John Adams: Vols could buck the SEC's running trend

John Adams

Hardly an interview session goes by that a Tennessee player or coach doesn't mention the program's commitment to running the football.

There are 115 obvious reasons for this. That's how many FCS teams ranked ahead of UT in rushing yards per game in 2011.

Forty-one running backs rushed for more yardage than the Vols. Three quarterbacks rushed for more.

No wonder that the most noteworthy number of Tennessee's spring has been Rajion Neal's 100 yards rushing in the first scrimmage. It flashes like neon on a team that averaged 90 yards rushing per game last season.

A more relevant number for evaluating UT's improvement would be its 2.6-yard average per rush. That makes you question the health of anyone who carried the ball on the Vols' behalf last fall.

But regardless of UT's spring devotion to improvement, this won't be a running team in 2012, and not just because it's bereft of proven running backs. If quarterback Tyler Bray and his receiving corps can maintain good health and a good attitude for the entire season, the passing game could be dynamic.

There are advantages to being a passing team in a running league. Steve Spurrier beat everybody over the head with those advantages while dominating the conference at Florida for much of the 1990s. Passing played a prominent role in UT's success during the same period, although it also excelled at running the ball.

Despite all Spurrier and former UT quarterback Peyton Manning did for SEC passing in the 1990s, the conference has gradually returned to its running roots.

Alabama has won two of the last three national championships with defense and a power running game. Florida won national titles in 2006 and 2009

with defense and a power-running quarterback. LSU's recent prominence is attributed, in part, to its seemingly endless line of capable ballcarriers.

Runners should be even more prevalent this fall than last. Arkansas' Knile Davis and South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore will be Heisman Trophy candidates after returning from injuries. LSU's acclaimed cast of running backs should go from four- to five-deep.

Vanderbilt returns a 1,000-yard-plus rusher in Zac Stacy. Even Spurrier's offense is more apt to beat you running than passing.

New SEC member Missouri has All-Big 12 running back Henry Josey and quarterback James Franklin, who rushed for more than 900 yards last season. Texas A&M, another conference newbie, has running back Christine Michael, who rushed for 899 yards last season in nine games.

Add up the running numbers, and you can figure out what should be the emphasis of SEC defensive coordinators. But the more intent they become on stopping the run, the more opportunities they could create for a passing offense.

If the Vols can capitalize on that, their running game doesn't have to be outstanding. It just has to be better.

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 » 38

FEARinSEC writes:

What's the deal with "... s"? Really? I can't believe no one proof reads these articles and that some writers around here actually have a job? Good grief!

Go_Big_O writes:

Nice article John. I think our passing game could be scary good and if so, an average running game could be enough. We have to have enough of a run threat to keep defenses honest.

arkyvol writes:

if you can't run, i guess the pass is left. makes it a helluva lot easier for opposing d.c.s

volfanz writes:

in response to Go_Big_O:

Nice article John. I think our passing game could be scary good and if so, an average running game could be enough. We have to have enough of a run threat to keep defenses honest.

Ok, here's what worries me....Our run game has to be better than just average because this year, defenses know that we have problems running and that our passing is our strength...Look for defenses to try and shut our run down early and make us one dimensional. Even if our passing is exceptional, being one-dimensional leads to catastrophe in the SEC. Last year was a case in point. Also, far too often Chaney refused to continue to try and build a running game and simply gave up. It's hard to build momentum when confidence is brushed aside from the coaching staff and not distributed to the players. Our run game has to be able to stare a defense down, tell them we are going to gain those three or four needed yards, and then do it with aggression. That is the only way our run game will help us out this year. No gimmicks and no other results will suffice.

gc_scvol writes:

Seems the cooaching staff has the same idea as a lot of the posters, and has been concentrating on the running game this spring. Here's hoping it all comes together this season for our vols. GBO..VFL

Navaloranges writes:

in response to MerlotGoVols:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You would have to understand the game before you can make that call about coaching ability. YOU do not. Your main function is Trolling and reminising about Fulmer. If you MUST reply try not to use the wrong screen name, such as born2whine, professionalhandiwhiper, etc., etc.

MmmmK, "brett"?

arkyvol writes:

in response to Go_Big_O:

Nice article John. I think our passing game could be scary good and if so, an average running game could be enough. We have to have enough of a run threat to keep defenses honest.

do you really think an "average running game" is going to cut it in the sec? peyton manning (you might have heard of him) had a helluva running game to back him up and couldn't get over the hump. i haven't mistaken bray for manning.

frblalack writes:

in response to MerlotGoVols:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Get a Life! You are a complete IDIOT! As someone once said, "what you don't know CAN hurt you"! You are living proof that ignorance is bliss.

Please find another website for your useless diatribe. I've known second graders with more intellect.

All Vols - All the Time - BLEED Big Orange!

born2ride writes:

We have a running game?

rtrchatt writes:

UT does not have a RB that would challenge for playing time at Alabama. Fact and not trying to
stir the pot....

62vol writes:

in response to MerlotGoVols:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

A very young, weak, inmature group with less talent and no senior leadership has been their problem. If I am wrong and it really was poor coaching, then, you should be happy that most of the old coaching staff is gone. The coaching changes and better recruiting and time to gain strenghth and maturity will solve all of the above. No head coach micro-coaches each position. I played 6 years and none of the head coaches that I played under spent much time on position coaching.

gc_scvol writes:

IGNORE THE TROLLS !

Classof72 writes:

If I recall correctly, Spurrier's Gator teams ran the ball extremely well. They were very balanced between running and passing, excelling at both. Don't let the facts get in the way of your story; what fun would that be?

The Vols should aspire to be balanced between running and passing. Being able to do either effectively against a sound opponent will be a new experience for them.

TitanandVolfan4life writes:

The FACT is that exactly NOBODY knows if CDD can coach or not since he hasn't had a roster of 2 deep SEC type starters to even try to coach...yet.

The ONLY person that really KNOWS happens to be at alaBubba which is Nick saTan and he kept CDD for 7 years as a coach and begged CDD to go to alaBummer with him so since he's 1 of the best coaches in college football and he says CDD is a excellent coach I WILL believe a Hall of Fame bound HC over a bunch of Liar, Loser Tennessee hating scumbag trolls.

With a great RB coach and a excellent O line coach and CDD pushing everyone to get our running game better I think we'll see good improvement especially since CDD and CJC are pushing Bray to become a better all around QB.

Note that in both sctimmages it's not been bray looking to throw it all over the place and lots of deep throws but working on his reads/progressions and throwing more 4 to 6 yard passes to keep the clock running and keep the chains moving more consistently and hitting the deep throws when it's wide open more and less likely to be a INT.

Short passing can control the clock, keep the other teams O off the field, keep the chains moving and get lots of TD's and Wins just as a power run game can do it.

CDD is trying to get us ready to have both options available this season.

I love the direction we're going and I hope Bray has matured enough and is studying and working his butt off to become a really good all around QB.

VFL...GBO!!!

Navaloranges writes:

in response to Sammy_Burklows_Revenge:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I guess it's true, you never get tired of being wrong. BUT you do get to see your drivel in print everytime you post your anonymous BS, right?

"Dooleave has never inspired or demanded that our perpetually adolescent quarterback, Bray, learn the 1st thing about reading defenses."

I guess you really don't see how folks can't keep from laughing at you when you make outlandish claims like this. Number one, you ARE NOT THERE, so you could obviously NOT know that your ridiculous statement is true. Secondly, I KNOW for a fact you're NOTHING but a little juvenile minded TROLL with a Dooley complex. You prove it every time you make ridiculous statements that CANNOT be backed up with FACTS.

You twisted, bias opinions mean NOTHING to anybody on here.

volzcrushm writes:

Top 10 passing game + a top 25 running game = a top 15 season??????????????

Vols4life77 writes:

in response to rtrchatt:

UT does not have a RB that would challenge for playing time at Alabama. Fact and not trying to
stir the pot....

Alabama doesn't have any Wr that would challenge for playing time at tenn. Fact and not trying to stir the pot.

Vols4life77 writes:

in response to 62vol:

A very young, weak, inmature group with less talent and no senior leadership has been their problem. If I am wrong and it really was poor coaching, then, you should be happy that most of the old coaching staff is gone. The coaching changes and better recruiting and time to gain strenghth and maturity will solve all of the above. No head coach micro-coaches each position. I played 6 years and none of the head coaches that I played under spent much time on position coaching.

Very nice post and very accurate. Dooley is essentially the CEO of the corporation. It's his job to hire the right personal to recruit and coach and he is there to maintain discipline and structure. Too much emphasis on him coaching in correlation to wins and losses even though it has to fall back on the head coach. The difference is the intelligent football posters realize the SEC doesn't come with instant gratification like your video games do. This happens to be REAL LIFE and actually takes times to develop youth and experience. This is a big year for Dooley and I believe their will be mass improvement.

orangeman1 writes:

in response to arkyvol:

do you really think an "average running game" is going to cut it in the sec? peyton manning (you might have heard of him) had a helluva running game to back him up and couldn't get over the hump. i haven't mistaken bray for manning.

Manning was and is a great Qb. I think Cutcliff relied on him a little too much at times though. No one player can make a team win games. They all have to work together. Tee Martin came in the year after Manning with virtually the same level of talent and UT went undefeated. Play calling and audibles at the line will be the key this year. The talent is there at Rb, Qb, Wr, TE, and Oline. Its just up to the coaches to put it together. I would love to look like Okla st offense the last couple of years where the passing threat was so great that it opened up lots of rushing yds. And as far as Spurrier goes, he will always be known for opening up the passing game at Florida even though they did still run the ball well.

Navaloranges writes:

in response to Sammy_Burklows_Revenge:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

So, I guess you don't see that everything you post is mere conjecture, bias OPINION, or twisted troll "fact". The problem myself, and everybody else on here has is, you post your BS as of it's fact, when it's OBVIOUSLY just the rantings of an unstable person with a personal problem.

kcbigorngX writes:

in response to Vols4life77:

Very nice post and very accurate. Dooley is essentially the CEO of the corporation. It's his job to hire the right personal to recruit and coach and he is there to maintain discipline and structure. Too much emphasis on him coaching in correlation to wins and losses even though it has to fall back on the head coach. The difference is the intelligent football posters realize the SEC doesn't come with instant gratification like your video games do. This happens to be REAL LIFE and actually takes times to develop youth and experience. This is a big year for Dooley and I believe their will be mass improvement.

Exactly.

If we are fortunate enough to win a few close games this year and get a bump in the next recruiting class UT will be sitting right back in the top of the SEC where it should be.

This coaching staff has the foundation to go the next level when they get a few more players.If there aren't major injuries this could be an exciting year.

Turn em loose, Dooley.

CroKev writes:

Actually, Mr. Adams, this was a good article. Keep it up and your following will, in fact, follow.

It seems that Bray's numbers reflect the fact that he is actually checking down at the line of scrimmage. Dooley has emphasized that to him this year and Bray has responded well. In fact, Bray has commented that he's actually seeing things more from the coach's perspective this year.

orangecountyvols writes:

NavalOranges and other real Vol fans,

N/O..........re this Sammy-troll, you were 100% right on. The troll indeed does have a twisted thought process as does the other troll, Merlot. That one has a Fulmer obsession and the Sammy troll is consumed with Derek Dooley. Wonder what the real reason is? It's hard to comprehend how the KNS will boot various trolls off the site and yet allow these 2 here..............when daily they have nothing of a redeeming nature to offer everyone. Just whining.........

givehim6 writes:

in response to Classof72:

If I recall correctly, Spurrier's Gator teams ran the ball extremely well. They were very balanced between running and passing, excelling at both. Don't let the facts get in the way of your story; what fun would that be?

The Vols should aspire to be balanced between running and passing. Being able to do either effectively against a sound opponent will be a new experience for them.

Just what I was thinking 72. If you run 80% then pass 20, well a good stacking of the box will hurt you. A good passing game can be shut down by double teaming a receiver. But a good 50/50 pass/run is hard to defend, throw in a mix of TE/FB, Defences will not know what hit'm. UT has some good playes but can they do this? We will see.

volaholic45 writes:

I don't care if we're heavy on the passing yards, but here's what I want to see from the running game:
1. Yds per attempt maybe a little better than you could get by falling down.
2. Being able to have a prayer of running for a 3rd and one or two.
3. Hit the d--n hole, and stop dancing. Try running downhill for a change.

LibertyVolance writes:

I disagree, John. You really have to be able to run the ball efficiently to be successful in this conference. The better conference teams have been able to do both. If you cannot keep sec defenses honest, you will lose the big games. Our run game has been so weak recently that we almost had to throw on 3rd and short to have any chance of a 1st down. That doesn't equate with being successful in the sec.
The run game in the sec is essential.

UT4prez writes:

Those 2nd and 3rd downs with 1 and 2 yards to go. That's where we have to man up and shove it down some throats. We simply haven't done that the last couple of years. I actually think we did that slightly better last year than the prior year but not good enough. Our D will not be good if we can't keep the ball longer than last year. I honestly think part of the reason we finished 28th in total D is because our O gave a lot of short fields. Yards don't matter. Where did we finish on scoring D? Points matter not yards and yards don't always correspond with points when it comes to rankings. I agree with one poster about how the RBs didn't attack the line last year. Watch Lattimore run. No hesitation. No dancing. No matter what I'm really looking forward to the season. We have the potential to take a big step forward.

One last thing. I think UF was so good running because of the potent passing attack. It opened up the middle for those Gator backs. They were pass first and I think we will be too. It can work but you do have to have balance regardless.

nepperso#220348 writes:

Adams consistently shows a lack of knowledge of the game of football. If Tennessee's passing game is as explosive as it was in early games last season the running lanes will open up. We had well over 100 yards per game rushing until Hunter went down. I know that's not a ton but its also not a negative number! When Bray went down it was a negative number. Bama had 10 men in the box at times against us because the pass wasn't a threat. I look for Marlin Lane and Rajon Neal to have breakout years if this passing game is what we think it is. The o-line is going to be better and we are finally not devoid of talent all over the roster. Anything can happen and as snake bitten as Tennessee has been lately I don't want to get ahead of myself. That being said I think we will contend for the east and with the schedule we have the post season is almost certain. GBO!

dorlasher writes:

Like it was always stated, "An excellent run game makes an excellent passing game".
The reversal is always true as well.

UT4prez writes:

in response to nepperso#220348:

Adams consistently shows a lack of knowledge of the game of football. If Tennessee's passing game is as explosive as it was in early games last season the running lanes will open up. We had well over 100 yards per game rushing until Hunter went down. I know that's not a ton but its also not a negative number! When Bray went down it was a negative number. Bama had 10 men in the box at times against us because the pass wasn't a threat. I look for Marlin Lane and Rajon Neal to have breakout years if this passing game is what we think it is. The o-line is going to be better and we are finally not devoid of talent all over the roster. Anything can happen and as snake bitten as Tennessee has been lately I don't want to get ahead of myself. That being said I think we will contend for the east and with the schedule we have the post season is almost certain. GBO!

Think back to that Montana game though. They pushed our o-line around. We struggled to run on them. There were some nice runs against Cinci. Our passing game should open things up for the running game but we need to be able to run even when everyone knows we are going to do it. I'm not yet confident we can and can't wait to be proven wrong!

pvtoe writes:

in response to frblalack:

Get a Life! You are a complete IDIOT! As someone once said, "what you don't know CAN hurt you"! You are living proof that ignorance is bliss.

Please find another website for your useless diatribe. I've known second graders with more intellect.

All Vols - All the Time - BLEED Big Orange!

You are exactly right. If youre not for us, youre against us. If you dont like Dooley, go pull for the 'dores. VFL

golfman1975 writes:

I cant believe the posts! Everyone has heard about running the ball to set up the pass...you can also pass the ball to set up the run...besides, we have not even had a game yet and everyone is so negative!

volthrunthru#658770 writes:

With the schedule as light as it this fall, upcoming---three high schools, two junior colleges and a convent---maybe even a Doodley team could post a .500 level win percentage...

unless we play Kentucky.

10seVol85_Part_Deux writes:

in response to Classof72:

If I recall correctly, Spurrier's Gator teams ran the ball extremely well. They were very balanced between running and passing, excelling at both. Don't let the facts get in the way of your story; what fun would that be?

The Vols should aspire to be balanced between running and passing. Being able to do either effectively against a sound opponent will be a new experience for them.

Just thought I'd look it up. I picked 1996 at random. Spurrier's team finished #3 that year. They had a Heisman QB and a 1st round draft pick TB (Fred Taylor).

They averaged a hair over 118 yards per game, which would have ranked them 98th in the country in 2011.

Just for perspective.

10seVol85_Part_Deux writes:

in response to volthrunthru#658770:

With the schedule as light as it this fall, upcoming---three high schools, two junior colleges and a convent---maybe even a Doodley team could post a .500 level win percentage...

unless we play Kentucky.

I thought Kentucky was one of the high schools?

10seVol85_Part_Deux writes:

in response to Sammy_Burklows_Revenge:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Unlike you, I will actually enjoy the beatdowns Dooley lays on opponents this year. I'd like to think you'll run and hide, but I'm sure we'll have to continue to suffer through your asinine drivel regardless.

tomkats3242 writes:

Why is this trash allowed on this site. He should have been fired long ago and banned from the University property.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to UT4prez:

Those 2nd and 3rd downs with 1 and 2 yards to go. That's where we have to man up and shove it down some throats. We simply haven't done that the last couple of years. I actually think we did that slightly better last year than the prior year but not good enough. Our D will not be good if we can't keep the ball longer than last year. I honestly think part of the reason we finished 28th in total D is because our O gave a lot of short fields. Yards don't matter. Where did we finish on scoring D? Points matter not yards and yards don't always correspond with points when it comes to rankings. I agree with one poster about how the RBs didn't attack the line last year. Watch Lattimore run. No hesitation. No dancing. No matter what I'm really looking forward to the season. We have the potential to take a big step forward.

One last thing. I think UF was so good running because of the potent passing attack. It opened up the middle for those Gator backs. They were pass first and I think we will be too. It can work but you do have to have balance regardless.

Good post; agree with all. As for Spurrier's Gators as a running team, not only did they use the pass to set up the run but they also did a great deal of their running after they had already gotten big leads with their passing game. I agree that the Vols need more balance between the running game and the passing game this year, which I think they will have, but it is their passing game that gives them their best chance of moving, controlling, and scoring the ball. The Vols just aren't going to equal the Bama's and USC's of this world running the ball this year, but they don't have to.

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