Marlin Lane on running the wildcat formation
First, Tennessee had to make sure it could consistently put a snap on target.
Second, it needed to find the right player to operate the attack, preferably someone with previous experience.
Then the Vols obviously had to work on the timing of the play and fine-tune the details before using it in a game.
But now that all hard stuff is out of the way heading into a trip to No. 8 Arkansas on Saturday (TV: ESPN2, 6 p.m.), the Vols might just have a second or two to think about a different name for their version of the wildcat package.
"We call it the wildcat; we don't have any different names for it yet," running back Marlin Lane said. "It's all up to the head coach and the offensive coordinator. I don't know what they're going to call it.
"It doesn't matter. As long as I'm out there running it, I'm cool with it."
Lane has emerged as the triggerman for the single-wing approach for the Vols (4-5, 0-5 SEC), leaning on his two years running it in high school as well as a season at quarterback to help give coach Derek Dooley a viable reason to install the wildcat.
Even as recently as two weeks ago, Dooley had dismissed the package as a fix for the ongoing problems with the running game, and he certainly didn't seem interested in giving it a school-specific moniker after debuting it in last week's shutout win over Middle Tennessee State. But after finding a bit of consistency with Alex Bullard delivering snaps and settling on Lane to receive them, there were signs of progress on the ground in the wildcat — and it figures to be part of the game plan again as UT takes on the Razorbacks (8-1, 4-1).
"It was a good start, and we'll keep playing with it," Dooley said. "It's not going to solve our problems. I've always liked it, but I haven't run it here just because I haven't had a comfort level of the right guy running it.
"The scheme isn't hard, it's the timing. It's a shotgun snap, and then a lot of times you're doing it off fly-sweep motion, so you have to time everything up. Then you've got a guy doing it that it's not what he does. It's not complex, but it's like anything, it takes practice."
And for a relatively simply play, those reps are critical at a number of positions — not just for Lane.
Bullard in particular has to be sharp with his snapping, which is important on any play in the shotgun but perhaps even more so in the wildcat with the moving parts. And in some ways, the always-critical communication between the linemen around him also becomes a bit more crucial with Bullard's head down as he fires the ball to Lane.
"I have to rely on the other guys to tell me if the defense is moving around or anything like that," Bullard said. "That's the biggest thing, as the center, you're snapping the ball out of shotgun and you have to make sure on the wildcat that the snap has to be dead-on them every time or it's going to throw off the process of the play."
The rest of it was pretty straightforward for Lane last week, with UT doing little more than putting the ball in his hands and letting him make something happen. That decision paid off a couple times, with Lane keeping once for a 7-yard gain and again to convert a third-and-2 later in the easy win. The Vols figure to add more wrinkles on top of that as they get more comfortable with the wildcat. But for now, that might be all they tweak about it.
"We got some positive yards out of it," Dooley said. "But when we get good at it, maybe then we'll name it."