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The Coaches' Take: Coaches Fulmer and Chavis talk about the D-line against UCLA
Ellix Wilson, Ramon Foster, Chris Walker and Ben Martin talk about the Vols' game against UCLA. Watch »
UT's offensive coordinator, Dave Clawson, talks about how the offensive line faired during the UCLA game. Watch »
Peerless Price racing past Florida State to haul in a Tee Martin bomb in stride down the sideline.
Joey Kent catching a Peyton Manning toss over the middle then outrunning the Alabama secondary on the opening play of the game.
Those are two unforgettable images of Tennessee football at its 1990s best.
The deep ball. The bomb. The home run. By whatever name, it was a feared weapon.
In recent years, not as much.
As the Vols feel out a new offensive identity in 2008, the deep ball could and should be part of the picture.
At least coach Phillip Fulmer and new offensive coordinator Dave Clawson hope it will be.
The only evidence so far is limited to UT's 27-24 upset loss at UCLA 11 days ago. The next public viewing is Saturday when UAB visits Neyland Stadium for a 12:30 p.m. kickoff (TV: WVLT).
In Jonathan Crompton, Tennessee's staff believes it has a quarterback with plenty of arm.
"Jonathan throws a very nice deep ball,'' Clawson said.
"Not that you're going to go into a game and throw it (deep) 25 or 30 times. But you've got to be able to do that or people will just end up sitting on the shorter routes.''
A strong-armed quarterback is only one third of the equation.
Pass protection has to be sufficient to allow the deeper pass routes to develop. That didn't always happen at UCLA.
And the receivers have to get separation, either through sheer speed or crafty route-running.
The Vols connected on only one long ball at UCLA, a 41-yarder to Josh Briscoe that set up a touchdown on the next play.
They came close, but no cigar, on several other deep throws. And there's the rub.
"We know those are low-percentage throws,'' Clawson said. "But if you can hit one or two of those, I think it forces them to do different things on defense and that's really one of the failings in that game.
"We had a number of opportunities to get the ball down the field and didn't execute.''
The arrival of Clawson and the ascension of Crompton could bring the longer throws into more prominence.
"We don't count on the long ball,'' Crompton said, "but if it's there, we'll take a shot.''
The past two years, coordinator David Cutcliffe accented a shorter passing game with quarterback Erik Ainge.
Part of that equation was the issue of whether the receiving corps possessed home-run capability.
The Vols had 10 pass plays of 40-plus yards in 2007 - one of them a 49-yard TD pass by Crompton. However, the longest gainer involving one of UT's receivers was a 56-yard pass that Lucas Taylor threw to tailback LaMarcus Coker on a trick play.
Several others had nothing to do with receivers. Three were catch-and-runs by tailback Arian Foster and another was a 59-yarder to tight end Brad Cottam.
"I think in every offense you have to stretch people vertically,'' Clawson said. "The guys that are playing are playing because they're the best ones we have.''
There's no track-speed guys in the bunch. Fulmer said redshirt freshman Ahmad Paige "gives us one of those guys that could go get it, but he's just a little short on maturity right now.''
That doesn't mean the long ball can't be part of Tennessee's arsenal. At UCLA, the intent was evident but the execution wasn't.
"Let's wait and see what Jonathan's going to do in a game,'' Fulmer said. "But in practice he's shown the ability to get the ball down the field.''