John Adams: Offensive line could take Vols for better ride

John Adams

You saw what a dominant offensive line could do in the most recent national championship game.

You saw it on Alabama’s first possession when the Crimson Tide took on the strength of Notre Dame’s defense, and basically took it apart play after play.

The outcome was obvious following that first touchdown drive. If its heralded defensive front seven couldn’t handle Alabama, what hope did Notre Dame have?

That’s what a dominant offensive line can do.

And therein lies the greatest hope for the upcoming Tennessee football season.

On a team where the question marks are large and numerous, the offensive line stands apart. It’s experienced, talented and well decorated.

It lost only one starter, Dallas Thomas, from last season and replaced him with Alex Bullard, who started all 12 games in 2011.

Four of its five starters all made at least third-team All-SEC.

“We’ve always said the team will go as far as the offensive line will go,” senior offensive guard Zach Fulton said.

So the Vols will climb onto the backs of Fulton, Bullard, Antonio Richardson, James Stone, and Ja’Wuan James and see just how far they can go.

It’s odd when you think about it.

Offensive lines — even successful ones — often do their work with little recognition. They are viewed as a complementary element to the “skill-position” players that surround them.

Sure, Alabama had a great offensive line last season. But what wasn’t great about the 2012 Tide? Its offense looked like an All-SEC team, with star players all over the place.

UT’s offensive stars are now limited to the line. They won’t knock a hole in an opposing defense and have an Eddie Lacy come roaring through.

And the Vols don’t have the kind of receivers and passer they had last season. They’re limited.

However, maybe if this offensive line is as good as its billing, it can push past some of those limitations.

That billing is based mainly on its pass protection in 2012. It led the SEC by allowing only eight sacks.

But Tennessee’s offensive line also distinguished itself against the best pass rushers on its schedule.

Much was made of Jadeveon Clowney’s game-deciding forced fumble in South Carolina 38-35 victory. The play was an aberration, though. South Carolina’s All-American defensive end was stifled for much of the game, thanks greatly to Richardson’s sterling play.

Georgia’s Jarvis Jones, who almost dismantled some offenses single handed, was even less of a factor than Clowney against the Vols.

More will be required of UT’s offensive line this season. The Vols need to be able to run the football better than last season when they ranked fourth in the conference in average rushing yards per carry.

“We want to have a 1,000-yard rusher,” Fulton said.

Although the Vols don’t have any All-SEC candidates in their backfield, a 1,000-yard rusher isn’t a farfetched goal for a line of this caliber.

The greater goal is a winning season. As good as these linemen have become, that would be a first.

So you can understand why they wouldn’t have a preference for how they succeed — whether it’s through pass protection or run blocking.

“Whatever works,” Fulton said.

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Comments » 18

djohnnyg writes:

I can't believe UT scheduled Austin Peay for their first game.

Do u guys realize how horrible this program is?

I was raised in Clarksville and remember going to games at the old Memorial Stadium there. It is a very cool stadium. They had astro turf. Ahead of it's time actually. Anyway, they were in the OVC then but eventually got so bad they basically just left or got booted out.

I'm not sure they have EVER had a winning record. Seriously.

All of a sudden they are trying to build the program up by playing patsy to bigger schools.

I guess their pitch to recruits now is that they will get to play in front of 80k people and if their parents buy a special cable package they'll get to see them get annihilated on TV.

I wanna say last yr the Govs played at Wisconsin and lost 71-3. The game wasn't as close as the score indicated.

This really is the ultimate patsy. UT would have a tougher time with Little Sisters of the Poor or some small Baptist college in Kentucky with an enrollment of under 300.

Austin Peay gets hammered by the likes of Youngstown State or Valpo by 20+ pts every year if they're lucky.

Every big school has their patsy games and UT is no exception but this is not going to be any sort of test.

I think it would be better if they scheduled someone a little bit more challenging to get ready for the tough season.

Oh well. I guess it'll be fun watching em completely destroy the hapless Governors.

djohnnyg writes:

Ok. I looked it up and it appears Austin Peay did win a conference title (OVC) ONCE in 1978 so they must have had a winning season that year.

I apologize for disparaging the fine folks over at Austin Peay.

Rumblefish writes:

in response to djohnnyg:

I can't believe UT scheduled Austin Peay for their first game.

Do u guys realize how horrible this program is?

I was raised in Clarksville and remember going to games at the old Memorial Stadium there. It is a very cool stadium. They had astro turf. Ahead of it's time actually. Anyway, they were in the OVC then but eventually got so bad they basically just left or got booted out.

I'm not sure they have EVER had a winning record. Seriously.

All of a sudden they are trying to build the program up by playing patsy to bigger schools.

I guess their pitch to recruits now is that they will get to play in front of 80k people and if their parents buy a special cable package they'll get to see them get annihilated on TV.

I wanna say last yr the Govs played at Wisconsin and lost 71-3. The game wasn't as close as the score indicated.

This really is the ultimate patsy. UT would have a tougher time with Little Sisters of the Poor or some small Baptist college in Kentucky with an enrollment of under 300.

Austin Peay gets hammered by the likes of Youngstown State or Valpo by 20+ pts every year if they're lucky.

Every big school has their patsy games and UT is no exception but this is not going to be any sort of test.

I think it would be better if they scheduled someone a little bit more challenging to get ready for the tough season.

Oh well. I guess it'll be fun watching em completely destroy the hapless Governors.

With the current way that the BCS is set up (and the upcoming playoff system), it does no good to schedule OOC teams that you could potentially lose to. Add to that, we are playing Oregon OOC.

As college football fans, we would all like to see our team(s) play other good teams in their OOC schedule. But, that ain't gonna happen friend. Schools have too much to lose ($), by suffering potential losses.

jmaples54 writes:

71-3 would be nice, although I would hope the second stringers would be in for the last 3 tds. we will need to develop depth on both lines and in the secondary.

and before the blather begins, let me be the first to say, "john adams! taking every opportunity to slam our team! once again bringing up our lack of playmakers! bringing up ancient history, our passer and receivers having graduated! 2 criticisms against only about 6 compliments? hack! go back to lose-iana! let's get some decent writer in here, maybe vol2ny, mother Teresa, wilt 69, devolved or oldsnore. I give u a D- for simply stating the obvious while getting in every possible dig against the team you hate: the Tennessee vols!"

Go4Two writes:

Funny we need to pound the rock to win. Love it call it Johnny ball if you like it wins. See Bama

6972 writes:

in response to djohnnyg:

Ok. I looked it up and it appears Austin Peay did win a conference title (OVC) ONCE in 1978 so they must have had a winning season that year.

I apologize for disparaging the fine folks over at Austin Peay.

I've never liked these kind of "games". Play a quality team, challenge our guys, and take your chances on the scoreboard. There is no glory in beating up on a glorified high school team.

orangecountyvols writes:

djohnny,

We hear ya'. Actually, let's say the Vols opened with Oregon instead of the 3rd game. ( A real confidence builder for the guys trying to build some confidence and experience. )

So it's Austin Peay. The Vols should have the opportunity to put a lot of new faces out on the field, which is what they need, to at least get the feel for being out there. No, they won't be deceived by winning, even by what very well may be a big score. They know big games are on the radar down the road.

In fact, lots of teams have been known to do this..........even the 'powerhouse' Vandy team, which plays Austin Peay the very next week.

It's the home opener, CBJ's first game as Tennessee coach. Still should be a lot of excitement just having the first game in the big house, regardless of the opponent.

After this one, we'll get our share of the mean dudes !

6972 writes:

Let's hope the offensive live can help us with some ball control and use up some clock. Last night on MNF John Gruden had a segment talking about Oregon. They run a play every 15 seconds. Unblievalble. We better be able to move the ball or our defense will be in for a long night.

dk writes:

in response to jmaples54:

71-3 would be nice, although I would hope the second stringers would be in for the last 3 tds. we will need to develop depth on both lines and in the secondary.

and before the blather begins, let me be the first to say, "john adams! taking every opportunity to slam our team! once again bringing up our lack of playmakers! bringing up ancient history, our passer and receivers having graduated! 2 criticisms against only about 6 compliments? hack! go back to lose-iana! let's get some decent writer in here, maybe vol2ny, mother Teresa, wilt 69, devolved or oldsnore. I give u a D- for simply stating the obvious while getting in every possible dig against the team you hate: the Tennessee vols!"

John Adams may not like the Vols very much, but he did have some good things to say about the o-line. Outside of them, who are the all SEC players that we have on offense? Patterson, Hunter, and Bray all left for the NFL. Who has really proven themselves on offense? Just saying. I really like our players too. I'm not knocking them or Adams. Perhaps Neal can have a breakout year that we all have been expecting from him. QBs are unproven. Wide receivers, unproven. Tight ends, unproven. Go Big Orange and play with relentless passion this year. If yo do every game, then you will gain the respect that you deserve whether you win or lose.

123forVOLS writes:

I am glad to be getting good ink on our offensive line. And while I am an UnAdamsite, we really do not have anyone who Has Proven they are break out. As was stated previously, it would be great to have Neal do it. He is due and I believe capable. Yet we do not really know. So at least we can be excited at the offensive line we have and hope the coaching will make a better difference than what we have been seeing in the past few years. It's almost Football Time in Tennessee...fanbase, are WE READY FOR BUTCHBALL?

clemvol writes:

This offensive line may be the best in the land. So, lets see the potential: Great line, good running back(s), a quarterback that is not asked to win the game, good fundamental receivers (possible one great one. Now steady as she goes and keep the opposing offense off the field to get in any game rhythm, defense plays rested. I still see 7 wins. Go Vols

62vol writes:

in response to clemvol:

This offensive line may be the best in the land. So, lets see the potential: Great line, good running back(s), a quarterback that is not asked to win the game, good fundamental receivers (possible one great one. Now steady as she goes and keep the opposing offense off the field to get in any game rhythm, defense plays rested. I still see 7 wins. Go Vols

Good post.
Add good coaching and good play calling and good execution and a balanced offense that keeps them guessing and an uptempo to enhance play making and we need less desperation from absolute stars------ if the defense can do their part.

ActualUTAlum writes:

8-5, counting a win in the Music City Bowl. Next year will be the toughest one, 10+ wins in 2015.

Enki_Amenra writes:

in response to 6972:

I've never liked these kind of "games". Play a quality team, challenge our guys, and take your chances on the scoreboard. There is no glory in beating up on a glorified high school team.

Sport is why I love football. Part of the sport in football is the scheduling dynamic - it is what makes college football so respectable, in my opinion.

The ability for a team like A-P to ink a contract with a top-10 program is something I would never want to remove from college football - especially if it doesn't hurt the post-season aspirations of the larger program.

Tennessee gets a 'pre-season game', this year it is much needed, too.

Austin-Peay gets more of a pay-off than what many people may imagine at 1st glance.

Obviously, A-P gets $$. That moola means a lot to many collegiate athletic departments who do not regularly experience massive gate profits.

The players of Austin-Peay also have a unique opportunity to play at one of the world's greatest gameday atmospheres. The experience of playing in Neyland Stadium is something the young men - even the A-P coaches - will remember for the rest of their lives.

The players at places like Austin-Peay have all dreamt of playing for an elite level program. Simply because they were unable to land at a major program doesn't mean the dream of playing on the elite level vanished too.

Playing against UT could realistically be the pinnacle of their playing career.

The reality of just those few points is enough to convince me that games like this should not only be permitted, they should be celebrated.

10Vol85 writes:

There is a synergy between the rush and pass games such that a good pass game makes it easier to rush and vice versa. I thought the later Majors teams and earlier Fulmer teams were strong in the run and were able to greatly influence the game with the rush attack. They could also usually pick up a yard or two when you had to have it. Most of the recent teams seem to have only run to keep the defense honest and were less able to exert there will through the run game. Last year’s team was better in that regard but way too pass-happy in my estimation. My feeling is that Coach Jones knows how to utilize the run and will take advantage of this offensive line such that this year’s offense will be much better than most expect.

10Vol85 writes:

Looking only at Tennessee’s total passing yards last year inflates the perception of our passing offense. To be sure, there was a lot of talent and opposing teams respected Tennessee’s passing attack. Considering only SEC games, yards per play, and the affect of turnovers presents a much different picture, though.

The Tennessee average passing yards per SEC game was 255; OOC was 437. The Tennessee average rushing yards per SEC game was 172; OOC was 137. Comparisons including OOC games are skewed due to the effect of varying level of competition in general and money games specifically.

I made a study of rushing, passing and the affect of turnovers within the SEC for in-conference games last year. Turnovers have a significant impact on converting yards gained into points. On average, a turnover costs an SEC team the equivalent of about 80 yards or a little less than 6 points. A team that gets 475 yards of offense but has 2 turnovers is roughly equivalent to an offense that gets 315 yards with no turnovers.

In its 8 SEC games, Tennessee had a total of 15 turnovers due to interception, sack, or receiver fumble. For yards passing in SEC games only, Tennessee ranked 6th at 255 yards passing per game but 10th at 104 after adjusting for turnovers. Tennessee ranked 8th at 7.3 yards passing per attempt but 11th at 3.0 after adjusting for turnovers. Despite the total yards, this wasn’t one of the very best pass offenses in Tennessee history.

In contrast, in its 8 SEC games, Tennessee had only 1 fumble by a rusher. For yards rushing in SEC games only, Tennessee ranked 4th at 172 yards rushing per game and 2nd (behind A&M) at 162 yards per game after adjusting for turnovers. Tennessee ranked 3rd at 5.1 rushing yards per play and 1st at 4.8 after adjusting for turnovers.

FWIW, Tennessee’s offense was 4th in SEC yards per game (427) / yards per play (6.2), 5th after penalizing for turnovers (266, 3.9).

10Vol85 writes:

*effect

johnlg00 writes:

in response to 10Vol85:

Looking only at Tennessee’s total passing yards last year inflates the perception of our passing offense. To be sure, there was a lot of talent and opposing teams respected Tennessee’s passing attack. Considering only SEC games, yards per play, and the affect of turnovers presents a much different picture, though.

The Tennessee average passing yards per SEC game was 255; OOC was 437. The Tennessee average rushing yards per SEC game was 172; OOC was 137. Comparisons including OOC games are skewed due to the effect of varying level of competition in general and money games specifically.

I made a study of rushing, passing and the affect of turnovers within the SEC for in-conference games last year. Turnovers have a significant impact on converting yards gained into points. On average, a turnover costs an SEC team the equivalent of about 80 yards or a little less than 6 points. A team that gets 475 yards of offense but has 2 turnovers is roughly equivalent to an offense that gets 315 yards with no turnovers.

In its 8 SEC games, Tennessee had a total of 15 turnovers due to interception, sack, or receiver fumble. For yards passing in SEC games only, Tennessee ranked 6th at 255 yards passing per game but 10th at 104 after adjusting for turnovers. Tennessee ranked 8th at 7.3 yards passing per attempt but 11th at 3.0 after adjusting for turnovers. Despite the total yards, this wasn’t one of the very best pass offenses in Tennessee history.

In contrast, in its 8 SEC games, Tennessee had only 1 fumble by a rusher. For yards rushing in SEC games only, Tennessee ranked 4th at 172 yards rushing per game and 2nd (behind A&M) at 162 yards per game after adjusting for turnovers. Tennessee ranked 3rd at 5.1 rushing yards per play and 1st at 4.8 after adjusting for turnovers.

FWIW, Tennessee’s offense was 4th in SEC yards per game (427) / yards per play (6.2), 5th after penalizing for turnovers (266, 3.9).

You continue to amaze me, not only for all the statistics you provide but also for all your insights into what they mean. These days especially, it is refreshing to see posts that actually discuss the game in all its many aspects instead of ragging on individuals the way so many trolls and other lesser types do. As the old saying goes, "Superior minds discuss ideas; mediocre minds discuss events; inferior minds are obsessed with people."

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