September 25, 2012

Georgia' s blitz-dogs present UT challenge

While much of the defensive attention leading into Tennessee's Saturday visit to Georgia focuses on Bulldogs All-America linebacker Jarvis Jones, the Volunteers' offensive unit is preparing to face a Georgia defense much like its own.

The Bulldogs will blitz, and they will be unleashed in a variety of areas and ways under the direction of third-year coordinator Todd Grantham.

Particularly under the microscopic eyes of a sold-out Sanford Stadium crowd will be how Tennessee's running backs handle impeding the Georgia rush.

"Oh, very important," UT quarterback Tyler Bray said of blitz awareness. "They're going to bring a lot of exotic stuff trying to come at our running back, blitz at our running back and make him pick it up. So as long as we do our job, we'll be fine."

Added head coach Derek Dooley, "Oh, yeah. Well and the O-line, too. And communication. So that's kind of this system of defense. It's base 3-4, going to play real good sound fundamental football on first down. Try to get you in third-and-long. And then here comes all the … they want it to look like a kaleidoscope on the other side.

"We have to be real disciplined. We have to be able to communicate with a lot of noise, and the backs have to do a great job of stepping up and picking it up."

It was evident on the Volunteers' practice field Tuesday morning that they were cognizant of the need to improve on running backs' blitz awareness. Position coach Jay Graham worked his group of tailbacks in a physically demanding, full-contact drill that chewed up the Haslam Field turf.

"Yeah," tailback Marlin Lane said of an renewed emphasis on blitz pick-ups. "But as well we just needed practice on protection because we didn't do it in a couple of weeks because we were working on pad leverage and we just thought it would be a whole lot important for this game. So we're just going to practice on it every day and work on ball security as well."

Lane said the Vols are confident that if they pick up the Bulldogs' rush, Bray can find holes in the Georgia defense.

"Yeah we feel that way. The more time we give Bray, the more open routes he's going to hit," Lane explained. "That's the key to this game."

Bray dismissed the additional hits he absorbed from Akron's confusing defensive sets last week and pointed to the second-half surge, when Bray connected on 19 of 27 tosses, as how the Vols adjusted and moved forward.

"They've been good," Bray said of his running backs' protection. "They showed some stuff that we weren't used to and it kind of caught us off-guard. We adjusted in the second half and didn't get touched anymore."

Yet Dooley noted the Vols' offense must get more efficient work from the tailbacks in helping keep Bray clean.

"It's something we keep working on and we've got to get a little better at," Dooley said. "A., it's recognition. Really before recognition it's anticipation based on a lot of pre-snap looks. Then it's recognition. Then it's a level of technique and physicality.

"A lot goes into it."

This week, there's a lot riding on it as well.

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