Jim Chaney: What the Vols need to improve before Cincinnati
The outcome was positive.
The way it was produced wasn't exactly ideal.
In one short yard, Marlin Lane gave the Tennessee coaching staff pretty much everything it could have wanted last week — a touchdown to help put away Montana in a 42-16 victory and a teaching point.
The Vols obviously weren't complaining about the way the play ended with the freshman capping off his debut by sneaking the ball into the end zone for his second score of the game. But it would clearly prefer he make it a little easier by getting his pads down and driving his way to the goal line, an issue Lane can try to correct at Neyland Stadium against Cincinnati on Saturday (TV: ESPN2, 3:30 p.m.).
"That was a little odd," offensive graduate assistant Chino Fontenette said after practice Wednesday. "I mean, in practice every time he's in goal-line situations, he's been the one that's had the best pad level.
"I'm not sure what was going through his head at the time, but he's actually been very good with that. He's the one that's been diving to the goal-line, getting low to the legs, so that was a little bit odd there in that situation in the game. He typically does a good job of getting his pads down."
Either way, Lane was able to get enough push to pick up a yard and find the end zone for the Vols (1-0). And while the second trip there might not have been as impressive as the catch, juke and dive from 9 yards that produced his first career touchdown, he certainly showed an early knack for putting points on the board.
Along with that, his 10 carries for 35 yards, two catches for 16 and four punt returns also indicate there might be plenty more touches for him coming as UT's second option behind starting tailback Tauren Poole against the Bearcats (1-0).
"He showed a lot of ability, and I think we all saw that," UT coach Derek Dooley said. "Now it's a matter of reps and confidence. He got his first game under his feet and hopefully we'll see him elevate a little bit more this week.
"He made some nice runs but still doesn't have the full commitment that we need, just like a lot of the freshmen."
The Vols have another one on hand who could provide some help to a running game that collectively struggled in the season-opening win, with Tom Smith also looking like a viable option to provide some depth in the backfield.
Sophomore Rajion Neal also is going to be a factor on the ground as he gets back to full strength after knee problems sidelined him during training camp, and UT has vowed to get him more involved moving forward as well.
But Lane played one of the more prominent roles on offense against Montana, and he didn't do much that would force the Vols to reevaluate his place in the pecking order. Obviously punching in a pair of touchdowns is a fine way to start, even if Lane could have made one look a little prettier.
"Hey, he scored, so you can't complain about that," Fontenette said. "He does his dive (for one), then he gets in the end zone for that touchdown — that was a really good opportunity for him.
"I was definitely happy for him, glad we got that anxiety out of scoring touchdowns. Hopefully it will take him out of that situation where he might have had to press to the next week to find that first touchdown and that whole deal. He's got that out of the way, now it's just time for him to open up and run."