At least history is kind to Tennessee offense

ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL
Tennessee tailback Marlin Lane Jr. runs for yardage as Kentucky linebacker Miles Simpson defends at Neyland Stadium on Saturday.

Photo by Adam Brimer, Knoxville News Sentinel

ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL Tennessee tailback Marlin Lane Jr. runs for yardage as Kentucky linebacker Miles Simpson defends at Neyland Stadium on Saturday.

Tennessee ended the year just 84 yards short of the school's seemingly unbreakable offensive record.

The Vols also ended the year 5-7.

The sharp contrast between the Vols' historic offensive production and the team's dismal record on the scoreboard is one of the most perplexing and frustrating parts of a dismal season.

Led by a collection of talented junior and senior playmakers, Tennessee's offensive output was years in the making, said offensive coordinator Jim Chaney. But with many of those players expected to depart for the NFL, there's a sense that this special offensive season was squandered.

Tennessee ended the season with 5,711 yards — or about 476 per game. The 1997 team amassed 5,794 yards, and it has an SEC championship to show for it.

This year's Vols have much less to show for their efforts, although the season-ending 37-17 victory over Kentucky at Neyland Stadium on Saturday helped ease the sting of a losing season.

"It's hard," said junior Justin Hunter. "Last year, our offense was kind of bad. We were struggling a little bit. It just flip-flopped this year."

The transformation has been jarring. The defense that was at least adequate and sometimes quite good last year under former coordinator Justin Wilcox has been one of the worst in the nation under Sal Sunseri.

The offense was the issue in 2011, when the Vols lacked a running game, struggled on the offensive line and were beset by injuries.

"This offense started three long years ago," Chaney said. "What you're seeing today is a by-product of three long years of nurturing and learning. There were a few bumps and bruises along the way offensively. It was a short 12 months ago we were in Lexington and couldn't get a first down to save our lives. But these kids playing on the field now are juniors and seniors, instead of freshmen and sophomores. I think the familiarity with what we do, and the belief in what we do, helped us."

Chaney's beautiful creation may have gone to waste, and there's no guarantee it can be recaptured in 2013. Offensive lineman Dallas Thomas, tight end Mychal Rivera, fullback Ben Bartholomew and receiver Zach Rogers are all seniors who are departing.

Quarterback Tyler Bray, receivers Cordarrelle Patterson and Hunter and offensive lineman Ja'Wuan James are juniors who could leave early for the NFL.

All four players were noncommittal about their plans.

"I'm not thinking about it right now," Hunter said. "I'm just thinking about this good win we had and I'm about to go celebrate with my teammates."

Hunter said the new coach could figure into his plans. Bray said the decisions of teammates — like Hunter and Patterson — could affect his choice. James continued to lobby for the retention of line coach Sam Pittman.

All four players have enjoyed individual highlights this year, but none more so than Patterson. He added more breathtaking plays on Saturday.

Chaney praised Patterson's work ethic, but added with a smile that the first-year Vol is a "little arrogant ... He knows he's pretty damn good."

Because of that, most consider Patterson's tenure at Tennessee to be one and done.

"It was an awesome year," Patterson said. "Things came up big for me. I didn't expect any of this coming from junior college. I didn't even think I was going to play that much. I just came here and worked hard every day and good things happened."

Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.

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Comments » 35

td writes:

How's this for consideration: Hire a new Head Coach who's a Defensive Guru, but with the stipulation he retains the current offensive staff. Saves a bunch of money, and we know what we've got offensively.

It would seem the ideal HC candidate for this scenario would be Kirby Smart even if there's concern he would bolt for Georgia in a few years. It gets the Tennessee program stabilized and attractive. Name Chaney Associate Head Coach.

Fall_Creek_Vols writes:

Sounds good. Perhaps we should ask Vanderbilt, though. They seem to have all the answers now that they've conquered the world...and Wake Forest, too.

Regardless, that garbage about letting UT have East Tennessee because they own the rest of the state needs to be on the bulletin board until this time next year.

Anchor clankers.

Ironcity writes:

in response to td:

How's this for consideration: Hire a new Head Coach who's a Defensive Guru, but with the stipulation he retains the current offensive staff. Saves a bunch of money, and we know what we've got offensively.

It would seem the ideal HC candidate for this scenario would be Kirby Smart even if there's concern he would bolt for Georgia in a few years. It gets the Tennessee program stabilized and attractive. Name Chaney Associate Head Coach.

NO to Kirby Smart!!!!!!! we are better then that. Congrats to the guys for a good win. Should be a real interesting off season. I would be surprised if we ever see Patterson, Hunter or Bray again. I do think all three need another year but I never will begrudge anyone for going to the league if given the opportunity.

madvol72 writes:

I would like to see the current offensive staff stay! No Kirby Smart! We need a proven winner at the head coaching position!

rabblerowser writes:

in response to Fall_Creek_Vols:

Sounds good. Perhaps we should ask Vanderbilt, though. They seem to have all the answers now that they've conquered the world...and Wake Forest, too.

Regardless, that garbage about letting UT have East Tennessee because they own the rest of the state needs to be on the bulletin board until this time next year.

Anchor clankers.

Put it up there...the truth is what it is!!!

KFDLaw writes:

If Tennessee's defense had performed at the level of the offense, the Vols would have been at least 7 and 5, and maybe 8 and 4. Instead, the team finishes a disappointing 5 and 7, due to the defense.

SummittsCourt writes:

in response to collegegrovebilly:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I think you got that backwards, it was mostly the Dooley haters who were hating on Bray too.

Too bad you had to make your comment as classless as that.

SummittsCourt writes:

This year's offense with a decent defense and the Vols could have been 9-3.

The offense was never the problem. It was a big gamble to change defensive schemes in a make or break year and Dooley paid the price.

lomas98 writes:

This offense was good and fun to watch, but could not get it done it crucial situations against the best teams. Part of the reason they racked up so many yards was the defense was just so bad and allowed them more opportunities to come back on the field quickly. This offense could be really bad next season. Vincent Dallas could be our most experienced wr back. Defense has no signs of thinking optimistic. Some of the hot board coaches may rethink their interest.

govols0463 writes:

in response to rabblerowser:

Put it up there...the truth is what it is!!!

I have no idea why this article prompted discussion about a university that is still completely irrelevant, but since it went there, don't let any of 'em kid you, it is ripping their guts out with what's happening to them in hoops. My kids go to school with Kevin Stallings' kids and, he, even laughs at Vandy fans stupid expectations, especially in hoops. It came straight from his mouth. Aside from a few conference championships in 100 years, they've never won s*it, and for some weird reason, they act like they are a staple in the Final Four. I guess when your football team is arguably the worst in all of college football over the last 100 years, it does make your basketball program look more successful than it actually is. Enjoy your 8 wins over probably the worst SEC and non-conference schedule in the history of the conference. You were able to avoid Alabama, LSU and Texas A&M and you beat 1 team with a winning record, and yes, it took us having the worst team in 100 years for you to beat us. So, I say enjoy. You still have the worst program in the history of the SEC, and you've beaten Tennessee twice in 30 years, and I'd say 30 years from now, we'll be saying you've beaten us 4 times in 60 years, and oh by the way, we tip it up soon. See you then. haha!

eduardo writes:

Way to go Mike Hamilton and who ever was in charge of the last real coaching search. Could of hired BRIAN FREAKIN KELLY, but instead hired that idiot Lame Kiffin!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

govols0463 writes:

Excuse me, you beat no one with a winning record. I think today made Ole Miss 6-6.

govols0463 writes:

in response to eduardo:

Way to go Mike Hamilton and who ever was in charge of the last real coaching search. Could of hired BRIAN FREAKIN KELLY, but instead hired that idiot Lame Kiffin!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And Kevin Sumlin was begging to come when we made the worst hire in the history of college football.

decades_vol (Inactive) writes:

in response to titletownz:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

As much as I hate to admit it (sorry, too much Vol pride), the Gators had an excellent season. I thought the 'Noles would take 'em out today but the Gators were just better. And so was South Carolina and Georgia (just think, Ga. Tech could be in the Orange Bowl with a win next week). Looked like wolves chewing up on sheep.

I've picked on you, titletown, in the past, but I have to give the Gators and their fans a tip of the hat. You earned it.

As for next season, I hope the Big Orange can be more competitive and get back to our annual September war, just like in the old days.

gwavescVOL writes:

in response to titletownz:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Sorry, just off the top of my head he's well behind Snyder(Kansas State) and Kelly(ND). You'd have to be Ron Zook to not at least do as well as Muschump did with the talent that grows on trees down there.

greatdaysahead writes:

in response to titletownz:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Yes, way to go Will Muschamp for completing two seasons exactly as can be expected given your funding, awesome facilities, and exemplary talent built purely from the Gator prestige. Meanwhile, Hugh Freeze is taking the traditional SEC doormat Rebels to a bowl game in his first season, James Franklin is taking HIS traditional SEC doormat to a bowl game for a SECOND time in his two years at Vanderbilt, and Kevin Sumlin beat Nick Saban - you know, the head coach who very well may be be vying for his 2nd national championship in as many years? - en route to finishing 6-2 in his first season in the SEC. Are you kidding me? Muschamp stilled the waters in Gainesville, saved his butt, and is meeting his expectations. Freeze, Franklin, and Sumlin are making huge waves in the SEC, overachieving, and are setting the bar higher for their programs. I don't know who should be coach of the year, but I definitely know one coach who shouldn't: Will Muschamp.
I cannot deny that Florida has had an awesome year while my Vols are lower than many of the most negative people thought they'd be, much to my dismay. And I also can't deny how little I, or anyone here for that matter, care for your patronizing anecdotes. You are a loser.

laraccoon writes:

im guessing if Pittman had not came in and suggested changing the tempo of the offense it might have been another year of under achieving on that side of the ball .JMO

iowavol writes:

in response to KFDLaw:

If Tennessee's defense had performed at the level of the offense, the Vols would have been at least 7 and 5, and maybe 8 and 4. Instead, the team finishes a disappointing 5 and 7, due to the defense.

If UT's defense played to the level of the offense, we would have been 10-2 or 11-1. If the defense played to the level of last year, we are 9-3 or 10-2. The problem this year was Sunseri period, not Bray, not Dooley, not Chaney, not DB coaches. Pure and simple, it was Sunseri. Give credit where credit goes.

Regardless of next year's coach, I'm predicting our defense is no worse than 55th in the country - a 50% improvement over this year - with basically the same personnel.

CrankE writes:

After the Troy game, Dooley told us that he was going to devote his time to the defensive side of the ball-where he never spends any time.

Now back up 10 months. After Justin Wilcox left, he "got involved in the defense" by hiring a coach with the specific goal of installing the 3-4 defense on a team that wasn't ready for it.

How is it that in an off-season where 7 assistant coaches leave, where the team is coming off a losing effort after QUITTING at UK, that Derek Dooley-who never gets involved in the defense, whose own offense (that he does spend most of his time with) in 2011 is epically bad in context of the conference and UT history, and this coach suddenly decides that he needs to get involved in the defense by hiring a coach to implement a switch to the 3-4?

I can only imagine how much better 2012 could have been had Dooley received the firing that he so richly deserved in Lexington last year.

DeltaCharlie3 writes:

in response to titletownz:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Where are the usual SEC roundup articles? 11-1, fantastic job by Muschamp.

AirForceVol2786 writes:

Thanks to the seniors who gave everything to UT. This year didn't turn out the way we all wanted it too. I believe we all know why. It's going to be a new day for Tennessee now that our worst coach in our history is gone. Thanks again to the players and I can't wait for next year. It's Basketball Time In Tennessee!!!!

gosouthsloppytop writes:

in response to madvol72:

I would like to see the current offensive staff stay! No Kirby Smart! We need a proven winner at the head coaching position!

so sad for the vowell nation, another SEC team in the natl championship game not named the vowells!!! but what the heck you still get to wear that UGLY orange!!! ha ha hee hee!!!!

jmaples54 writes:

pittman and graham should stay. i'm ambivalent on chaney, but we could do worse. might keep bray here.

greatdaysahead writes:

in response to iowavol:

If UT's defense played to the level of the offense, we would have been 10-2 or 11-1. If the defense played to the level of last year, we are 9-3 or 10-2. The problem this year was Sunseri period, not Bray, not Dooley, not Chaney, not DB coaches. Pure and simple, it was Sunseri. Give credit where credit goes.

Regardless of next year's coach, I'm predicting our defense is no worse than 55th in the country - a 50% improvement over this year - with basically the same personnel.

I totally disagree. Dooley is the one to blame for the worst Vol defense I've ever seen. It was his decision to move to the 3-4. I don't care how good you are as a DC, that transition is going to cost you some games. Look at UGA. The only difference between us and them is their head coach could afford to lose a few, ours obviously couldn't and now Dooley is gone. I always liked Dooley, but he made bad decision after another.

BolivrBob writes:

Bray leads the conference in touchdowns and yardage. What would you do?

arkyvol writes:

yeah, this year's o really lit it up against the troy's and kentucky's of college football. against the florida's and bama's, not so much. the vols of yore could put it together against both kinds of foes. let's face it, this year's offense looks good only in comparison with this year's defense. case in point, down forty something points late in the fourth quarter against bama, first and goal inside the five, and this vaunted offense has to settle for a field goal.

gosouthsloppytop writes:

bless the hearts of the vowell nation...7 strait years the SEC has been in the natl champ game and not 1 time was it the vowells!!! but on a brighter note yall can still put on that UGLY orange!!!! ha ha hee hee!!!

orangecountyvols writes:

in response to 9willbesofine:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Another troll who just hopped on the Gator band wagon.

Note the troll just joined GVX on Nov 18. Always a sign of a band wagon troll.

orangecountyvols writes:

Vols,

Also note the 'sloppy' troll. This one also just joined on Nov 18. Another band wagon troll. Could this be the same troll who managed multiple screen names, or perhaps 'brother trolls?'

They do this once the season is over.
Florida better be glad they won't be embarrassed by Alabama this year.

GOJO writes:

I keep thinking what might have been IF Wilcox had not returned to the left coast & Dooley had stayed out of the way.

stormblast writes:

in response to titletownz:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

No, it's Sumlin from Texas A&M. Year one in the SEC West, where the last three national champions came from, his team knocked off Bama in Tuscaloosa. He also may be the only coach in history to have a freshman Heisman Trophy winner. He will have them playing for a national title in a couple of years.

Muschamp is third in the SEC east in my opinion, behind Richt and Franklin.

MikeTheManHamiltan writes:

I could have hired Sumlin but all you Vol fans wanted a big name coach.

I got the name, just not the coach.

Oh well, hope you guys find a real winner so these tickets you keep giving me will be worth something. I couldn't even give the Kentucky tickets away.

Bark_at_the_Moon writes:

in response to arkyvol:

yeah, this year's o really lit it up against the troy's and kentucky's of college football. against the florida's and bama's, not so much. the vols of yore could put it together against both kinds of foes. let's face it, this year's offense looks good only in comparison with this year's defense. case in point, down forty something points late in the fourth quarter against bama, first and goal inside the five, and this vaunted offense has to settle for a field goal.

In fairness, the three teams (Alabama, Georgia, and Florida) were not all the #2, #3, and #4 ranked teams in the country in 1997 either.

golfman1975 writes:

in response to DeltaCharlie3:

Where are the usual SEC roundup articles? 11-1, fantastic job by Muschamp.

Just remember...what goes up must come down. We are down but can only go up.

BMSvol writes:

in response to collegegrovebilly:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

put down the crack pipe...wilcox sucked

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