Rajion Neal confident passing game will open up defenses

Peterman: 'Let 'em stack the box'

Tennessee running back Rajion Neal (20) during first half action Saturday, Sep. 15, 2012 in Neyland Stadium in Knoxville. The Vols lead 14-10.  MICHAEL PATRICK/NEWS SENTINEL

Photo by Michael Patrick, copyright © 2012

Tennessee running back Rajion Neal (20) during first half action Saturday, Sep. 15, 2012 in Neyland Stadium in Knoxville. The Vols lead 14-10. MICHAEL PATRICK/NEWS SENTINEL

Safety Brian Randolph talks after UT scrimmage.

Butch Jones on the Vols' seventh practice of fall camp

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A favorite topic of conversation after Tennessee’s scrimmage Saturday night was a 14-play, all-run, length-of-the-field drive.

For the sake of context, it was the second-team offense against the second-team defense.

But one wonders, how well could the Vols’ number-one offense execute a similar challenge on game day in the coming months?

Opponents, after all, should be tempted to stack the line of scrimmage against the run until the Vols prove that an inexperienced passing game can make plays. Virtually everyone involved in UT’s prolific 2012 passing attack is playing NFL preseason games at the moment.

If opponents want to stack the box, the Vols’ response is: Bring it on.

“If they do,’’ senior tailback Rajion Neal said Saturday night, “I can truly say, we’ve got a surprise for them, because those receivers, they are not backing down.

“Those guys are getting better every day. As much as they get yelled at, and a lot of criticism that they take, they’re coming with it every day and it’s kind of fun to see.’’

So, just to be clear ...

“Oh, yeah,’’ Neal said. “I’m actually kind of hoping that they go ahead and stack the box.

“That’s gonna be something that’s gonna benefit the receivers. Those are one-on-one coverages. If you keep trying to take one away, pick your poison. We’ll tear you up through the air.’’

Nathan Peterman, who’s pushing Justin Worley to be the opening-day quarterback, shares Neal’s optimism. Never mind that the redshirt freshman has never thrown a pass in a college game.

“I feel confident in the whole offense,’’ he said after the scrimmage. “I don’t think our receivers are that down.’’

They’re young, though. Sophomore Pig Howard’s 13 catches are the most of any returning receiver. Redshirt freshmen and true freshmen will flesh out the rotation.

“I’m actually excited about the potential of where our receivers can go,’’ Peterman said. “So all this talk about the receivers aren’t gonna be that good, I’m excited the way they’re working.’’

“Everybody’s talking about Marquez (North) but Pig is doing a great job. Vince Dallas, even some of the guys behind them are doing a great job.’’

So, just to be clear ...

“Let ‘em stack the box is what I’m saying,’’ Peterman said, “and I think we’ll do a good job with it.’’

Neal’s Run: In addition to the 98-yard drive that required 14 plays, there was another 98-yard drive that required one play Saturday night.

Neal broke the line of scrimmage at his own 2 and went the distance. He said the crucial block came from tackle Tiny Richardson and a tight end.

“Tiny pushed him out. and I just hit it,’’ Neal said. “The safety had a crazy angle, I almost didn’t think I was going to make it. But all I said is ‘I can not be caught.’ ”

Off Day: The Vols did not practice Sunday but return to work Monday.

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Comments » 18

west_tn_volfan writes:

All the speculation in the world doesn't really tell us anything about how this team will fare this year. I'm ready to see the team play for myself. It is almost football time in Tennessee!

Orange_Power_T writes:

I really hope our receivers step up......BUT that 98 yard run has me concerned with a defense that is supposed to be much improved. Bothersome. I really feel that as a whole, we will be improved from last year.

Orangeblood13 writes:

you have to know the whole scenario, might have been a situational or something, but I agree. A high school team defense will be more improved than last years

dwolfcreek#397971 writes:

Rajion Neal needs to let his legs do the talking .

kazoo writes:

I like the way the new staff is coaching up the team. I'm optimistic--but not about this year. Our passing game surely will be a problem--and I don't think the defense is going to be very good, either--not as laughably bad as last year (nothing could be THAT bad), but not good. Hope I'm wrong!

ReeseHallRelic writes:

in response to Orange_Power_T:

I really hope our receivers step up......BUT that 98 yard run has me concerned with a defense that is supposed to be much improved. Bothersome. I really feel that as a whole, we will be improved from last year.

He might have caught them in just the right defense (from an offensive standpoint)... one of those deals where, once he popped through the first 3-4 yards, there was nothing between him and the goal line.

gatorhator4eva writes:

i would say that the defense is playing the best o line in the country. it is hard to tell anything until we see the product on the field.

10seVol85_Part_Deux writes:

in response to kazoo:

I like the way the new staff is coaching up the team. I'm optimistic--but not about this year. Our passing game surely will be a problem--and I don't think the defense is going to be very good, either--not as laughably bad as last year (nothing could be THAT bad), but not good. Hope I'm wrong!

I think you are wrong about the defense. Look what we have. Two years ago, when we were running the 4-3 we had always run before, the defense ranked 28th in the country, and was loaded with young players -- freshmen and sophomores. Many of those same players are still here, and we're back in the 4-3 with an actual DC who knows what he's doing. Two of the top three, three of the top five, seven of the top 15 tacklers from that 2011 defense are still here, and most are now 3-year (or more) starters.

Take away the confusion caused by last year's failed experiment, put those kids back in a system they understand and were recruited for, and I think you'll see a top-25 defense on the field this year.

Shake_Bake writes:

I hope Rajion is right! Because if he isn't...it will be a long season! I know our OL is good, and the RB's will do a decent job. It's the QB's and WR's that concern me. Let's hope everyone stays healthy and they learn fast, and it all comes together.

bUTch_please writes:

in response to Orangeblood13:

you have to know the whole scenario, might have been a situational or something, but I agree. A high school team defense will be more improved than last years

Of course it was situational. It was 3rd and 28.

Begone Team 116!

Rumblefish writes:

Anybody know Marquez North's 40 time? Just asking to see if he can stretch the field. I know I've been reading about his size, but just wondering if he is burner on the outside.

Rumblefish writes:

And just as an FYI, heard Chris Lowe talking last night that Ferguson is probably the QB that will be thrown into the game if Worley doesn't work out.

VOL_IN_BAMA writes:

What concerns me is that our defense is still giving up huge runs by an average running back. Jones said the run was from too many missed tackles. How many long runs did he have last year against SEC opponents? I don't remember any being 98 yards. Can't afford to give up big plays like this if you want to win in our conference.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to VOL_IN_BAMA:

What concerns me is that our defense is still giving up huge runs by an average running back. Jones said the run was from too many missed tackles. How many long runs did he have last year against SEC opponents? I don't remember any being 98 yards. Can't afford to give up big plays like this if you want to win in our conference.

I share your concern, on both counts. I would say only that it is still preseason practice, and it was against the #2 defense. Neal is fast enough that he can take it all the way against almost anybody if he gets in the open, which didn't seem to happen too often last year. The whole defense is down a few guys right now, so no doubt there has been a good deal of shuffling guys around; it's possible some newbie lined up wrong. Just have to keep our fingers crossed that they get things fixed before the season starts!

VOL_IN_BAMA writes:

in response to johnlg00:

I share your concern, on both counts. I would say only that it is still preseason practice, and it was against the #2 defense. Neal is fast enough that he can take it all the way against almost anybody if he gets in the open, which didn't seem to happen too often last year. The whole defense is down a few guys right now, so no doubt there has been a good deal of shuffling guys around; it's possible some newbie lined up wrong. Just have to keep our fingers crossed that they get things fixed before the season starts!

I agree

DeltaCharlie3 writes:

in response to Rumblefish:

Anybody know Marquez North's 40 time? Just asking to see if he can stretch the field. I know I've been reading about his size, but just wondering if he is burner on the outside.

It doesn't matter. UF, Bama, UGA, SC, etc all have 4 or 5 just as fast in their secondaries, if not faster.

jaydubuc writes:

in response to Rumblefish:

Anybody know Marquez North's 40 time? Just asking to see if he can stretch the field. I know I've been reading about his size, but just wondering if he is burner on the outside.

mikethehistorystudent writes:

A 4.41 40 is quick and I know he will only get faster as he spends more time in the UT program.

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