5 keys (off the beaten path ) for the Vols

By now, the major stories of spring practice are old hat. Everyone knows Jonathan Crompton will take over for Erik Ainge at quarterback this fall.

Likewise, everyone knows that safeties Eric Berry and Demetrice Morley lead a secondary that could be among the best in Tennessee history.

And everyone knows, too, that the arrival of new offensive coordinator Dave Clawson brought with it the biggest change to UT’s offense in 15 years.

If you’re in Neyland Stadium on Saturday for the Orange and White Game (2:30 p.m. kickoff), you’ll already be looking for those things.

Here’s five more things — that while a little off the beaten path — will be key for Tennessee’s success this fall.

1. Stopwatch Ends: Robert Ayers earned most-improved honors on defense at end. Wes Brown is much improved as well, and Ben Martin has made strides. But perhaps the biggest difference between those three players and UT’s starting ends from last year — Antonio Reynolds and Xavier Mitchell — is speed. Reynolds and Mitchell both posted 40-yard dash times during Pro Day that were more appropriate for tackles than ends. That’s not the case this year.

2. Clock Work: For a few plays, train your eyes to those fancy new LCD boards in the north and south end zones and watch the play clock. More importantly, watch how UT’s quarterbacks manage the game in regard to the clock. Clock management was an issue at times this spring, but it’s been vastly improved. Nick Stephens particularly had difficulties, but it’s an improved group from that respect.

3. Quick Kicks: Tennessee will miss punter Britton Colquitt (suspension) for the first five games of the season. They’ll miss him even more if Chad Cunningham continues to have a hard time getting the ball away. If it takes Cunningham longer than about 3 seconds to get the ball off his foot, that’s big-time trouble against the likes of Florida and Auburn. Cunningham has a good leg, but that doesn’t matter if the ball never leaves his foot.

4. Guarded Optimism: If you’ve never spent a few plays just watching the line of scrimmage, shame on you. To make up for it, aim your binoculars on the big guys up front. You might be a little surprised what you see. UT will shuffle players from one side of the line to the other during the course of the game, or even a series. It’s an old trick, but it’s one that could help Tennessee get favorable matchups and cut down on practice reps. Take a look and see if you notice today.

5. Don’t Lose Count: One of the biggest differences between Tennessee’s offense under Clawson will be the amount of formations and the spacing within those formations. Tennessee can go big, with two tight ends. It will go fast, with four or five receivers. It will use the fullback this season, too, provided that Kevin Cooper or Austin Johnson can prove their respective value over having a tight end on the field. As Clawson said Thursday, the only requirement is a quarterback and five linemen. That means every combination of the other five players is possible. Keep count, if you want, but be prepared to take off your shoes.

Drew Edwards covers University of Tennessee football. He may be reached at 865-342-6274.

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Comments » 47

99gator writes:

i hope this was in no particular order.

handling the play clock is #2......#2.

really.

snapping the ball on time.

i can't believe this made the list. the punter getting the ball off and snapping the ball on time.

sounds like some people have not passed football 101 yet.

pdhuff#552644 writes:

99gator- slow punter means trouble. Hate to hear that. Kicking game is often taken for granted.

It has cost the Gators before.

Well, hope its a nice day for those who venture out to get their fix. Doldrums will make for a looong summer.

Silent_Fulmer writes:

who?

99gator writes:

nevermind....

my fault.

they are "off the beaten path"

i knew something wasn't right.

tigervol9802 writes:

It always make me feel good after 14 scrimmages that we are talking about getting a snap off and not getting punts blocked!

Three seconds to punt a ball? Ayyyyyyeeeeee!!!

Somebody pass me some more of the Kool Aid, preferably the special edition $90 Thompson-Boling Arena kind.

hglover40#234154 writes:

PearlFUTure_FulmerPast,
National Championships
Fulmer 1
Pearl 0

Go somewhere and comeback for BB season. Stop bringing down UT football fans.
I'm not fan of BB but I didn't go post negative stuff when they failed to get past the final 16. You seem to be a CLASSLESS LOSER, AND A SORRY MISERABLE "FAN" .

miamiVOL writes:

tEB "I want to lead the nation in INTS next year" - Iview with Fox Sports

heard it here 2nd

CoastGuardVol writes:

GO VOLS!!!!

hmhawk writes:

Anyone think our defense could be the ressurection of the "Orange Crush" from the 80's?I'm hoping for it personally.Loved the "Underdog's our ass" T's that went on sale afterwards.The bowl game with Miami I mean.

GerryOP writes:

A new day dawning for UT football??? A first preview.... We shall see what we shall see -- for real -- on Sept 1, 2008!!!

hmhawk writes:

tngeoff-went to the link.Love the movie but is the song supposed to say it all?Hope so.GO VOLS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

eb502us#225637 writes:

I'm excited to see the Clawson offense this season. Regardless of what happens, getting rid of Cutcliffe is like a new lease on life. It can only get better.

pdhuff#552644 writes:

Stirring and mixin'.

thesavageorange writes:

How much longer pd?

Anyone seen my mason jar?

invisiblekid writes:

#2 and #5 more than likely go hand in hand. More formations = more substitutions = clock management issues, especially after only a handful of scrimmages. If it's an issue in the Fall, then I'll worry.

#3 isn't a problem, disregard any and all concerns regarding special teams, everything is fine, everything is fine.

#1 is a real question mark for me. This issue of speed off of the corner has been brought up more than once this Spring. If Reynolds and Mitchell were really that slow(and they looked to be at times), then we could see some drastic improvement up front in terms of pressuring the QB. Of course, that depends on Ayers keeping up the intensity, Martin living up to the hype, and Brown staying healthy. The pass rush has lain dormant in a comatose state for far too long. 25 sacks in 14 games is not TN Football.

DennisVols writes:

This offense could cut the ammount of punts we make in 1/2. Looking at the UF and Bama games last year we punted more times than we got a 1st down.
As I have stated before this new offense could be the biggest improvement to our defense. To me clock management is keeping the ball on offense more than time spent on defense. It is hard to put up points on any defense if your defense is on the field most of the time.

invisiblekid writes:

Understandable that you can't find it anywhere McRib, only so much can be done with rabbit ears and aluminum foil.

invisiblekid writes:

Thanks Bricker, here is the schedule for the game broadcast on SportsSouth from UT Sports:

Sunday at 7 p.m. Eastern time (Game not seen in Atlanta due to Atlanta Hawks playoff coverage…75-mile radius)
Wednesday at 11 p.m. Eastern time
Saturday, April 26, at 5 p.m. Eastern time (within the Hawks 75-mile radius); 8 p.m. Eastern time (all other viewers)
Sunday, April 27, at 7:30 p.m. Eastern time

tigervol9802 writes:

hglover....

Actually national titles...

Fulmer - 1
Pearl - 1

haynes91956 writes:

My prayers have been answered. Tennessee is finally going to use a fullback!
The VOLS have someone now that knows how to operate and execute the running game. Will wonders never cease?

badawg44 writes:

Can't wait to see this new multiple formation, ball controlling offense. By the time 10/11 rolls around, we should have a pretty good idea what y'all are up to. Same thing with Bama, Auburn and Tech with their whole new offense as well. It sounds like a good scheme on paper, but we shall see. Our D should have plenty of film to dissect that new O. btw, we're blacken' out the orange!... to mourn our fellow SEC brethren. 2-0 in BLACK.

sic'em Dawgs!

CoverOrange writes:

Okay, bad doggie, we get it, you're wearing black for the game against us.

firefightervol writes:

badpuppy, can't wait to see that overated quarterback live up to the hype. :)

newtonrail writes:

Sports South Delayed broadcast. I remember the one on Sunday night at 7PM being the first. There were some listed after that on UT Sports official site.

T0MMYJACK writes:

Real, division 1 national titles, coming out of the toughest division, in the toughest conference, in your respective sport:

Fulmer 1
Pearl 0

bigbluevol writes:

Wow...UGA sucks so bad in its traditional color that it has to resort to special tricks to try to intimidate. If you're wearing that against us and we play at 3:30 your whole team might dehydrate by half time.

budrhon writes:

6-6 and Fulmer on the Hot seat again.

JohnnyU writes:

I guess #1 is implying that Reynolds and Mitchell were too slow for end? Has that been the problem with the pass rush? Combine an improved secondary with faster rush ends and there could be some good possibilities there. However, I've been excited about the secondary before.

About the punting, let's say the punter is slow, but if you do protect and he gets it off, doesn't that allow the coverage an extra second to get downfield and put pressure on the receiver? Taking that to the other extreme, if a punter gets the punt off in 1 nanosecond, doesn't that deliver the ball to the receiver earlier, thereby allowing him to size up the coverage earlier? It seems to me you want to get it off as late as you can consistently protect.

eduardo writes:

We've had tremendous secondarys before. Try 2005 where did that get us? Try 5-6 and a loss to candy. Without a great pass rush a good secondary don't mean squat! Tennessee and phat phil do no better than 8-4, again. Is this good enough for our fan base? Does keeping this guy around just to break Neyland's record for the next couple of years justified? Is this program solely about F$$$lmer? He's working like heck and he's in the mix and hunt. Who's gonna be his candace parker this year?

pdhuff#552644 writes:

sjt18 - FYI Gen F has to drive TDTN and Dupree to the Halls K-Mart. Saturday is a big day there, can't be bothered with a controlled scrimmage.

Orange kool-aid is the blue-light special. LOL

mikes70gto writes:

Special teams are a question. But the defense and the new look offense will have the gators,dawgs and the tide on their heels. Dont forget about Gerald Jones in the mix as well as Rogan.Most of the fore-mentioned above will only improve with practice.Look for big things to happen with this team in '08.We are more diversified and stronger than last year.

orange4ever writes:

I'm excited to see how our d-line holds up.They should better as a overall unit assuming the second team and third team has gotten better.
GO VOLS

waterskier3#226480 writes:

stuck in texas so hopefully will be able to find it on the net........ any ideas????

want to see the offense in action

johnlg00 writes:

Clock management may be an issue for lots of teams this year. The rules have changed to cut down on the amount of time between snaps. With all the new formations and new offensive philosophy, it is not surprising that this would a point of emphasis for us especially at this time of the year.

eduardo writes:

Everyone going to the orange & white game make sure you wear all black. Don't forget to sit in the north end zone to show your support. ha ha

movol77 writes:

Ditto on looking for an Internet view of the O&W game. Anybody have a lead?

firefightervol writes:

OTS does anyone know how Lucas Taylor got hurt?

Huntingdonvol writes:

No Ashley today is football time in Tennessee!go vols!

douglasawilliams#582863 writes:

It's spring let the expectations be high. If we go 12-2 with a bowl win that would be a great season. Not a national title but still a very good season a top 10 AP final poll type season. I really don't know what to expect but I do think the defense will be improved and the offense will be very different. Say what you want about Cutcliffe but he was able to average about 30 points a game and we did stumble our way to an SEC East Title game and a nice bowl win for a change. The bad of course is being dominated by Florida and Alabama. That is bad and the stink still lingers. We play Auburn and Florida in September so we will see how 2008 will shape up early. Crompton is mobile something Ainge surely was not so that is a plus. Paige might prove to be a deep threat to keep those safeties honest and help the running game some. The key I think is how well the play of Ellix Wilson, Dan Williams and Demonte Bolden will be to see if we can stop a team like Florida. Go Vols!!!!

Ralph_Crampton writes:

Was ANGIE drafter into the pros...>? let me know please.

philfan writes:

I am so excited about this new offense that I can hardly stand it. I look for Clawson and Fulmer to bring a whole new look to the Florida game, a look that will bewilder and confuse them entirely, perhaps a new formation altogether, call it the Gator Bait Formation. We will have the home team advantage, but we will have to score first to get the momentum, or all will be lost.

budrhon writes:

sjt18/GenFritter: this is the home site http://coacheshotseat.com/ sorry for the delay. I thought I posted this earlier, but somehow the KGB, I mean the KNS may have flipped it around. This Site indicates Fulmer being on the Hotseat at #25 among the Nations Coaches. An area Sports show in the Carolinas felt he should be higher and will be after the UCLA/Florida games. Their prediction from the Website is a 6-6 season. http://coacheshotseat.com/PhilFulmer.htm They posted the losses being to UCLA,Florida,Auburn,Georgia, South Carolina and Vandy. I'm thinking 8-4, can't see UT losing to South Carolina and Vandy.

jonfan writes:

CROMPTON, WESTERN,NC AND TUSCOLA HS IS SO PROUD OF YOU. KEEP UP THE GREAT WORK. #8 ROCKS

pdhuff#552644 writes:

Gen F 7:29 - Is it Dupree?

Or someone else......

It's sure not Foster. What about Creer or Poole?

VOLinDAWGland writes:

I'll guess Rogan

VOLinDAWGland writes:

If the General is similar in critique standards as TDTN, then this is a very positive report. I was hoping to hear that Crompton sounds solid.

It was mentioned in passing in a previous thread but I've been thinking that it explains much of the issue with Cutliff's run offense...I'm not sure Cutcliff is very good at the running game coordination and when we can't simply out talent the competition he's got nothing else. If he's not good at the running game and his running backs coach is also not so good (Roper), then perhaps coaches who are better at that aspect of the game can take these same guys to another level, assuming that these coaches are more compitent in designing and managing game day running game.

Cutcliff always falls back on what he's most comfortable with which is passing with a top QB talent.

gohawks1 writes:

General, 7:29 p.m. - could it be Berry?

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