Tennessee’s film sessions for Friday’s game against N.C. State have rolled out painful reruns for Vols offensive line coach Sam Pittman.
Working in the same role at North Carolina 2007-11, Pittman led his linemen against the Wolfpack each of the five years. The Tar Heels lost all five affairs, posting a rushing average of 44.6 yards per game. They broke the 100-yard mark once and rushed for a combined minus-4 yards in the 2010 and 2011 meetings.
“It’s a sore spot for us, obviously, if you play somebody five times and they whip you,” Pittman said Tuesday. “We’ve discussed that with our team here — we haven’t had a positive rusher the last two times against them.”
Of course, when Pittman says “us” and “we,” he means “I” and “me.”
“Anytime you rush for negative yards, that means they’re beating the crap out of you up front,” he lamented.
Asked how similar N.C. State’s rushing attack is to what he’s seen the past five years, Pittman quickly responded, “They’re identical.”
* Stat most heard through training camp: UT’s offensive line has combined for 106 career starts. The only problem? Starting left tackle (QB Tyler Bray’s blindside) Antonio “Tiny” Richardson has none of them. The bright side? Dallas Thomas, who boasts 25 career starts at left tackle, will line up next to Richardson at left guard.
Pittman was asked Tuesday if some mentorship is occurring. His response paints a fuzzy picture.
“That would be an unbelievable help — if Dallas will talk to him,” he said. “That’s a deal where I think they’ve started communicating better. If you know a lot of stuff and you ain’t talking to me, that’s not going to help me too much. Dallas doesn’t talk a lot.
“We’ve been consistently trying to get that out of him — to help Tiny. He’s done a little better job of that. And that is his job. That’s his responsibility. He knows that.”
Richardson, who appeared in all 12 games as a freshman, will face N.C. State right defensive end Brian Slay on Friday. Slay started 12 games last season and posted 23 tackles (four for loss) and 3.5 sacks.
* Wide receiver Justin Hunter appears as UT’s No. 2 punt returner. Wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, meanwhile, appears as the No. 2 kick returner.
Given the team’s fragile situation at wideout, is Tennessee playing with fire? Special teams coach Charlie Coiner hardly blinked.
“You just asked about two explosive guys. … If I told you that either of those two had seven or eight catches after Friday night, you’d say all right,” Coiner responded. “Well we can almost guarantee that the ball will end up their hands on this play. You see why we look at it the way we do.
“We want those guys to have their hands on the football. Whether we’re talking about Justin or C.P. or Devrin (Young), that’s a touch — that’s a touch that we feel really good about.
Brendan F. Quinn covers Tennessee men’s basketball. Follow him at http://twitter.com/BFQuinn