Thursday, October 7, 2010

This Week in the Dawg House: Tennessee Offense

What the Vol offense is lacking in playmakers and efficiency, it makes up for in...uh...they play hard. Actually, they aren't the worst offense in the SEC -- here is their SEC rank in various offensive categories: Yards per game (332.4, 10th), Yards per play (5.3, t-9th), scoring offense (25.2, 9th), and 3rd down conversion rate (24.66%, 11th). Their offensive coordinator is former Purdue OC Jim Chaney, who is a holdover from the Kiffin staff. They run a balanced, pro-style offense with multiple formations (I-fomation, shotgun, single-back) and typically have a run-first, play-action approach. They get in trouble offensively because they struggle to consistently pump out first downs, so combined with our horrible 3rd down defense, something has to give. While they lack serious depth at all positions, their starters at least look SEC worthy. Let's break down the personnel:

QUARTERBACKS: The starting QB is #2 Matt Simms (6-3 217). While the pedigree is there, (son of Phil Simms) he sort of comes off as the black sheep of the family. He originally attended Louisville, then transferred to El Camino Community College, then to Tennessee. Here are his numbers through five games: 79/141 (56.0%) 957 yds 6 TDs 3 INTs.....respectable numbers at least. He is not a threat to run (which is relevant because Colorado's QB was zig-zagging through our secondary) as he has 32 attempts for -80 yards, mostly because of sacks. He likes to throw out of the pocket, and although he is not the most accurate, he does have a stronger than average arm so the deep ball threat is in play. The backup QB is four-star (according to true freshman #8 Tyler Bray (6-6 192), who has only attempted six passes all season.

RUNNING BACKS: The featured RB is #28 Tauren Poole (5-11 213), who is having by far his best season at Tennessee: 80 car. for 427 yds (5.43 ypc) and 4 TDs. He also has caught 7 passes for 53 yards. Poole is best when running between the tackles, as he does not have great speed, but is a physical runner with above average vision. His backup is #27 Davis Oku (5-10 195) who has 27 car. for 145 yards (5.37 ypc) and 5 rec. for 34 yards. Oku also returns kickoffs, and has 13 ret. for 253 yards (19.46). The third back is freshman #20 Raijon Neal who has 15 car. for 101 yards. The fullback is #45 Kevin Cooper (6-0 247), and is used almost exclusively as a blocking back as he has 0 carries and 6 rec. for 39 yards. Overall, the backs run hard and can break big plays, but like most backs, their success is derived from the offensive line (more on them later).

WIDE RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS: This is probably the most talented unit on the offensive side of the ball. They are led by #6 Denarius Moore (6-1 194), who has 16 rec. for 239 yards and 4 TDs. The other big-time receiver is #4 Gerald Jones (6-0 195), who has missed the last three games with a broken hand, but should return for this game. He is the team's leading receiver from last season, and had 11 rec. for 132 yards in the first two games this year. The token white, third receiver is #83 Zach Rogers (6-0 195), who has 11 rec. for 188 yards and 1 TD...a real security blanket, possession-type receiver for Simms. Oh, and the two freshman receivers who should see playing time are #11 Justin Hunter (6-4 183, 6 rec. 126 yds) and lest we forget #21 Da'Rick Rogers (3 rec. 25 yds, no relation to Zach). The tight end is #88 Luke Stocker (6-6 253), who has 14 rec. for 132 yards. As I stated earlier, this unit has the most experience (Moore, Jones, and Stocker -- all seniors) and are the most talented and polished as well. Translation: if we let Simms stay in the pocket untouched, he will find one of these guys.

OFFENSIVE LINE: Coming into this season, the offensive line had exactly ZERO starters returning. To make matters worse, they have been hit seriously by the injury bug. Three regular starters are doubtful for the game this weekend: C #77 Cody Pope (6-6 288), LT #71 Dallas Thomas (6-5 268), and LG #75 JerQuari Schofield (6-6 315). So, the projected starting offensive line will most likely be:

LT: #76 Daniel Hood (6-5 260)
LG: #64 James Stone (6-4 295)
C: #73 Darin Gooch (6-3 305)
RG: #74 Jarod Shaw (6-4 332)
RT: #70 JaWuan James (6-7 320)

Out of these five guys, three are freshman, one is a sophomore, and only senior Jarod Shaw has ANY starting experience prior to 2010. This is the least experienced offensive line in the SEC and probably the country. If we can't get pressure on the quarterback with this depleted O-line then we should just quit the rest of the season.

PLACE KICKER: To add insult to injury (pardon the pun) the place-kicker, #26 Daniel Lincoln, is doubtful again (missed the LSU game) with a quad injury. So, that means that freshman kicker #1 Michael Palardy will start. He is 0-1 on FG attempts this season.

Tennessee has faced three "big-time" opponents this season -- Oregon, Florida, and LSU. They have only averaged 14.7 points scored in these three games and given their O-line troubles, SHOULD not score that much more against us. Our defense needs to have a serious rebound effort coming off that Colorado performance, and this game SHOULD present our defense with a good opportunity...unless we stink again.

Here is the projected depth chart:

QB: #2 Matt Simms
RB: #28 Tauren Poole
WR: #6 Denarius Moore
WR: #83 Zach Rogers
WR: #4 Gerald Jones
TE: #88 Luke Stocker
LT: #76 Daniel Hood
LG: #64 James Stone
C: #73 Darin Gooch
RG: #74 Jarod Shaw
RT: #70 JaWuan James

PK: #1 Michael Palardy

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