November 6, 2012
May be more in store from Vols' O
For all that Tennessee's offense has shown this season and for the success it has largely enjoyed, there may still yet be an additional element to the group that's challenging school records and ranks among the SEC's and nation's best in several categories.
The Vols have spent so much time this season playing from behind that they often have accelerated an already uptempo system a notch or two faster. What might happen if Tennessee ever gets the chance to play comfortably with a lead in hand?
Could there be even more to Jim Chaney's most explosive offense among his four seasons in Knoxville?
"Yeah I feel so. I feel so definitely. But definitely I feel there's more to our offense and I feel once we kind of get in a groove and jump out on some people, I guess you'll see more of the playbook open up and us getting a little more comfortable," said junior tailback Rajion Neal. "Once we kind of get to rolling and actually jump out some people, I think we'll see more of a downhill running game and trying to run the clock out a little bit more. Kind of just taking control of the game. It will come."
Despite the record-setting numbers that flowed in the Vols' 55-48 win last Saturday against Troy, including school benchmarks for total yards' offense and passing yards, head coach Derek Dooley made clear the offense has more work to do --- and more it must show.
"What we want to see is that execution on all phases for 60 minutes," Dooley said, "and we really haven't had a game where we feel like we have done that. As good as the [Troy] game was, we went through about a 25-minute period where we got six points.
"We didn't convert in the red area, our details in the red area sometimes get sloppy, and we never want turnovers or those kinds of things. There is always room for improvement and, of course, we are playing a lot better defense this week, so we'll see."
Though the Vols may feel they still have more to both prove and show, they do not lack belief in their offensive abilities, be that on the ground or via the passing attack.
"I mean I feel like, I think we have a good balance. I think we have great receivers but I think we've established ourselves as a running team," said sophomore left tackle Antonio 'Tiny' Richardson. "So I feel like whatever we have to do, whatever we've got to do to win the game whether it's passing the ball or running the ball, we can do that.
"We feel like we can run the football [if a team commits to taking away the passing game]."
Quarterback Tyler Bray, who has thrown for roughly 900 yards, nine touchdowns and just one interception in leading the Vols to a combined 90 points the previous two games, said he has full faith in the offense to do whatever it must to get the job done.
"Our offense, we can run the ball or we can throw it. It really doesn't matter," Bray said. "We've got a great offensive line, which always helps. If we're behind, we're going to end up having to throw the ball and we're going to throw it. If we're up, we can run the ball.
"I wasn't sore (after Troy); I could've thrown it 50 more times if I needed to."
What the Vols want to see is a game in which Bray doesn't need to log 40 or 50 passing attempts.
"Yeah, we've got to come out fighting a little harder than we have been. We've put ourselves in a hole in a couple of games this year where we've put ourselves in a hole and it puts our defense in a bad spot," senior wideout Zach Rogers said. "We've got to grow and come out faster and come out fighting faster. That's kind of our big thing."
So, too, Dooley said, would be grinding out a win by nursing a lead across the final few minutes of a tightly contested ballgame.
"It's hard to say. You know we really haven't been in four-minute (offense) all year I think," Dooley explained. "Which is rare. Where it's five minutes to go and we're up 7 or 8. I hope when we get in that situation we can do it. We might have to throw it. That's what we're pretty good at."
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