Report card: Offense falters for Vols this week

Michael Patrick/News Sentinel
Tennessee linebacker Dontavis Sapp, back, celebrates with Devaun Swafford after Swafford scored on an interception return during the first half against Florida at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Fla., on Saturday.

Photo by Michael Patrick

Michael Patrick/News Sentinel Tennessee linebacker Dontavis Sapp, back, celebrates with Devaun Swafford after Swafford scored on an interception return during the first half against Florida at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Fla., on Saturday.

Quarterbacks D

Not everything that went wrong for Tennessee against Florida on Saturday can be laid at the feet of Nathan Peterman, but it quickly became evident that he was not the answer for what ails the Vols’ offense. A quarterback alone won’t rescue the Vols, but Peterman’s miserable debut likely will ensure that Riley Ferguson is next in line if coaches decide to bench Justin Worley again.

Running backs C

Rajion Neal and Marlin Lane had a tough time finding easy yards against the Gators’ dominating front seven. The duo combined for only 58 yards on 17 carries. The lack of a competent passing attack for most of the game didn’t help matters. But breaking a few more big runs beyond the line of scrimmage would boost the averages.

Rajion Neal talks Florida loss

None

Wide receivers/tight ends C

Josh Smith seems to get the ball thrown in his direction more than any other receiver, which means he’s doing a good job getting open. Quarterbacks haven’t always put him in ideal position, but he needs to pull down a few more of those tough catches. Alton “Pig” Howard may be Tennessee’s biggest “home run” threat, and his return from injury on Saturday was significant as he caught an 18-yard touchdown pass.

Offensive line C

Zach Fulton said the line took responsibility for the lack of success in Tennessee’s running game. While Peterman seemed to be frequently under pressure, Worley had ample time to throw, indicating the veteran quarterback may have a greater pocket sense than the newcomer.

Defensive line B

Tennessee put pressure on the Gators’ quarterbacks and experimented with some new looks on third-and-long that were met with mixed success. Freshman end Corey Vereen made his debut, giving the Vols ample options on the end, but very few inside.

Linebackers B

A.J. Johnson has been the Vols’ workhorse through four games. Coach Butch Jones challenged him angrily from the sidelines after a missed tackle, and Johnson seemed to respond. Brent Brewer looked more comfortable as the third linebacker in a 4-3 set than he did as a second linebacker in the nickel, the role he was forced to occupy in Oregon.

Secondary B

True freshman walk-on Devaun Swafford took over as the starting nickelback and made his presence felt quickly with a 62-yard interception return for a touchdown. He made mistakes, too, but the Vols’ young secondary seems to be making progress.

Special teams B

Michael Palardy has quietly been one of the most steady players on the team. He nailed a 45-yard field goal and had nice kicks on punts and kickoffs. The Vols’ return game has been largely mistake-free, but lacks the ability to change the game with a big return.

Coaching C

If Peterman had led the Vols to victory, Jones and coordinator Mike Bajakian would be praised extensively for their move. So it’s only reasonable that they take criticism when the opposite occurred. Jones and his players remained positive after the game, and there’s no indication that the team lacks unity going forward.

Overall C

Although losses can cause fans to overreact, the past two weeks have gone exactly as most predicted they would. The Vols were overmatched in Oregon and failed to muster much offense against the Gators’ staunch defense. As Jones said after the game, there really is no reason to panic. The Vols are 2-2, which is where they should be, even if it’s not where they want to be.

Game day stories

Mike Strange: Florida receives quality backup as Vols backtrack to Justin Worley

Vols sub-merged at Florida in Nathan Peterman's first start

Butch Jones eager to get back to practice, sees 'culture' developing

Third-down woes continue for Vols' defense

Justin Worley says it 'hurts' to be demoted

Report card: Offense falters for Vols this week

Tennessee-Florida: How They Scored

Game Day Central: Tennessee vs. Florida

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Comments » 18

snowpeapod#263184 writes:

Saying the offense faltered is being too kind. It looked to me that they were two notches below faltering. Until they can muster a balance between passing and running against a formidable foe they will continue to hover around 6-6 season, but I certainly hope not.

NoIncomeTax writes:

Offensive line earned no more than a D. They are the biggest disappointment of the team.

UTANDNOBAMA writes:

in response to snowpeapod#263184:

Saying the offense faltered is being too kind. It looked to me that they were two notches below faltering. Until they can muster a balance between passing and running against a formidable foe they will continue to hover around 6-6 season, but I certainly hope not.

Snow pea.... You give me a 6 and 6 season with these guys... And I'll dance all night long. I think we are looking more like 5 and 7 or even 4 and 8. We simply have no talent on this team. Absolutely none. Our coaching is average...a lot better than it was... But still average...and still below most of what we will face in the SEC. It's going to be a long time before this gets any better.

Vol-in-GA writes:

in response to UTANDNOBAMA:

Snow pea.... You give me a 6 and 6 season with these guys... And I'll dance all night long. I think we are looking more like 5 and 7 or even 4 and 8. We simply have no talent on this team. Absolutely none. Our coaching is average...a lot better than it was... But still average...and still below most of what we will face in the SEC. It's going to be a long time before this gets any better.

If we "simply have no talent", as you say, what are your expectations for our "average coaches". How far are they supposed to coach up? This team is right where we thought they'd be after 4 games. October, is going to be tough for the weak kneed fan, but realistically we knew at the start of the season where we'd be at the end of October. November, is where we really judge the year. Four winnable SEC games and we can qualify for a bowl. Let's see if this coaching staff allows quitters, a la Tyler Brey at Ky in 2011. 6-6, but who knows, an October surprise and 7-5!

Tao_of_Tennessee writes:

I think giving Peterman a shot in the third series would have been the way to go as far as coaching. I think he was too amped after getting the starting nod. Tailbacks should be amped but not QBs.

kfkinder writes:

Wrong game to start Peterman. SEC and at the Swamp. S. Alabama would have been my choice to start him!

gc_scvol writes:

in response to Vol-in-GA:

If we "simply have no talent", as you say, what are your expectations for our "average coaches". How far are they supposed to coach up? This team is right where we thought they'd be after 4 games. October, is going to be tough for the weak kneed fan, but realistically we knew at the start of the season where we'd be at the end of October. November, is where we really judge the year. Four winnable SEC games and we can qualify for a bowl. Let's see if this coaching staff allows quitters, a la Tyler Brey at Ky in 2011. 6-6, but who knows, an October surprise and 7-5!

Good Post

maciste54 writes:

Not a brilliant decision to start Peterman. He looks way to slow to keep up with SEC defenses. Almost plodding.
My only other gripe with Jones is his decision to try a trick play in field goal range and the Vols down 10-7. Not smart at all. Bet he's kicking himself over that one.

snowpeapod#263184 writes:

in response to maciste54:

Not a brilliant decision to start Peterman. He looks way to slow to keep up with SEC defenses. Almost plodding.
My only other gripe with Jones is his decision to try a trick play in field goal range and the Vols down 10-7. Not smart at all. Bet he's kicking himself over that one.

If the trick play had worked we would all be saying he was a genius. Let's be realistic, this is the best coaching staff we've had in the past 4 years. We only have one place to go from here and that is up. I choose to think that will happen before the next 4 years pass us by.

ghenry35#236736 writes:

Not a trick play. Potential offside they are trained to stay still and receivers go long for a potential free play. No offside called

underthehill writes:

in response to NoIncomeTax:

Offensive line earned no more than a D. They are the biggest disappointment of the team.

On run plays ..I watched to see if they moved anybody off the line..if they did..I missed it ..they stand up too many times and get pushed back..they all appear fat and slow..how has the coaching staff not noticed that a line hyped to be among the best in the SEC ..is playing very bad..gotta get em shaped up to have a chance in big games..

underthehill writes:

in response to snowpeapod#263184:

If the trick play had worked we would all be saying he was a genius. Let's be realistic, this is the best coaching staff we've had in the past 4 years. We only have one place to go from here and that is up. I choose to think that will happen before the next 4 years pass us by.

Granted ..this appears to be the best coaching staff the Vols have had in the past 4 years..that don't change the fact that the trick play was a stupid call and kept UT from possibly going in tied 10-10 at the half..the sensible call was a run to the middle of the field and a field goal try..

underthehill writes:

in response to UTANDNOBAMA:

Snow pea.... You give me a 6 and 6 season with these guys... And I'll dance all night long. I think we are looking more like 5 and 7 or even 4 and 8. We simply have no talent on this team. Absolutely none. Our coaching is average...a lot better than it was... But still average...and still below most of what we will face in the SEC. It's going to be a long time before this gets any better.

Bottom line for me..6-6 would be a major accomplishment for the coaches and players..hope they do it..

RoadTrip writes:

D in the secondary. D on coaching.

The safeties and Coleman did not have good games. Other than a couple of plays, the run support on the edges was bad. Swafford made one great play and lost coverage several other times.

The OC and offensive game plan brings the coaching down to a D. The decision to start Peterman in the swamp for his first start brings it down as well. The play calling is very suspect. Does not seem to have a goal as to what they want to accomplish. The middle of the field was open the entire game for passes to a TE or dump down to an RB and they never ran a play to do that. No slants. Slow developing plays never work against quick, athletic D's. I just don't get what they are trying to accomplish.

MooseandSquirrelVol writes:

in response to underthehill:

Granted ..this appears to be the best coaching staff the Vols have had in the past 4 years..that don't change the fact that the trick play was a stupid call and kept UT from possibly going in tied 10-10 at the half..the sensible call was a run to the middle of the field and a field goal try..

Read my lips, THERE...WAS...NO...TRICK...PLAY!
The quick snap was an attempt to catch Florida off-side. If the off-side had been called, it would have been a free-play.
The fact the off-side was not called does not make it a "trick play".
Quit listening to Danielson.

fannotsheep writes:

Here is the only report card that matters: Vols coaches have an Incomplete in recruiting for the 2014 class. I am not worried about the bricks on this team, but rather the blocks we need to hold onto that will become the foundation Jones must put in place. If the bad losses and worse off the field publicity punch holes in that class, the whole thing could fall in.

Fans are understandably anxious to see improvement, in coaching and execution, as well as attitude. Keep in mind the level of competition. Florida has a great defense and many of those guys will play on Sunday.

Be patient. Got to hang in there and give Jones time. Simply cannot win in the SEC without talent and depth. Just hope each and every one of those recruits will hang with Jones as well. I agree that October will be rough. Everyone wants to see improvement and win the games we realistically can. But I, for one, care more about February than November.

volbald writes:

The coaches need to put a QB on the field that the 2014 recruits believe can get the football to the 4-star receivers so they can score touchdowns and be drafted by the pros. Developing Ferguson needs to be a high priority NOW. We can afford to lose to the top SEC teams and still have a high ranked recruiting class as long as our QB is able to throw some touchdown passes in every game. Otherwise Jones will have to find another Cam Newton at a junior college somewhere - we'll see.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to RoadTrip:

D in the secondary. D on coaching.

The safeties and Coleman did not have good games. Other than a couple of plays, the run support on the edges was bad. Swafford made one great play and lost coverage several other times.

The OC and offensive game plan brings the coaching down to a D. The decision to start Peterman in the swamp for his first start brings it down as well. The play calling is very suspect. Does not seem to have a goal as to what they want to accomplish. The middle of the field was open the entire game for passes to a TE or dump down to an RB and they never ran a play to do that. No slants. Slow developing plays never work against quick, athletic D's. I just don't get what they are trying to accomplish.

Some good points here. There has seemed to be a problem all season with how slow the plays develop. There is still a lack of even attempting deception in play-calling, or using one kind of look to set up something other than what is expected. Against big, quick defenses like those of Oregon, Florida, Alabama, and others, you can't count on outmuscling them, but you CAN try to use their speed against them by showing a look one way and going another. I can only conclude that the coaches either lack the imagination to do that or that they don't trust the players to execute it correctly. I also agree with those who had expected more from this veteran O-line. Don't know what the problem is there, but if these guys DO go on to play regularly in the NFL, it would seem that something is holding them back now.

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