Vols lacking offensive identity
Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt described his quarterback situation following a 34-7 loss to Kentucky as “undecided”. I would describe his offense’s identity through four games as undiscovered.
“Everybody in our organization has to look and see what went wrong. We could make changes at any level,” Pruitt said.
Changes or no changes, Pruitt and offensive coordinator Jim Chaney must figure out what they want to be and what they can be quickly. What they can be is the biggest question Pruitt and his offensive staff must determine immediately.
After two games with no turnovers, Tennessee has turned it over 7 times the last six quarters.
In the second half they were shutout at Georgia. In the second half at home against Kentucky who hadn’t beaten the Vols in Neyland Stadium since 1984, the Vols were again shutout.
Down 17-7, Tennessee had one third quarter first down. They had 4 completions in the second half for just 29 yards and 24 of that came on Wideman’s jump ball and the last offensive possession. Three completions for 5 yards for nearly a half of football is simply inept.
The offense had just two plays of 20+ yards on the day and their longest run was 14 yards. Jarrett Guarantano averaged just 6.2 yards a completion.
The question moving forward is what is this Tennessee offense going to try and be and what are they capable of being. Pruitt was upset post game at many things, including play calling and repeated offensive mistakes.
“On the fumble, we are going to run an RPO and throw it out there. We have to communicate better. The quarterback is going to throw the ball and the back run the play and knocks the ball out of his hands. We have to do a better job coaching, that’s on me. The one interception down the middle, my question is first of all lets start with the play. Should have thrown the check down. We were throwing four verticals. They were playing zone. We should have thrown the check down and didn’t. We got a little greedy there. You gotta take the check down. Where’s the offensive players to get the guy on the ground. I have been coaching a long time and I’ve seen more defensive touchdowns against our offense or the other team starting on our 8, 10 or 15 yard line then in all my years of coaching the last three years. It’s something that has to stop number one for us to have a chance to win a damn game. That would be the first thing. The other turnover on the sideline that’s a bad throw and I think it’s a bad call. Throwing a 54 yard out for 4 yards. What’s the risk versus the reward there. That goes back to me from an organizational standpoint making sure we are doing the things that I want to get done in that down and distance. Ain’t no one’s fault by mine,” Pruitt said.
It also gets back to doing that they want to get done from an identity standpoint. Chaney has always loved to stretch the field. Aside from a couple of jump balls at Georgia and a deep ball at South Carolina this team hasn’t shown the ability to do that. From a running game standpoint, Tennessee was physical in the offensive line in the run game (not pass protection) averaging 4.3 yards a carry. However, the head coach thought it should have been more
“I thought our o-line blocked pretty good up front to be honest. I was a little disappointed in our running backs on yards after contact,” Pruitt said. “It looked like we blocked them for 6 and we got 6 or sometimes got 5 and a half. We will watch the film and see.”
For opponents there’s 4 games of of the Vols to study. Kentucky played zone and dared Tennessee to be patient and drive the ball. Tennessee wasn’t. Georgia played man and said beat us, and they couldn’t.
Heading into game five, Tennessee has more questions than answers offensively. The obvious is who’s the quarterback, but it’s clear there’s more questions than that with Alabama coming to town next week.