John Adams: Vols need a different type of break

John Adams

Coach Derek Dooley isn't oblivious to the merits of a running quarterback. He detailed them again last week as his Tennessee team prepared for Georgia.

But he's also aware of the risk.

The biggest? You lose your quarterback to injury.

That's one reason he's a proponent of the drop-back passing game the Vols employ. That's also a reason why the injury to UT sophomore quarterback Tyler Bray is ironic as well as devastating.

Bray is a prototypical drop-back passer. His rapid development has been the single greatest reason for the Vols to be optimistic about their offense for this season and the ones to come.

He has run, before — to throw. And those runs rarely have been more than a shuffling of the feet that removed him from the path of a pass rush.

The irony: He was passing, not running, when he broke the thumb on his right hand — or what UT fans would identify as his throwing hand. All it took was a simple follow-through into the helmet of a Georgia Bulldog. That will cost him at least six weeks of playing time and pose further problems for an offense that literally has been running backward in its two SEC games.

There's further irony in the timing. Bray became UT's quarterback at the end of a brutal October schedule last year. He now goes to the sideline as the Vols prepare to take on No. 1 LSU on Saturday, No. 2 Alabama the following week and No. 15 South Carolina the week after that. Out goes Bray and in comes Matt Simms, who started successive games last season against LSU, Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina.

You could argue that the Simms-for-Bray swap will have no impact on UT's record. If the Vols couldn't beat Florida or Georgia with Bray, why would anyone think they could win any of the next three games or beat Arkansas in Fayetteville in November with him at quarterback?

But this isn't solely about a team's record. It's about the psyche of the program, which seems beset with misfortune,

Bray was having an All-SEC season. And wide receiver Justin Hunter was looking like an All-SEC wide receiver when he suffered a season-ending knee injury in the third game.

Bray, Hunter and wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers couldn't have pitched and caught their way to a championship, but they could have helped entertain the UT fan base while it waited for a young roster to grow up. They also might have at least scared teams they weren't capable of beating.

Now, the offense is left with Simms and Rogers; a productive tight end in Mychal Rivera; a young group of wide receivers; a running game that ranks 114th among 120 FBS teams; and a sense of dread that evokes the question: "What could go wrong next?"

Tennessee has lost its starting quarterback before. It lost two, Erik Ainge and Brent Schaeffer, in 2004 and still made it to the SEC championship game. It also has lost its best offensive player who wasn't a quarterback, running back Jamal Lewis in 1998, and won a national title.

But I can't remember the Vols losing their two best offensive players to injury in the first half of a season.

The losses will be magnified by the next three opposing defenses, none of which has a reputation for promoting quarterback health. Alabama alone has injured three quarterbacks the last two Saturdays.

So it's paramount that the offensive line protect Simms, who is the only healthy quarterback with college experience. And it's up to the rest of the team to shrug off the latest loss and keep plugging away.

The UT seniors know all about that. They're on their third coach in four years. They have seen teammates come and go,

And they're due for a break that doesn't lead to an X-ray.

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/johnadamskns.

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Comments » 18

The_Ghost_of_Duke_DeLuca writes:

Fire Fulmer again!

dvhill100 writes:

Proud of Simms with the way he played. Looked very good. We'll see how he does next week. I hope for the best, but it has the potential to be ugly.

For all of you saying to fire CDD and staff, reality check. He has been here for less than two years. Give him time and I believe he will be successful.

FearlessFreep writes:

Long season coming. Vol fans, put your head down, appreciate the small victories because it's going to be rough for the next month.

But the worst thing to do would be to undergo yet another coaching change. Vent your frustrations elsewhere.

teedub writes:

"but they could have helped entertain the UT fan base while it waited for a young roster to grow up. They also might have at least scared teams they weren't capable of beating" - this exactly how I was feeling about this year when Hunter went down. I knew we weren't going to win anything this year, but it was the most fun I've had watching the Vols in a long time.

Realist writes:

in response to FearlessFreep:

Long season coming. Vol fans, put your head down, appreciate the small victories because it's going to be rough for the next month.

But the worst thing to do would be to undergo yet another coaching change. Vent your frustrations elsewhere.

"But the worst thing to do would be to undergo yet another coaching change."
__________________________

The only ones calling for a change will be the ones who didn't like Dooley in the first place. One change that I would like to see in Dooley is a little fire on the sidelines. For me he is too calm and lacks control with the referees. The handshakes and head nods with refs do not seem to be working. Without impact players, we will need more emotion! At least this weekend, we will get to see Tennessee's greatest loss, John Chavis!

jumboliyah writes:

After last year's losses to LSU and NC after the games were over and this year's start one has to wonder is Dooley is snakebit. He is as unlucky as Les Miles' seemingly infinite level of good luck.

jumboliyah writes:

in response to Realist:

"But the worst thing to do would be to undergo yet another coaching change."
__________________________

The only ones calling for a change will be the ones who didn't like Dooley in the first place. One change that I would like to see in Dooley is a little fire on the sidelines. For me he is too calm and lacks control with the referees. The handshakes and head nods with refs do not seem to be working. Without impact players, we will need more emotion! At least this weekend, we will get to see Tennessee's greatest loss, John Chavis!

Seems Chavis knows how to coach and call defenses afterall huh?...I suspect the plethera of prevent defense calls he made while here were dictated by the great pumpkin...much as were the offensive play calling refusing to throw over the middle.

voloffaith writes:

in response to jumboliyah:

Seems Chavis knows how to coach and call defenses afterall huh?...I suspect the plethera of prevent defense calls he made while here were dictated by the great pumpkin...much as were the offensive play calling refusing to throw over the middle.

"plethera" of typos usually occur at early,sleepy-eyed tymes don't they?

But then those are the breaks....

geraldodell#1377039 writes:

My biggest complaint comes with our feeble attempts to run a toss sweep or and end around. If Coach Chaney doesnt take these out of the playbook, we need to look for another offensive co-ordinator immediately. 95% of the time we run these, we lose yardage. How about running it up the middle instead of taking a loss. Chances are we can gain positive yardage and not a loss of yardage.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to jumboliyah:

Seems Chavis knows how to coach and call defenses afterall huh?...I suspect the plethera of prevent defense calls he made while here were dictated by the great pumpkin...much as were the offensive play calling refusing to throw over the middle.

You might be right about Fulmer calling for the prevent defenses rather than Chavis, and there is no doubt that some of his UT defenses otherwise were about as good as they get in college football, but you have to admit that he had LOTS more good players at UT and now at LSU than Wilcox has to work with. I wonder what Chavis' defensive stats would look like if he was coaching UT's current personnel.

The_Ghost_of_Duke_DeLuca writes:

in response to jumboliyah:

After last year's losses to LSU and NC after the games were over and this year's start one has to wonder is Dooley is snakebit. He is as unlucky as Les Miles' seemingly infinite level of good luck.

I think we Tennessee fans got a bit arrogant and raised our expectations far above where they should have been.

We have torn apart a long term, winning program and replaced it with a rebuilding project. It's going to take time - maybe four or five years or more - and maybe another head coach or two before we get back to winning a divisional championship.

The grumbling has already started about Coach Dooley. Stop it! This is going to take time. If you want to win right away, then leave the SEC and join Conference USA. You wanted change and you have it. This is what happens when you tear down winning programs.

A few words of warning about sportswriters, talk show hosts, and pundits. They have to create controversy to create talk and they've already started - notably on John Pennington's Sunday TV show. It's self-destructive to buy into it.

You will note that Les Miles and Ron Zook are the punch lines for a lot of jokes.

It's important to remember that both are undefeated this year and they consistently win, win, win.

Just like we used to do.

We had a winning program, but the whiners finally created enough noise to make a head coaching change. The rest is history.

Leave Dooley alone.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to geraldodell#1377039:

My biggest complaint comes with our feeble attempts to run a toss sweep or and end around. If Coach Chaney doesnt take these out of the playbook, we need to look for another offensive co-ordinator immediately. 95% of the time we run these, we lose yardage. How about running it up the middle instead of taking a loss. Chances are we can gain positive yardage and not a loss of yardage.

Or, as I have said repeatedly this season, FAKE the end-around or toss sweep and run or throw back the other way. I think the Vols MAY have tried that once in the Georgia game, but the play was blown dead on a penalty or time-out--I don't remember which--before it got started and I don't remember seeing it tried again.

Most college football teams that can't count on just lining up and running over the other team whenever they want use misdirection ROUTINELY, not just pulling it out once a game as a "trick play". They USUALLY have someone in meaningful motion so the defense can't get an extra half-step by seeing the same keys play after play. Make the opponent's pursuit speed work AGAINST them for a change.

But in any case, try SOMETHING different when what you are doing ISN'T WORKING! All Chaney, et. al, are doing right now is whetting the appetites of opposing DC's and demoralizing his own team as well as the fans. At least show us you are TRYING, Chaney! For that matter, it may not even be Chaney who is insisting on this vanilla offense, in which case it may just be that Dooley, in the words of another poster, needs to grow a pair and do some different things. I'm not saying that the team needs to go crazy with the razzle-dazzle, but, DANG, guys! Shake it up a little bit!

As I have said before, I'm not and never have been a football coach--I don't even play football video games--and I may be completely off-base. If someone who does have that kind of experience disagrees with me, please do so and tell me why I'm wrong.

johnlg00 writes:

Oh, and by the way, I am NOT calling for Dooley to be fired or for wholesale changes in the staff or even in the overall philosophy of the offense. I'm just saying that whatever the staff thought they had going for them offensively at the beginning of the season has been, shall we say, overcome by events.

I can see the merits of trying to build consistency by continuing to try to get better at doing what everybody is accustomed to doing. But really, how can they expect to get better at the same ol' same ol' with arguably fewer and less-talented guys at the key positions? And how are those guys who are trying to do that going to benefit from the opponents already knowing all our stuff as well as we know it? Is there NOTHING to be gained by getting out of the rut and energizing the team by giving them some different things to try?

Again, if I'm wrong, don't just say I am, show me why. Everybody on here knows I'm all-Vol and still a Dooley supporter. I WANT him and the team to succeed.

snakeplissken writes:

Make your breaks.......don't sit around waiting for them to happen!

mocsandvolsfan writes:

Stopping and looking for an opening gets you tacked imo. At least so far.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

oops tackled not tacked...I suppose

RxVol2010 writes:

in response to The_Ghost_of_Duke_DeLuca:

I think we Tennessee fans got a bit arrogant and raised our expectations far above where they should have been.

We have torn apart a long term, winning program and replaced it with a rebuilding project. It's going to take time - maybe four or five years or more - and maybe another head coach or two before we get back to winning a divisional championship.

The grumbling has already started about Coach Dooley. Stop it! This is going to take time. If you want to win right away, then leave the SEC and join Conference USA. You wanted change and you have it. This is what happens when you tear down winning programs.

A few words of warning about sportswriters, talk show hosts, and pundits. They have to create controversy to create talk and they've already started - notably on John Pennington's Sunday TV show. It's self-destructive to buy into it.

You will note that Les Miles and Ron Zook are the punch lines for a lot of jokes.

It's important to remember that both are undefeated this year and they consistently win, win, win.

Just like we used to do.

We had a winning program, but the whiners finally created enough noise to make a head coaching change. The rest is history.

Leave Dooley alone.

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I have been saying these same things as I listen to the radio shows every morning and afternoon and hear people complain about the coaches and the pundits describe why the seats may be getting hot. We need to get behind this team- players, coaches and all. I think the real problem with UT may not be the team, but the fans. Temper the expectations until this staff can get our talent level back to SEC standards. What this program needs is glass half full supporters not glass half empty "Legions of the miserable"

1963VOLS writes:

Leave cdd alone,this ball club will grow with all that has happened.and a coaching change right now would send us so far down in the sec we would halft to craw up to scratch ky and vandys belly.so those troll and nea sayers can just suck their thumbs and trot off to mamby pamby land with the other trolls and buttheads on here who don,t care anything about ut,so that sais GBO.

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