John Adams: Open date now looks timely

John Adams

Tennessee's open date looked strategically wasted in preseason.

Who needs a Saturday off three games into a season? And who needs two weeks to prepare for Buffalo?

But after Saturday's misadventure in The Swamp, the open date could be a boon for a team that needs to regroup and recover. In fact, the Vols looked as though they needed an open date after the first two series of their 33-23 loss to Florida on Saturday in The Swamp.

On the Gators' first possession, they made UT's defense look as silly as it did the last time it opened the game against a Charlie Weis offense. That was back in 2005, when Weis was the head coach at Notre Dame and UT was wobbling through a 5-6 season.

Weis must have saved his game notes, because those two opening drives six years apart began with a couple of well-conceived screen passes. And both ended with touchdowns against mystified defenses.

Florida's first drive put the Vols behind. The Vols' first possession put them in a bind.

On UT's fourth offensive play, star wide receiver Justin Hunter suffered a season-ending knee injury. Losing him for a game was bad enough.

The Tyler Bray to Hunter passing combination was the surest thing about this team. Bray to Da'Rick Rogers wasn't far behind.

Two games into the season, you also knew the defense was questionable and the running game wasn't good enough to be considered questionable. Suddenly, one game and one injured player later, UT's uncertainty is compounded by a passing attack that lost its best receiver.

In better Tennessee times, the Vols could lose one outstanding player and replace him with another one. The best example of that occurred in their 1998 national championship season. When the Vols lost Jamal Lewis to a season-ending knee injury in the fourth game, they replaced him with Travis Henry.

When the Vols lost Hunter on Saturday, the entire offense looked lost.

That's why the open date is no longer superfluous. They need time to find themselves as well as other options.

Fans can at least be encouraged that freshman wide receiver DeAnthony Arnett had eight catches for 59 yards against the Gators. They can't be as encouraged about the rest of the offense.

Senior running back Tauren Poole couldn't make a dent in the Gators. Neither could an offensive line that was expected to be markedly improved with so many starters returning from last season. It was just as overmatched this year as it was last season against Florida, which has held UT to a total of 20 yards rushing in the last two games.

When Poole struggled to make forward progress against the Gators, the Vols turned to freshman Marlin Lane. That's not quite the same as replacing Jamal Lewis with Travis Henry, as evidenced by the stats: Poole, nine carries for 18 yards; Lane, five carries for 9 yards.

There aren't many other running options. Sophomore Rajion Neal's stock isn't exactly soaring. True freshman Tom Smith, who lost preseason practice time to an injury, is another possibility.

It's also reasonable to assume the Vols could make changes in their offensive line. They won't play another conference game until Oct. 8. That gives them three weeks to make an upgrade.

If they do, the September open date will be remembered as time off well spent.

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 » 21

volfan1971 writes:

We have a stable of young guys who will just have to step it up. All is not lost!

AtLannaVol writes:

A timely open date...? I've got it! How bout 16 open dates? That's perfect! Then we can resume the season when Hunter is back at full speed! That was easy.

Go Vols. Hang in there. Adversity breeds character if good leadership is present. The big question is....can character win some games for us this fall?

tootsypop writes:

DEAR JOHN LETTER:
PLEASE TAKE 3 WEEKS OFF DEAR JOHN ADAMS. you need a break from combining words into sentences then paragraphs.
it is my humble opinion that you need to become a football coach. i can tell after reading your previous articles you know everything there is to know about the game of football.
COACH JOHNNY ADAMS HAS A GOOD RING TO IT.
Your career as a sports writer has been on the disabled list for some time. dont worry about KNS as they can replace you tomorrow from their stable of wanna-bes.

primetimevol writes:

Does nonbody remember that we still drove to the Florida 20 on the same drive Hunter got hurt? If we make that third and 1 or just make that fg its still a positve drive and we're on the board. Too much stock is being put into Hunter's injury. We still had three and a half quarters to win the game and we flat out blew it. Offensive line has got to get better or we are going to get our lunch taken by Bama, LSU, and USC.

primetimevol writes:

*nobody

Classof72 writes:

Offensive line play and coaching are unacceptable. Even in a loss, the team must be able to execute the center snap and gain a few yards. Incompetence must not be tolerated.

Otherwise, the team plays hard with limited talent and depth. Keep recruiting, keep improving and GBO. Wait 'til next year. Or, the year after that. Or,.....

DarkChocolate writes:

Florida has 5-star crazed animals on its d-line while UT has Wendy's cooks on their o-line.

Newsflash: If your o-line is held together by fat, slow dudes last year, all they are is experienced, fat, slow dudes this year.

How silly was all that Montana is better than Florida Atlantic and Cincy is better than UAB silliness now? Naval, you do it to yourself every year. It doesn't matter how good UT looks in their first two games, or how bad UF looks in its first two, Florida is going to beat you.

gimmeaT writes:

I saw a lot intensity on defense and a lot of coach-able young men; let's go again!

The_Ghost_of_Duke_DeLuca writes:

Fire Fulmer!

TheOrangePants writes:

in response to tootsypop:

DEAR JOHN LETTER:
PLEASE TAKE 3 WEEKS OFF DEAR JOHN ADAMS. you need a break from combining words into sentences then paragraphs.
it is my humble opinion that you need to become a football coach. i can tell after reading your previous articles you know everything there is to know about the game of football.
COACH JOHNNY ADAMS HAS A GOOD RING TO IT.
Your career as a sports writer has been on the disabled list for some time. dont worry about KNS as they can replace you tomorrow from their stable of wanna-bes.

While I don't believe his career as a sports writer has been on the disabled list for some time (for his and Mike Strange's articles are by far my favorites), I do actually agree with you on his potential as a coach, at least from what I've gathered from reading his articles for years.

I have not met the man, but he seems to have the analytical personality that befits a head coach. However, I don't think he'd enjoy the other entanglements that come along with being a head coach, least of which including dealing with media-types much like himself.

ProfessionalHandicapper writes:

Vegas just released this weekends spreads and "Open Week" is listed as a 10 point favorite over the Vols...

callforlogic2 writes:

in response to primetimevol:

Does nonbody remember that we still drove to the Florida 20 on the same drive Hunter got hurt? If we make that third and 1 or just make that fg its still a positve drive and we're on the board. Too much stock is being put into Hunter's injury. We still had three and a half quarters to win the game and we flat out blew it. Offensive line has got to get better or we are going to get our lunch taken by Bama, LSU, and USC.

Yes, we reached the FL 20 yard line, had third and one and the brilliant OC Chaney called for an off tackle run into the line. Everybody in the stadium knew it was coming. We did not make the first down. Then our troubled PK from FL blew the chip shot FG. That was the end of our hopes for a win at that early point in the game. WE WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO RUN CONSISTENTLY BEHIND THIS OFFENSIVE LINE, AGAINST ANY RESPECTABLE DEFENSE. THE COACHES NEED TO EITHER CHANGE THE LINE OF ADJUST THEIR PLAY CALLING.

OrangePride writes:

in response to callforlogic2:

Yes, we reached the FL 20 yard line, had third and one and the brilliant OC Chaney called for an off tackle run into the line. Everybody in the stadium knew it was coming. We did not make the first down. Then our troubled PK from FL blew the chip shot FG. That was the end of our hopes for a win at that early point in the game. WE WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO RUN CONSISTENTLY BEHIND THIS OFFENSIVE LINE, AGAINST ANY RESPECTABLE DEFENSE. THE COACHES NEED TO EITHER CHANGE THE LINE OF ADJUST THEIR PLAY CALLING.

Jeez, Louise Callfor.., take a deep breath and try not to let despondancy over this last Saturday color your judgment so much. First, as much as I hate Florida, their DL and linebackers are not just a "respectable defense." They are really, really good, possibly the best part of their entire team. So, I doubt anyone who did much scouting thought differently, and whether we find a decent running attack is still a question and not final. But you are right in your last statement, we will have to change a great deal of what is happening in that offensive line scheme (or the personnel) and also look for some new play wrinkles that will offer better options.

Vols1998 writes:

I felt good after UT started to move the ball, yes a blocked punt, an INT on the first series of the 2nd half, bad snaps. What I did see is a bunch of young men not giving up and If I was Fla, well....enjoy it while it last, because CDD and company are going to take the Gators to the wood pile next year.........Go Vols!!

Tau_of_Tennessee writes:

We had the best QB and best WRs on the field on Saturday. It has been a long time since I could say that. UT is making progress. One stud TB and one dominant DT away from SEC East contention.

tdvol1989 writes:

in response to primetimevol:

Does nonbody remember that we still drove to the Florida 20 on the same drive Hunter got hurt? If we make that third and 1 or just make that fg its still a positve drive and we're on the board. Too much stock is being put into Hunter's injury. We still had three and a half quarters to win the game and we flat out blew it. Offensive line has got to get better or we are going to get our lunch taken by Bama, LSU, and USC.

I pretty much agree with you. Losing Hunter is bad for all of us because he was just on the verge of having a nationally recognized year. But he had nothing to do with the running game or Stone's collapse.

I was in favor of the coaching change a few years ago (I'll mention no names) strictly due to the growing number of Vol no-shows in rivalry games. I got tired of watching seemingly inexplicable collapses in big games. And, I saw that again on Saturday. We missed a short Field Goal, got a punt blocked, and could not kick it inside the 10 on kickoffs. We missed key tackles. And, then Stone Gooched it. You can understand Bray throwing into coverage trying to make something happen. But, the other stuff?

Only an idiot would put Dooley in the hot seat now, but he has gotten off to a bad start in big games. We all know the talent gap he inherited and we can live with getting outplayed. But, we fell apart ... again ... in a big game, inventing ways to get beat. It wasn't a learning experience, but it was revealing. We looked plain silly at times. We need a leader on Defense in a bad way. And, the run game is going to hang around our neck like a millstone all year.

Props to Bray and Da'Rick though. They tried to make a game of it. Da'Rick has become a money player and as far as I can tell, a moderately improved passing game is the only improvement over last year.

arkyvol writes:

think stone might use the time to work on his snap?

arkyvol writes:

considering how dooley's vols played against a mediocre gator team, getting rid of north carolina looks brilliant now. until we get a real coach, we need to get use to two things, a steady diet of cupcakes wins and getting our butts kicked whenever they play the big boys.

snakeplissken writes:

in response to arkyvol:

considering how dooley's vols played against a mediocre gator team, getting rid of north carolina looks brilliant now. until we get a real coach, we need to get use to two things, a steady diet of cupcakes wins and getting our butts kicked whenever they play the big boys.

We definitely need to schedule more Montana's and Buffalo's as non conference games. I knew Dooley begged Hamilton to buy out North Carolina this year. Now word is that Dooley wants to buy out our return game to Oregon in 2013. I guess next Dooley will want to leave the SEC and join the Southern Conference! :-(

snakeplissken writes:

Question: Will our offensive line be able to block Open Date's defensive line enough to get our yard per carry average into the top 100 of the NCAA???

voloffaith writes:

in response to ProfessionalHandicapper:

Vegas just released this weekends spreads and "Open Week" is listed as a 10 point favorite over the Vols...

Wow on another article someone with another poster name tried the same funny with'open date'. That poster has been accused of being you with a 'Poster Personality Disorder'.

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