Ground game improves, but consistent 2nd option desired

Tennessee tailback Tauren Poole looks to stay ahead of two Cincinnati defenders during first half action Saturday, Sep. 10, 2011 in Neyland Stadium. (MICHAEL PATRICK/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Michael Patrick, copyright © 2011

Tennessee tailback Tauren Poole looks to stay ahead of two Cincinnati defenders during first half action Saturday, Sep. 10, 2011 in Neyland Stadium. (MICHAEL PATRICK/NEWS SENTINEL)

AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/news sentinel
Tennessee running back Tauren Poole runs past Cincinnati defensive back Drew Frey on Saturday at Neyland Stadium.

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess, KNS/2011

AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/news sentinel Tennessee running back Tauren Poole runs past Cincinnati defensive back Drew Frey on Saturday at Neyland Stadium.

The statistical difference was subtle.

Tauren Poole took fewer handoffs and wound up with a couple more yards, and backup Marlin Lane again provided the scoring punch on the goal line.

But compared with the evaluation after the season opener, it was clear Tennessee felt there was more than just slight improvement from its rushing attack as it rolled over Cincinnati 45-23 on Saturday afternoon at Neyland Stadium. And while the Vols certainly have established themselves as a more prolific threat through the air early in the season, Poole has somewhat quietly given them almost exactly 100 yards apiece in their two wins — and yet another element of danger for a defense.

"Tauren really ran well," UT coach Derek Dooley said. "That was a solid game, and Poole had a lot more commitment in his runs.

"There were times when we didn't run it well, but for the most part we did. And when you throw it for 405 and then you've got a 100-yard back ..."

Dooley didn't need to finish his thought for the message to be clear.

The Vols (2-0) have legitimate weapons at pretty much every position on offense, and with Poole finishing with 101 yards on the ground, quarterback Tyler Bray picking apart the secondary and Justin Hunter and Da'Rick Rogers both going into triple-digit receiving yardage, it's tough to key on any one player right now.

There was some hand-wringing about the ground game after UT struggled at times to move the line of scrimmage against Montana and Poole occasionally showing some uncertainty with the ball in his hands. But he still wrapped up that game with 98 yards and a touchdown, and at this early stage of the year only three tailbacks in the SEC have more rushing production than Poole.

"I'm kind of a motivated type of guy, a lot of guys have looked down on me and that's OK, because it's fuel to my fire and I use it on the field," Poole said. "I'm going to continue to do that.

"That was fun (against the Bearcats), had a lot of fun out there. I give that 100 yards to Da'Rick and Justin, though, those guys played great. That's expected, and I'm just excited for what they're going to do this year."

The game-breaking ability of those sophomore receivers can have a big impact on what Poole is able to do this fall also, with Hunter and Rogers already forcing teams to devote more attention to UT's high-powered passing game — opening up some holes for the running backs in the process.

Just about the only lingering issue for the Vols is finding another option to consistently help take some of the workload off Poole. That effort had some hiccups against Cincinnati (1-1).

Lane plowed in for another short touchdown, already the third of the freshman's career, and Rajion Neal flashed his speed on an end-around that produced 12 yards and a first down. But both of those backup options lost fumbles that could prove costly as the level of competition goes up yet again with UT heading to play No. 16 Florida (2-0) on Saturday.

"We still don't have what we need behind him," Dooley said. "Tauren Poole ran a lot better, and there was a lot of improvement in those areas.

"The disappointing part is we put two balls on the ground and we've got to keep working those young guys — especially in the fourth quarter. That was the only way we could screw the game up and we tried."

There obviously wasn't anything subtle about that assessment.

But after wrapping up another dynamic offensive outing, there didn't seem to be much else for Dooley to worry about.

Austin Ward covers Tennessee football. He may be reached at 865-342-6274. Follow him at http://twitter.com/Vols_Beat and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/ward.

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Comments » 37

jack_2222#231746 writes:

florida is gonna try to run the ball with rainey and the big back burton and play action pass off that. Fortunately if I know that so do Wilcox and Dooley.

orangecountyvols writes:

Jack,

What's you feeling about the Vols' fullback position? Bartholomew or Fugate? Another question........3rd and 1 or 2, will the fullback ever get the call to carry the ball??????

Maybe that play calling went out with leather helmets........I don't know.

orangecountyvols writes:

Correction Jack.............what's YOUR feeling?
Starting to type like CSS now !

volfanfrom49 writes:

Early our oline looked like a bunch of fat slow high school lineman trying to run block. Poole looked like he was trying to break ever run for a tuchdown, when lowering his head and getting what he could would be better. As time went on both got better. Must get much better this saturday.

Southland writes:

still no real running game as far as I am concerned. The offensive line can pass block but can they do it against a super fast sec team and much stronger team. If the o line can not create holes for the running back against the bear cats how will they do it against the gators. I want this game so bad. It is a major step in the right direction. I am still not sure we have the talent or the depth that we will need but things are sure looking better. I dont want to get to excited and then be bummed when we have a respectable 7 or 8 win season. We were without any talent and it is going to take time to rebuild and to get to the point we just have to reload. given the level of talent dooley had to work with last year I thought he did an outstanding coaching job except for the repeated goofs of to many players on the field. A win over the gators would so dadgummed wonderful. I'm cautiously optimistic. go Vols

VolinCalif writes:

in response to orangecountyvols:

Jack,

What's you feeling about the Vols' fullback position? Bartholomew or Fugate? Another question........3rd and 1 or 2, will the fullback ever get the call to carry the ball??????

Maybe that play calling went out with leather helmets........I don't know.

Wore those leather helmets when I was playing in the early 50's. Single Wing. I think we are going to see Fugate with the ball this week. If you remember OCC said they had worked a little with him this spring.Look for it because they have not shown all they have in the running game.

TitanandVolfan4life writes:

We still tried to keep as much of the playbook closed as we could and still get a respectable win against Cincy.

I expect CDD and company to still keep as much of the playbook closed as they can and still try to beat the Gators because he'll want more to use against the other SEC teams and not have more plays on film for them to study.

The onside kick so early in the game was a gutsy and brilliant call and that DOES give FloriDUHHH and the other SEC teams more to think about and to plan and practice for.

I think we'll see more at the swamp but only as much as we're forced to use to get the big WIN and that our running game will still be improving.

VFL...GO BIG ORANGE!!!

volsfannsc writes:

Progress over time is what we should expect. Last year I don't believe most thought we would win against FLA. This year there is quite a bit of optimism. Even Muschamp is biting his nails a bit. The tell-tale sign is that Dooley has done more with less, and Muschamp has done less with more- and to me that is the defining factor. FLA fans shouldn't be so confident of a win this year. We all know they have fingers crossed and every other superstitous factor in que. The fact that they are holding their breath shows progress is being made and I for one look for a win. In terms of the odds, I'll take Dooley and his three star regiment any day over Muchamp's five star underachievers.

dvhill100 writes:

Now we see where we really are.

dgcarter43 writes:

I still believe Marlin Lane will be a better running back than Taurean Poole. The carry he had in the short yardage situation where he picked up 3-4 extra yards with a gang of tacklers hanging on showed his toughness. Poole seems to have trouble finding the hole when there is one. I admit the OL hasn't given him many openings but Lane seems to make the most of those small openings.

voloffaith writes:

in response to MOUNTAINofOKEMO:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I'm gonna give credit where credit is due(hopefully you were intentional in this). Thank you for realizing asking the created to pay "homage" to someone other than the Creator wasn't a good idea.

On topic,running game needs 150 I figure to keep gators honest on D. My heart says Vols my head says gators narrow margin of victory. As some have said b4 prove my head wrong. Go Big Orange!!!

NOthgif writes:

in response to MOUNTAINofOKEMO:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

LOL ...Who is this guy? Is he OKEMO or tnmantravel? Maybe he's like that dude in Total Recall that had that mutant attached to his ribcage. What was his name? Kuato, that's it! Please allow me to use my clairvoyance skills here. Tennessee wins this game. Period. However, there are many variables that can affect the outcome of any prediction. A word of advice to the Vols, if you want my prediction to come true then quit fumbling the frickin ball! Cannot win ball games when you turn it over! High and tight! High and tight! Otherwise, good game Saturday. LOL Fight ON!

kman29 writes:

in response to TitanandVolfan4life:

We still tried to keep as much of the playbook closed as we could and still get a respectable win against Cincy.

I expect CDD and company to still keep as much of the playbook closed as they can and still try to beat the Gators because he'll want more to use against the other SEC teams and not have more plays on film for them to study.

The onside kick so early in the game was a gutsy and brilliant call and that DOES give FloriDUHHH and the other SEC teams more to think about and to plan and practice for.

I think we'll see more at the swamp but only as much as we're forced to use to get the big WIN and that our running game will still be improving.

VFL...GO BIG ORANGE!!!

Yeah I'm really sure that Tennessee in playing a high caliber SEC team that they have not beat since 2004 will be "trying to keep as much of their playbook closed" because of future opponents. lol!

volfanlostnbama writes:

"Three times the Gators settled for field goals deep in UAB territory. That's not going to fly against SEC caliber football teams.

Despite their red zone troubles, the Florida offense did put up 80 points in two games (40 pts a game) and rolled up nearly 1000 yards of offense in their first two games.

Florida's next opponent Tennessee is averaging 43 points a game, so the Florida defense will get challenged by a quality offense for the first time this season.

It makes the Gators' red zone efficiency that much more important."

This stuff in quotation marks above came from a Florida reporters, "Five Things to Take Away form FL First Two Games". I believe his words will be prophetic. This will be a big difference maker--TN will win by 8 after FL stalls 2 drives in the red zone and settles for field goals.

kman29 writes:

in response to volsfannsc:

Progress over time is what we should expect. Last year I don't believe most thought we would win against FLA. This year there is quite a bit of optimism. Even Muschamp is biting his nails a bit. The tell-tale sign is that Dooley has done more with less, and Muschamp has done less with more- and to me that is the defining factor. FLA fans shouldn't be so confident of a win this year. We all know they have fingers crossed and every other superstitous factor in que. The fact that they are holding their breath shows progress is being made and I for one look for a win. In terms of the odds, I'll take Dooley and his three star regiment any day over Muchamp's five star underachievers.

Muschamp has done "less with more"? lol! And this is based on what? Out scoring their opponents 80-3 this season so far? So glad you as a rival fan of Florida are able to determine those factors after UF's 41-3 and 39-0 victories. Sorry but I wouldn't take your readings of your fellow Vol fans of making Montana and Cincy out to be BCS title contenders after UT victories as to how UF fans are thinking about saturday's game. Sounds more like your trying to convince yourself that UF fans and staff are worried.

kman29 writes:

in response to volfanlostnbama:

"Three times the Gators settled for field goals deep in UAB territory. That's not going to fly against SEC caliber football teams.

Despite their red zone troubles, the Florida offense did put up 80 points in two games (40 pts a game) and rolled up nearly 1000 yards of offense in their first two games.

Florida's next opponent Tennessee is averaging 43 points a game, so the Florida defense will get challenged by a quality offense for the first time this season.

It makes the Gators' red zone efficiency that much more important."

This stuff in quotation marks above came from a Florida reporters, "Five Things to Take Away form FL First Two Games". I believe his words will be prophetic. This will be a big difference maker--TN will win by 8 after FL stalls 2 drives in the red zone and settles for field goals.

Actually, according to many who cover college football like Tim Brando, the gameday guys ect..before the Florida/UAB game had stated that UAB was a "high quality offense". Most all of their starters had returned from last years team, their entire Oline was a veteran line. Their QB is labeled as one of the best if not best in Conf. USA. This from a squad last year that took UT to OT and nearly pulled off an upset of Miss. State. These were not my opinions and not going to pretend as if I know or knew all that much about UAB. But if Brando and any of the ESPN guys were right, then UF's defense is one heck of a D in getting the shutout.

Volunatic writes:

in response to kman29:

Yeah I'm really sure that Tennessee in playing a high caliber SEC team that they have not beat since 2004 will be "trying to keep as much of their playbook closed" because of future opponents. lol!

The Vols don't play a high-powered SEC team until 10/15, and the Vols beat them back in '05 down in Baton Rouge.

ProfessionalHandicapper writes:

Derrick Dooley has done one thing right in his coaching career and thats beat teams he is supposed to beat. He won Saturday over the Number 64 ranked team in the Nation which was the highest ranked team he has ever beaten. The thing Dooley has not done well is the fact he has never pulled an upset in his coaching career and he enters as a 8.5 point dog. Dooley does not win in Conference well either with losing records in the WAC and SEC to date. With Florida ranked number 20 Dooley has a chance to get the monkey off his back as never beating a Ranked team, or even a Top 50 team at any level he has coached at. Personally I see the same thing as last year, wins where he has a talent level above the opponent and losses where he doesn't. Great coaches pull upsets with less talent and Dooley has never done that, so until he does he is average at best. It will not happen this week as the Gators have a much better coaching staff than the Vols and play at home. Same ol stuff different year. Ut can't play with the Big Boys of College Football. Last UAB ran over UT to a tune of 544 yards and the Florida Defense stiffled them last week. Florida in another romp.

ProwlinAndGrowlinSmokeyDog writes:

Poole had several great runs against Cincy..He got a lot of his yards cutting to the outside, which is something he wasn't doing much in the Montana game..He did get a couple of good runs up the middle, so the OL did look better and they will continue to improve each week..Just hope it's enough for Sat...If Poole/Lane combine for 150 yards, it gives us a good shot to win..Maybe we won't need that many yards, but it would be nice.

Smokey says he is confident about Sat., but holding off on his prediction..

TKG_VOL writes:

in response to NOthgif:

LOL ...Who is this guy? Is he OKEMO or tnmantravel? Maybe he's like that dude in Total Recall that had that mutant attached to his ribcage. What was his name? Kuato, that's it! Please allow me to use my clairvoyance skills here. Tennessee wins this game. Period. However, there are many variables that can affect the outcome of any prediction. A word of advice to the Vols, if you want my prediction to come true then quit fumbling the frickin ball! Cannot win ball games when you turn it over! High and tight! High and tight! Otherwise, good game Saturday. LOL Fight ON!

Georgia would have beaten SC if their touted QB hadn't been slung around like a little girl and fumbled the ball for an SC TD. Never know. That's why they play the game.

TKG_VOL writes:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jw-X7E...
"There's no crying in Football."

ProwlinAndGrowlinSmokeyDog writes:

"Last UAB ran over UT to a tune of 544 yards....."
---------------------------------------------------

Proof that this is indeed "CSS" because he is OBSESSED with this fact and won't let it go..I had a feeling it was PH, but this just confirms it.

Smokey says this guy isn't fooling anyone..

Volunteer-Varmint writes:

in response to kman29:

Muschamp has done "less with more"? lol! And this is based on what? Out scoring their opponents 80-3 this season so far? So glad you as a rival fan of Florida are able to determine those factors after UF's 41-3 and 39-0 victories. Sorry but I wouldn't take your readings of your fellow Vol fans of making Montana and Cincy out to be BCS title contenders after UT victories as to how UF fans are thinking about saturday's game. Sounds more like your trying to convince yourself that UF fans and staff are worried.

Admit it! This year is going to be a true game. If you WEREN'T worried, you wouldn't be on a TN Vol site reading what we're posting.

Gonna be a good game. Maybe after TN walks away victorious in a close one, we'll break the top 25.

kman29 writes:

in response to Navalorange:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Well if any what you say is true regarding the play books, then I'm glad UF is running more of their playbook. What coach would take a young team (which both UT and UF are) and not want to get those young players familiar with running those plays in live action and have it on film? I mean seriously, save up plays for what? You want some young freshman or sophmore running a certain play for the first time against a top 10 opponent? lol! So I hope what you are saying is true, because then that really would speak volumes to the coaching ineptitude of Tennessee. But something tells me that Dooley isn't that inept.

As for your posting AGAIN of the small little paragraph regarding Brantley. As I stated in your other post, the "bad" is a completed 45 yard pass (Flea flicker) and 2 over throws. LOL! really are these the kind of stats you are looking to grasp a hold of?

CoverOrange writes:

in response to ProwlinAndGrowlinSmokeyDog:

Poole had several great runs against Cincy..He got a lot of his yards cutting to the outside, which is something he wasn't doing much in the Montana game..He did get a couple of good runs up the middle, so the OL did look better and they will continue to improve each week..Just hope it's enough for Sat...If Poole/Lane combine for 150 yards, it gives us a good shot to win..Maybe we won't need that many yards, but it would be nice.

Smokey says he is confident about Sat., but holding off on his prediction..

I noticed that too. It was like Poole suddenly realized/remembered/was authorized to bounce outside in the 2nd quarter. Doing that forced the OLBs to stay home and not cheat in to the middle, thus holes started appearing on the inside. Still, the OL is not driving or sustaining their blocks. Poole doesn't have the speed to get to the outside routinely against the SEC.

Hickmc writes:

in response to kman29:

Well if any what you say is true regarding the play books, then I'm glad UF is running more of their playbook. What coach would take a young team (which both UT and UF are) and not want to get those young players familiar with running those plays in live action and have it on film? I mean seriously, save up plays for what? You want some young freshman or sophmore running a certain play for the first time against a top 10 opponent? lol! So I hope what you are saying is true, because then that really would speak volumes to the coaching ineptitude of Tennessee. But something tells me that Dooley isn't that inept.

As for your posting AGAIN of the small little paragraph regarding Brantley. As I stated in your other post, the "bad" is a completed 45 yard pass (Flea flicker) and 2 over throws. LOL! really are these the kind of stats you are looking to grasp a hold of?

Top 10 team? I thought we were playing Florida and none of the polls I have seen thus far have them ranked in the top 10. Could you please supply a link for confirmation?

jack_2222#231746 writes:

in response to orangecountyvols:

Jack,

What's you feeling about the Vols' fullback position? Bartholomew or Fugate? Another question........3rd and 1 or 2, will the fullback ever get the call to carry the ball??????

Maybe that play calling went out with leather helmets........I don't know.

I kinda like the idea of Fugate in a single back set with 2 tight ends in short yardage. But given the development of the OL is primarily in its pass blocking, I like Bray flinging the rock on 3rd and short better--

As far as Bartholemew or Fugate- like Dooley said, it's Darwinism there.

Volunteer-Varmint writes:

in response to TKG_VOL:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jw-X7E...
"There's no crying in Football."

BBWWWAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!

That was AWESOME! Everyone should watch this!

GO BIG ORANGE!!! Let's feed Smokey some grilled gator this Saturday! I CAN'T WAIT!

voloffaith writes:

in response to ProfessionalHandicapper:

Derrick Dooley has done one thing right in his coaching career and thats beat teams he is supposed to beat. He won Saturday over the Number 64 ranked team in the Nation which was the highest ranked team he has ever beaten. The thing Dooley has not done well is the fact he has never pulled an upset in his coaching career and he enters as a 8.5 point dog. Dooley does not win in Conference well either with losing records in the WAC and SEC to date. With Florida ranked number 20 Dooley has a chance to get the monkey off his back as never beating a Ranked team, or even a Top 50 team at any level he has coached at. Personally I see the same thing as last year, wins where he has a talent level above the opponent and losses where he doesn't. Great coaches pull upsets with less talent and Dooley has never done that, so until he does he is average at best. It will not happen this week as the Gators have a much better coaching staff than the Vols and play at home. Same ol stuff different year. Ut can't play with the Big Boys of College Football. Last UAB ran over UT to a tune of 544 yards and the Florida Defense stiffled them last week. Florida in another romp.

"Professional" handicapper = css,vandygrad...etc

Congrats Vandy did beat Uconn 24-21.

We'll Brett I've got work to do ,but wanted to comment on another poster name that won't be a master in disguise for you.

Run game needs major production to win at Bin Hill stadium Saturday.

sly_stone99#434111 writes:

Lane needs to be carrying that football to class and everywhere he goes around campus. Don't think about letting it go fella. Fumbles like he has had the last 2 games will cost the team dearly against the Gators.

jeff1vol writes:

What EXACTLY has Muschump accomplished as a head coach? Your point is...
Your HC is an unknown commodity at best. He could be awesome...or absolutely SUCK! Here's to the latter.

jhayes0926#638474 writes:

Marlin and Neal both dropped the ball when hit hard. Fl. will hit hard on every play. This could be a blowout if our defense doesn't play well against the run.

voloffaith writes:

in response to sly_stone99#434111:

Lane needs to be carrying that football to class and everywhere he goes around campus. Don't think about letting it go fella. Fumbles like he has had the last 2 games will cost the team dearly against the Gators.

So you wanna "dance to the music" or "I wanna take ya higher"? Had tickets to see the drugged out show cancellation machine and guess what? He cancelled show at Stokely in '68 or'69. He "can't hear the horn blow now."

Oh well, it has been said....ball security and pad leverage....

kman29 writes:

in response to Hickmc:

Top 10 team? I thought we were playing Florida and none of the polls I have seen thus far have them ranked in the top 10. Could you please supply a link for confirmation?

Before responding to one post you read, you need to read the previous post that I responded to. Which was that Tennessee would hold back the playbook against Florida to save for other teams down the road like Alabama. Which is a top 10 team. At no point did I ever reference UF as being a top 10 team. So nice try with the sarcasim.

Bufforange00 writes:

florida has a much better defense than either cincy or montana. If UT can move on UF like they did on Cincy and montana, watch out. That said, UF would appear to have an advantage based on their defense and home field.

Ayres_Hall writes:

Invasion of the mullett-headed jorts fans? Welcome Gator fans.

murrayvol writes:

in response to BolivarBob:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

He still shows up to torpedo the occasional troll.

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