordinators have three or four calls in two-minute drills, so you kind of know what's going to come. That does make it easier.
"The other side of it is, you're going to have to deal with a really good pass rush. Going to the two-minute drill, they're going to be rushing up the field and you'd better be able to block 'em."
Of course, the ultimate problem created by the hurry-up attack is that it can put tremendous pressure on your defense.
"If you go no-huddle and go three-and-out it takes 11 seconds off the clock and the whole thing (possession) took just two minutes," Kiffin said. "Then your defense is right back out there."
Counting special-teams action and plays that were nullified by penalty, the head man pointed out that freshman safety Janzen Jackson saw 103 snaps of action vs. Auburn. All-America safety Eric Berry played 99 snaps.
"Our defense was out there forever," Kiffin said, adding: "That was weighing on my mind."
That weight was lifted a bit, however, when Tennessee's hurry-up attack produced 16 points in the game's final 11:36.
"It energized us," senior center Cody Sullins said. "It kind of caught Auburn off guard. They had some trouble lining up, and I think it made them tired.... They were tiring and they were getting confused, as far as lining up."
After noting that the Vols work on the hurry-up attack in practice every Wednesday and Thursday, Sullins added: "From the beginning of the year to last week it's gotten better each week. I think the coaches recognized that, and it was a nice change-up for us."
Against Georgia, the hurry-up may be more than a change-up. It could be a major element this Saturday, thanks to the points it produced last Saturday.
"I think it gives the coaches more confidence, knowing we can do that, since we had a little success with it on Saturday," Sullins said. "It gives them a little confidence in us, helps them believe there are different things we can do on offense.
"It kind of opens up the playbook a little bit more."