Mike Strange: Vols have to hit ground running to keep up with Auburn

Mike Strange
Tennessee running back Rajion Neal (20) gets past a tackle by South Alabama safety Terrell Brigham (18) while carrying the ball down the sideline in the first half against South Alabama at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013. (ADAM LAU/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Adam Lau

Tennessee running back Rajion Neal (20) gets past a tackle by South Alabama safety Terrell Brigham (18) while carrying the ball down the sideline in the first half against South Alabama at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013. (ADAM LAU/NEWS SENTINEL)

The Tennessee-Auburn rivalry isn’t what it once was.

Subscribe to read the full story

Current Subscribers - Activate Now

Already subscribe to the News Sentinel? Unlimited access to KnoxNews.com on the web, your smartphone, tablet, Knoxville.com and GoVolsXtra.com is included with your subscription. All you need to do is ACTIVATE now!

Activate Now

New Subscribers - Subscribe Now

Want to keep reading?
KnoxNews now offers Premium and Digital Subscriptions. Subscribe now and select how you want to keep up-to-date on local news, reader comments, photos, videos, blogs and more.

Subscribe Now

© 2013 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Related Topics

Comments » 5

rockypop writes:

Does anyone know where our highly-touted offensive line has gone? And, why am I not reading Daniel McCullers name in the Sunday papers?

There is no doubt that UT has lost a ton of skill players on offense, but the guys on the OL are not among them. And, based on the coaches pre-season assessment, McCullers had lost a bunch of weight, was quicker and was expected to "control the running game."

I'm not panicking, but I think Jones and his entourage of assistant are getting an unexpected dose of what it's like to play in the SEC. Not only are the players going to need to elevate their games, but so are the coaches.

Frankly, I'm a little disappointed that this bunch hasn't been more competitive than they have - given the fact that they can't blame it all on a lack of quality players. Jones inherited a much better situation than Dooley, and he's only doing marginally better with it.

fannotsheep writes:

Thank you, Mike, for pointing out what so often gets overlooked: The quality of competition. Now I am not saying the Vols could rush for 300 yards against the teams Auburn has played. But I feel sure they'd score and move the ball within the offense UT plays.

One reason the UT head coaching job has been such a revolving door is the number of top ranked teams the Vols face each and every year. When you are in the lower half of the SEC, you are playing a very tough schedule.

Fulmer did a great job in the first 10 years he led the program. Partly because of his success, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina struggled. Now those programs are at or near the top, and Tennessee has had to make do with the leftover talent in states they once recruited very well.

Enter Butch Jones and a remarkable turnaround in recruiting. If he can sign the guys he convinced to commit, next year will be a better time to be a Tennessee Vol, and if he can keep doing it … well, Auburn and South Carolina and others had best enjoy this cycle. A new day may be coming.

slov writes:

It's going to take more than a couple of years to recruit AND develop the players needed to be competitive against all comers in this league. I hope we have it in us to be patient.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to slov:

It's going to take more than a couple of years to recruit AND develop the players needed to be competitive against all comers in this league. I hope we have it in us to be patient.

I agree with all of this. After the Vols nearly all of the main contributors in both lines, it will take another year or two of good recruiting and player development before the Vols can look their peers in the eye.

People look at what a turnaround Auburn made this year compared to UT and find the latter wanting. The thing is, Auburn has almost always been known for having great lines, the Vols only occasionally despite the star linemen they have had over the years. Then you have Gus Malzahn who has long been regarded as one of the great offensive minds in the game today, and you have all the tools necessary for a quick turnaround.

Most of the Vol skill positions will look much better than they did this year, but Bakajian needs to do some real woodshedding during the offseason to tailor the offense to suit the team's talents. To my mind, the Vols' offense this year has just looked slow, not so much in terms of the speed of the players, though that has been an issue, but in how long it seems to take for plays to develop. The speed of SEC defenses doesn't allow plays to unfold at the leisure of the offense. Given how green the Vols' O-line will be next year, they will need a LOT more help in terms of scheme, IMHO.

johnlg00 writes:

OOPS! Should have said, "After the Vols LOSE nearly all...." Darned old man eyes!

Want to participate in the conversation? Become a subscriber today. Subscribers can read and comment on any story, anytime. Non-subscribers will only be able to view comments on select stories.

Features