Vols' kick coverage has holes

Kiffin doesn't have any answers

Georgia safety Brandon Boykin (2) looks back over his shoulder as he finishes his 101-yard kickoff return for a Georgia touchdown on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2009 at Neyland Stadium.

Photo by Michael Patrick

Georgia safety Brandon Boykin (2) looks back over his shoulder as he finishes his 101-yard kickoff return for a Georgia touchdown on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2009 at Neyland Stadium.

The kickoff coverage unit was gashed for a long touchdown.

Again.

A punt returner used his legs as wickets for a live ball.

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For the second time in as many games.

Tennessee missed more tackles, whiffed on key blocks and allowed a punt to be blocked for a safety on top of that. The Vols (3-3, 1-2 SEC) head into their bye week feeling pretty good about their offense and defense after blowing out Georgia 45-19 on Saturday, but the third phase continues to be a major concern.

And at this point, first-year UT coach Lane Kiffin appears to be open to suggestions on how to fix it.

"It's a good question," Kiffin said. "I'll take any answers because I don't know what more you could do on kickoff coverage than we did this week. I don't have the answer there.

"Unfortunately, we get momentum and there they go, 100-yard return again. We'll have to look at the film and figure something out. Eric Berry is on that team, Dennis Rogan is on that team, Nu'Keese Richardson is on that team, we put everybody that we could on that team to try to make a play. We're going to have to try to figure it out."

UT spent plenty of time trying to do that last week as well, but the extra emphasis didn't do much to help the 117th-ranked kickoff coverage unit in the nation.

The Vols adjusted by kicking shorter and along the sidelines to Brandon Boykin after his breezy run put the Bulldogs on the scoreboard early, but even then the sophomore looked like a threat to score every time he touched the ball.

"I feel like anybody can do it when you have holes as big as that," Boykin said. "It's just a matter of running the ball."

The Vols are clearly looking for a way to plug those holes, but they have more issues than that to worry about.

They've also been inconsistent kicking the ball and have given up blocks in each of the last two games. They have struggled to find a game-breaker to take over kickoff return duty, and everybody Kiffin sent out to field punts seemingly treated the football like it was a live grenade.

Even the best play the Vols made was overshadowed by a call Kiffin admitted was blown when Berry stepped into the end zone before downing a punt at the 1-yard line in the first quarter.

"The story of the first half was, I believe it was 21-12 because they got the safety right there, but my message to the team was, if we play special teams it's 21-3," Kiffin said. "We'd only given them a long field goal and the other nine points had come from special teams.

"Obviously the safety on the blocked punt, we got beat inside on that and they weren't even full-rushing. That was very disappointing."

Kiffin didn't have much else to complain about though, and a suddenly powerful offense and totally dominant defense more than made up for some shoddy special teams play.

But that won't always be the case as UT enters the second half of the season, particularly when they open it in 12 days at No. 2 Alabama.

"It was very critical for us to come out in the third quarter and control special teams," Kiffin said. "At that point we controlled it at least, it was at least functional after the beginning of it. I think we saw what could happen as long as we stayed in somewhat (decent) field position, we'd be able to play really good defense and move the ball.

"To win a game 45-19 and play pathetic on special teams says a ton about your defense."

It was a tribute to the offense as well. But Kiffin is still searching for a complete effort, and now maybe looking for some help to find it.

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Comments » 74

VOLS_R_BEST_DEAL_WITH_IT writes:

You know what, I am absolutely loving the fact that bama runs the EXACT same offense as Georgia. Monty will have the boys ready
GO VOLS

rockytopatl writes:

Plus Monte has an extra week to gameplan for the Tide. They better watch out!

raynochonspeed#212632 writes:

Just try the onside kick on every kickoff - just like in Madden.

Even if UT doesn't recover the ball, the opponent would be starting with the ball in about the same place they start now.

civilianvol_formerly_marinevol writes:

Our kick coverage has holes? Really??

Pdiddy10 writes:

along with no good interceptions, berry missed a tackle on kickoff for a TD...the fumble luck thing was the first time ive seen him all year.

kthompson#255227 writes:

Pdiddy10 you must be watching a different team than the rest of us. EB is in on countless tackes, Kiffin is using him to his potential without necessarily exploiting him for INT for yardage. It will come. EB rocks and will be drafted very high if he goes pro. PLease STay EB!!

Fryinpansvols writes:

in response to Pdiddy10:

along with no good interceptions, berry missed a tackle on kickoff for a TD...the fumble luck thing was the first time ive seen him all year.

Well I guess you must have missed the five games prior to the Georgia game. Berry is all over the field. He had 14 tackles (11 solo) against Auburn. He also had that tremendous pick against Florida. Stop wasting peoples time and posting ridiculous comments.

kthompson#255227 writes:

in response to Fryinpansvols:

Well I guess you must have missed the five games prior to the Georgia game. Berry is all over the field. He had 14 tackles (11 solo) against Auburn. He also had that tremendous pick against Florida. Stop wasting peoples time and posting ridiculous comments.

Right!

CoverOrange writes:

If you can't kick it long, kick it high. Players need to get off blocks.

RoadTrip writes:

in response to ETorange:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Good post - right on the button. Need a couple of athletic, tough nosed LBs and a TE or two to go with the DBs. Need to make a mess of the blocking scheme and create penalties on the opponents receiving team for holding, blocks in the back, etc. Also need to change our goal from tackling inside the 20 to containing inside the 30 until we get better at this.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to RoadTrip:

Good post - right on the button. Need a couple of athletic, tough nosed LBs and a TE or two to go with the DBs. Need to make a mess of the blocking scheme and create penalties on the opponents receiving team for holding, blocks in the back, etc. Also need to change our goal from tackling inside the 20 to containing inside the 30 until we get better at this.

Your last sentence is dead on! It seems on nearly every kick/punt return at least one of our guys just runs right past the returner and out of the play. They don't even have to block him! They should be taught to "break down" about 10-15 yards before they get to the returner precisely in order to be able to react whichever way he goes instead of just sprinting straight down-field with their heads down.

GahLee writes:

Title of article says it all, kick coverage has holes, ones big enough to land a 747 in.

If we can sure up special teams and continue to improve in the passing game, we can become a very good team this year.

Didn't think that would be possible, but we can get 7 wins no doubt, getting a bowl game would be huge, no matter the sponsors name.

ect1983 writes:

in response to Pdiddy10:

along with no good interceptions, berry missed a tackle on kickoff for a TD...the fumble luck thing was the first time ive seen him all year.

Top vote for dumbest post of the year....by far!!!

GahLee writes:

in response to chuck0303#1342365:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Michael Palardy, kid has a boot for sure, watched him on ESPN when St. Thomas played recently, He attempted a 50 something yard kick and missed just wide but he had more than enough leg.

GahLee writes:

in response to ect1983:

Top vote for dumbest post of the year....by far!!!

No doubt, he is third in the SEC in tackles.

granted he hasn't been making the huge plays that we have become accustomed to but he has been all over the field.

belayvol writes:

in response to chuck0303#1342365:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Pallardy.

VOLKING writes:

in response to Pdiddy10:

along with no good interceptions, berry missed a tackle on kickoff for a TD...the fumble luck thing was the first time ive seen him all year.

Of all the interlopers on here, you may actually be the dumbest one yet. Why do you even bother?

surfmaster writes:

in response to compact2:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You may be on to something. We always had good special teams under Majors. Hire 'ol Johnny as special teams coach and special advisor. I mean, why the he!! not? He's still 5 years younger than Bowden, and I bet you a box of doughnuts he would do it. Attack, attack, attack, always attack.

carolinasmokey writes:

in response to Pdiddy10:

along with no good interceptions, berry missed a tackle on kickoff for a TD...the fumble luck thing was the first time ive seen him all year.

You've got to be joking.

TommyJack writes:

in response to GahLee:

Title of article says it all, kick coverage has holes, ones big enough to land a 747 in.

If we can sure up special teams and continue to improve in the passing game, we can become a very good team this year.

Didn't think that would be possible, but we can get 7 wins no doubt, getting a bowl game would be huge, no matter the sponsors name.

Yep. Aside from the big bowls, it's really all about the extra 2.5 (?) weeks of practice.

OrangePride writes:

I have looked at that return about 4 times and the one from the Ohio game as well. Aside from the "kicking it out of the end zone" solution, which is not gonna happen, it seems we kick a lot of line drives. That gives the running back some added time to view the field and make some cuts. So suggestion 1 is, kick it higher and let the coverage get downfield even it does come down on the 7 yard line. Just a thought.

LibertyVolance writes:

in response to surfmaster:

You may be on to something. We always had good special teams under Majors. Hire 'ol Johnny as special teams coach and special advisor. I mean, why the he!! not? He's still 5 years younger than Bowden, and I bet you a box of doughnuts he would do it. Attack, attack, attack, always attack.

Sounds good to me. Majors always emphasized the kicking game...the kicking game....the kicking game. Watch those angles of pursuit, Attact, attackt, attack.

CNCVOL writes:

There has to be a guy on that campus who can kick the ball in the end zone. A touch back every now and then would be a tremendous help. Kiffin needs to start recruiting on campus for a guy with a leg.

hueypilot writes:

in response to supersmo18:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

No disrespect to Eric Berry. He'd tell you himself he overran the kicker to
his left and lost contain on his lane. Even Superman can make a mistake. Here's what the Georgia kicker said elsewhere in this thread:

" Boykin said he came into the game knowing he had a chance for a kick return TD based on what he had seen of UT's coverage on film.

"We'd studied the film and had the right returns on,'' said Boykin, who had his second 100-yard kick return for a TD this season. "I caught the ball and saw a lot of (UT) players over-committed to my right.

"Anybody could have run through that hole I had.''

volky writes:

in response to LibertyVolance:

Sounds good to me. Majors always emphasized the kicking game...the kicking game....the kicking game. Watch those angles of pursuit, Attact, attackt, attack.

Majors was the last coach at UT who had a direct link back to the General. Johnny played for Bowden Wyatt, who in turn was an All America end for General Neyland in 1938. As such, Majors understood the importance of the kicking game, and he BELIEVED in it. That full bore belief in the kicking game has been sorely lacking in the past 17 years.

VolsToTheWall writes:

so lets form a list of viable options

1) hire majors
2) hold halftime kicking contest for futbol players
3) pray
4) steroids
5) close our eyes during special teams

they all seem logical

TNPilgrim writes:

The kicker is weak and shows no signs of adding the necessary length for putting the ball in the end zone. Better off to concentrate on the pooch kickoff so the opposing team starts on their 30-35 yard line instead of risking giving up an easy 7 every time we kick off.

bluetick writes:

The returner looks for holes just like a RB does on the O-Line. The job of the coverage team is to fill the holes. The hole the guy hit for the return had nobody in it. Berry actually went into a hole that was already covered. Should have gone to the outside hole and would have flattened that guy right there. Not sure what they teach or how they teach at UT but I was always taught that since pee wee football and it seems to work, but what do I know.

xvolx writes:

Georgia's kickoff return for a TD was on Berry. He left his lane, then when he recovered took the bad angle to make the tackle. Crompton had a great day, but the INT for TD was poorly thrown ball behind receiver. Whether Roger's ran wrong route, I wouldn't know. Cunningham has been begging to get one blocked all season. You cannot take a three step kick from out of your endzone. The 53 yard FG was just a great kick. No team can play perfect. Tenn. deserves an A for this game.

wayoutwill writes:

I said yesterday that I thought we had problems with the special teams and the stupid guy calling himself witch doctor jumps me and says that I am not a real fan for being critical of them.I guess you got to be a blind,rah-rah,everythings hunky doory idiot like him to be a fan of the Vols,I have also critisized Crompton many times this season and I'll stil sit here and say that I have never seena college senior Q.B. look so bad all season,then look so improved as Crompton did yesterday.I still am not sold on Crompton though I will say that if he can make 'bama's defense look so lost,confused,and dazed as the 'dawg defense did yesterday,then I will be sold on his new and improved play.The Tide has a great defense in my book.I sure hope we can get our special teams play fixed,I really belive that using starters is not the way to go.Let some young athletes that are wanting to play and wanting to prove themselves get out there and be kamikazis,,does anyone else belive that or do you guys think putting regular starters out there is the better way?

steve22043#233791 writes:

This is exactly the same problem we were having with Fulmer. Why do we still have these problems with the kicking game? It was one of Neylands axioms to stress that.

VolWoman writes:

I thought there was a big controversy about this last year for some team and it was determined that the player can be in the end zone as long as the ball does not cross the line.

Does anyone else remember that and where the spokesperson got a rules interpretation and the rule is not the same as if he had gone out of bounds? Was this just a dream?

Couchdummy writes:

Just kick the ball into the end zone. It will then fall in place.

TheFuj writes:

Some suggestions: Have open tryouts with all of UT's students for a deep kicker. Anyone who can kick it through the end zone consistently is on the team. Just have a grad asst. sit out there all day for who lines up. Second, as one mentioned above, we need more lb's on the coverage team. The fast db's get knocked off the lane (no pun intended). Mixture of lb's and db's on the coverage. Third, and I have said this for 2 years, put Berry returning punts. Who is one of the most dynamic with the ball? Well, let him have the ball. Michigan let Woodson return everything. Deion returned everything. Warrick returned everything.

pdhuff#552644 writes:

If I was spec teams coach, I would appreciate the compliment- "holes".

"Canyons" and "untouched" come to mind on kick-offs, way too often.

Hope we get lots of chances to improve versus the Tide.

paul5170 writes:

in response to Pdiddy10:

along with no good interceptions, berry missed a tackle on kickoff for a TD...the fumble luck thing was the first time ive seen him all year.

Just watching the HIGH-LIGHTS

AWOLVol writes:

Ladies and gentlemen of GoVolsXtra, "Pdiddy10" and a few others of that ilk on here are what are known as "trolls" in Internet lingo. "Trolls" are people who cruise comment and chat segments of webpages and make intentionally inflammatory comments for the sake of inciting fierce responses. They have no interest in actually contributing to the discourse, they just want to anger the actual readers. Demented behavior at best...

The motto on Web regarding these people is, "Don't Feed The Trolls!". So do as your mother always advised and ignore those people.

Otherwise this has been a real fun discussion about special teams play...nice job everybody!

GO VOLS!!!

braintree writes:

Hire Bill Bates.

AppreciativeAlum writes:

I am not surprised that Kiffin has not figured this out, yet - he is pretty busy.

It is obviously explained by the Clawfense on one side and Nick on the other.

The first string players are trying to figure out the new offense and defense and how to play the best teams in the country and all the wrinkles they throw at you.

Asking them to play special teams in their first year in a new system is about the same as asking them to play both sides of the offensive line.

Their mental hours are spent on making Thursday's practices run right. No hours left.

Special teams requires discipline and attention to detail, Nick the walk on personifies that. 4 out of 11 can be first stingers. For 7 of 11 that should be their only job. Lane control that lets the opposition get to the 26 yard line every time,

but never past.

bjwhite writes:

The coverage team is made of Safeties, Corners, backs and receivers, they need some beef in there like linebackers and ends. But I was wrong about Crompton.

richvol writes:

Missed tackles will kill you on kick coverage but the main problem,as I see it,is getting these boys to stay in their lanes and that's just a lack of discipline.

Berry and Rogan need to stay behind the coverage unit as safety valves in case the returner makes it through a gap. If the two of them are laying back then they have plenty of time and space to adjust to the runner.

Another problem is the mistake of trying to kill the returner with a crushing hit. Square up,break him down and make him commit and come to you...then you can tackle him. No one under those circumstances should be able to get past Berry and Rogan.

WytheVol writes:

in response to johnlg00:

Your last sentence is dead on! It seems on nearly every kick/punt return at least one of our guys just runs right past the returner and out of the play. They don't even have to block him! They should be taught to "break down" about 10-15 yards before they get to the returner precisely in order to be able to react whichever way he goes instead of just sprinting straight down-field with their heads down.

That alone will slow the returner enough for other players to get off blocks and get reinforcement if the first guy misses him. If the returner has to think too much, he'll be slowed down. You get one or two guys to "break down" 10-15 yards out and the returner can't decide which way to go...

bigorange61 writes:

Sometimes you have to override the instinct to run to the ball, and let the ball come to you. I imagine thats not easy to do for some of these defensive backs.

By the way, who is the gunner? Do we have one?

ClearVol writes:

in response to ETorange:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Remember Victor Brown? Now that guy was a headhunter on Kickoffs. Scary big dude running at you with 4.4 speed...

Fishpants writes:

"Even the best play the Vols made was overshadowed by a call Kiffin admitted was blown when Berry stepped into the end zone before downing a punt at the 1-yard line in the first quarter." -NOT TRUE.

In college, all that matters is where the ball is. This ain't the NFL.

Fishpants writes:

Maxim #6- Press the kicking game. Here is where the breaks are made.

We need to hire a medium, have a séance, and channel George Cafego, to find our what we're doing wrong.

bigorange61 writes:

in response to grvol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

The irony of this kickoff return is Cunningham actually kicked it to the endzone.

tonyvick#213307 writes:

in response to portlandTENNESSEEfan:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You know I watch a lot of football while staying at the Holiday Inn which makes me extremely knowledgeable. Yes the problem is in the kick itself. With the speed on the kick-off team the kick is not high enough nor deep enough and the team out run the ball. The opposing team get a good look down the field and quickly see how to block against us because of the line drive kick. Find a kicker that can kick it high, out of the end zone, and faster especially on punts then that phase of the game is better. That will be $2.50 please.

Ironcity writes:

I love Nuke but I don't want him on coverage teams. Everyone of our guys just got whipped at the point of contact. I think the coaches are taking it serious, I just don't think the players are valuing the playing time. We need to find some guys that live for those few moments a game and are not concerned about there football futures.

huntined#565710 writes:

Stop kicking down the center of the field. kick the ball to one side and keep 1-2 back at the 50 to make the tackle.

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