Mike Strange: Vols' offense always feels the pressure to score

Mike Strange
Tennessee special teams and tight ends coach Charlie Coiner, left, talks with offensive coordinator Jim Chaney as they pose for a group photo with the coaching staff during media day at Neyland Stadium Saturday, Aug. 18, 2012. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Adam Brimer, copyright © 2012

Tennessee special teams and tight ends coach Charlie Coiner, left, talks with offensive coordinator Jim Chaney as they pose for a group photo with the coaching staff during media day at Neyland Stadium Saturday, Aug. 18, 2012. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney says this offense is more fun than any of his previous three seasons at Tennessee.

Why wouldn't he feel that way? The Vols have improved their total offense by 153 yards per game over last year, their rushing attack by 72 yards per game and their scoring average by nearly two touchdowns (12.8 points) per game.

Heck, just the addition of Cordarrelle Patterson would make any offense more fun.

All that said, don't expect Chaney or anyone on the coaching staff to allow themselves to enjoy the ride.

"Enjoying,'' Chaney said Wednesday, "that's maybe something you get to do during retirement.''

For now, however, he has to figure out how to score 40 points Saturday against Missouri.

And hope that's enough.

At Georgia, 44 wasn't enough. Last Saturday against Troy, 47 wouldn't have been enough.

Chaney's troops came through with a 55-48 win to avoid a homecoming disaster that might well have launched a coaching search this week.

Sunday morning, he was back at the drawing board. Given the dire state of UT's defense, the offensive brain trust can't afford to hit the cruise control switch.

So now, Missouri. The Tigers have beaten only Kentucky in six SEC games. But that doesn't make Chaney feel any better about his offense's challenge this week.

Mizzou's problems have come primarily on offense. The Tigers rank No. 22 nationally in total defense, allowing 327 yards a game.

"(Defensive coordinator) Dave Steckel is a heckuva football coach,'' Chaney said. "When you have talent and they play hard, good things come your way.''

Looking down the road a week, Vanderbilt's defense is even better statistically, ranked No. 19.

The predicament is clear. You must assume the Vols' defense is going to give up a bunch of points. The pressure is always on the offense. Always.

Go in a funk for a couple of possessions, fumble or throw a pick and that "W" becomes more elusive.

Some armchair coaches — and some real coaches, too — are wondering if Chaney's offense isn't too successful. It scores too quickly. That puts UT's defense back on the field.

Head coach Derek Dooley was asked this week if he's thought about slowing down the offense.

He has, it turns out.

"But then I am thinking to myself, what I don't want to do is screw up something that's really good,'' Dooley said. "And our offense is really good right now.''

Nobody asked me, but if they did I'd tell 'em don't slow anything down. Don't take a chance on screwing up the one thing that might save the day.

If you can drive the field in four plays in 90 seconds, go score.

The no-huddle offense

the Vols employ this year has increased the offensive tempo. But we're not talking Oregon here. Tennessee plays fast, but not track-meet fast.

Slowing down the tempo or trying to drag out a possession to eight, nine or 10 plays would run time off the clock. But it would also increases the chances of the drive being sabotaged by a holding penalty or a missed block that stuffs a run.

The 2012 season has been one shootout after another. This team needs points out of every drive it can get. Go get those points the best way you can.

If it's not broke, don't fix it. It's not Tennessee's offense that's broke.

Mike Strange may be reached at strangem@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/strangemike44 and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/strange.

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Comments » 19

born2ride writes:

The offense is great and we can score. (Except when Bray turns the ball over).

It is the defense that stinks and why we are losing.

papavol writes:

Great read MS. It's a shame that our offense is as potent as we've seen in a long time yet, the defense just can't get it done. Can you tell me why a defense that ranked fairly well last year (with basically the same talent) is now the lowest ranked D in the SEC & country? Is a switch to 3-4 that confusing, or is the coaching just that bad? God bless Sal because its clear, on the sidelines, that he's doing his best but his best just isn't cutting it.

NYCApple writes:

Double entendre!!! Here's to hoping they score "well" "all the time..". And definitely field "good defense."

NYCApple writes:

Go Vols! Here's to these kids keeping their chins up and playing thru all these distractions (coaching, etc).

gillblog writes:

Sorry, I'm not buying the advantages of the up-tempo with respect to the Vols defense. My proof; go watch Peyton Manning run an offense on any given Sunday. He routinely manages to take minutes off the clock, the ball out of the opposition's qb hands, rest his defense, and wear down the other team's defense with long well-controlled drives. He can do that even though when he needs to he can easily break out effective 2-min offenses to win in the 4th qt.
Don't think he's the only NFL qb (or more to the point, offensive coordinator) using this strategy. Brady, Brees, even Andrew Luck is working on a kind of 'use the clock-but still score quickly' philosophy. It's not as though those qb's cannot strike quickly, I'm sure they would love to score in one or two plays every time they throw the ball. They run such schemes because it works best.

BigOrangeRock writes:

Enjoy the ride? We are on an 0-6 losing streak in the SEC with losses to Kentucky and Mississippi State.

The rock has spoken.

Classof72 writes:

in response to gillblog:

Sorry, I'm not buying the advantages of the up-tempo with respect to the Vols defense. My proof; go watch Peyton Manning run an offense on any given Sunday. He routinely manages to take minutes off the clock, the ball out of the opposition's qb hands, rest his defense, and wear down the other team's defense with long well-controlled drives. He can do that even though when he needs to he can easily break out effective 2-min offenses to win in the 4th qt.
Don't think he's the only NFL qb (or more to the point, offensive coordinator) using this strategy. Brady, Brees, even Andrew Luck is working on a kind of 'use the clock-but still score quickly' philosophy. It's not as though those qb's cannot strike quickly, I'm sure they would love to score in one or two plays every time they throw the ball. They run such schemes because it works best.

It has taken Peyton a long time to reach his level of play. He explained recently that he's all about just moving the chains, taking the throws the defense gives him. The percentages are often better on the checkdowns. Many of his long gain passes are short throws the defense gives him. But, if the defense offers it, he'll take a one play deep touchdown pass drive every time.

The key to the no-huddle uptempo offense is to wear down the defenders so that the offense can score in the fourth quarter. The Vol offense ain't broke. Let's don't fix it.

Sir_Spanky writes:

Duh... When you've gotta post 50 to have a shot at winning, I'd say you'd be feeling it a little bit.

tulelakevol writes:

Love the headline Mike! Good article too.

JDX47 writes:

Here's an idea....Fire Sal, hire Mizzou's or Vandy's defensive coordinator...that would certainly be a step up for them and clearly they are used to getting 1 and 2 star recruits to perform!!!

Solving problems, it's a good day.

JDX47 writes:

Did you all see that USC was fined for deflating their footballs in the Oregon game to gain and advantage? Kiffin is piece of work...this after a couple weeks back they did a jersey number switch (which they were reprimanded for) with a back up quarterback and punter and used the player to convert a 2 point conversion.

Slimeball.

tennezz writes:

We are already giving up the big plays so why not blitz on every play? It would help our secondary and could cause more turnovers! It could not make things much worse!

voodoo101 writes:

in response to JDX47:

Did you all see that USC was fined for deflating their footballs in the Oregon game to gain and advantage? Kiffin is piece of work...this after a couple weeks back they did a jersey number switch (which they were reprimanded for) with a back up quarterback and punter and used the player to convert a 2 point conversion.

Slimeball.

Yep, saw that - classy, huh? The other interesting thing is that the scores in the UsC/Oregon game were higher than UT/Troy, and, yes, that's a big opening for criticism - Troy isn't OR, but then UsC has top recruiting classes and was ranked just a bit higher than we are. As I recall there were more yards given up by those two stellar defenses than UT and Troy managed. Oh, yeah, UsC had a proven DC, too.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to tennezz:

We are already giving up the big plays so why not blitz on every play? It would help our secondary and could cause more turnovers! It could not make things much worse!

Good one! I made a similar suggestion, half in jest, much earlier in the season. Nothing else seems to be working, so why not give it a try? Seriously, if you have a new defense which your players seem not to be grasping, wouldn't it be better to go all-out even if you give up big plays than for everybody to be standing around looking at each other and STILL give up big plays? Work out the kinks in the 3-4 in the offseason, if Sal and staff are still here and still want to go that way. For now, turn the guys loose and see if anybody can get some sacks and turnovers. As I recall, that approach worked pretty well when an underdog Vol team demolished Miami in the '86 Sugar Bowl.

voodoo101 writes:

in response to johnlg00:

Good one! I made a similar suggestion, half in jest, much earlier in the season. Nothing else seems to be working, so why not give it a try? Seriously, if you have a new defense which your players seem not to be grasping, wouldn't it be better to go all-out even if you give up big plays than for everybody to be standing around looking at each other and STILL give up big plays? Work out the kinks in the 3-4 in the offseason, if Sal and staff are still here and still want to go that way. For now, turn the guys loose and see if anybody can get some sacks and turnovers. As I recall, that approach worked pretty well when an underdog Vol team demolished Miami in the '86 Sugar Bowl.

My favorite all time game. After a rocky start, it's like our guys lived in the Miami backfield. Offense is nice, but the defense can make even the best offense crazy enough to do stupid things.

You know Daryl Dickey is a head coach (West Georgia now); I'd always hoped he would do as well as his dad and wind up at UT.

Vol_in_Mich writes:

Excuse me, but isn't the purpose of having an offense is to score as many points as possible? God knows the Vols need everyone they can get.

GBO - Wait Till Year After Next!

voodoo101 writes:

in response to Vol_in_Mich:

Excuse me, but isn't the purpose of having an offense is to score as many points as possible? God knows the Vols need everyone they can get.

GBO - Wait Till Year After Next!

Or in some cases to keep the defense off the field. Seriously, however, if you have an offense that is on and back off the field quickly, you better stock up of defensive players - like two good team's worth and some spares.

PUL4VOLS writes:

The only way they are going to win is to score, early and often. So what if the defense is tired, the object is to win the game. If they get out of synch by trying to rest the defense, they could lose. Let the offense go. Yes, let the d blitz too. They need to win these next three one at a time and hush up naysayers.

tennezz writes:

in response to johnlg00:

Good one! I made a similar suggestion, half in jest, much earlier in the season. Nothing else seems to be working, so why not give it a try? Seriously, if you have a new defense which your players seem not to be grasping, wouldn't it be better to go all-out even if you give up big plays than for everybody to be standing around looking at each other and STILL give up big plays? Work out the kinks in the 3-4 in the offseason, if Sal and staff are still here and still want to go that way. For now, turn the guys loose and see if anybody can get some sacks and turnovers. As I recall, that approach worked pretty well when an underdog Vol team demolished Miami in the '86 Sugar Bowl.

I still have a tape of the Miami game...It is one of my favorites!

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