Worley has options in mind; OL keeps growing
Senior quarterback Justin Worley hears it often. He admits he hears it on campus, around town and it fills his Twitter timeline.
"Why don't you keep the ball on the zone read?"
"People tweet at me all the time, 'You won't pull the ball,'" Worley said. "It's happens.
"Some people don't understand it, or they don't see the bigger picture. They don't see the safety flying down at 10 yards. And a lot of people don't understand I don't have the option to keep it every play."
If you take out the nine sacks surrendered this season, Worley has kept the ball 9 times and rushed for 59 yards. The senior quarterback said for the most part he's made the right decisions when he has had the option to keep the ball.
"Going back and talking to Coach Jake (Mike Bajakian), I could have kept it three or four more times over the course of three games. A lot of people don't see the plays where I don't have a read and I'm just handing it off," said a candid Worley following the Vols' Tuesday practice. "I don't have the option to pull it every time we run the football. There might have been opportunities to run when I don't have a read key. Some people think I can run it when I know I can't.
"I think I have read it pretty well. There is occasionally going to be those here and there. It happens in practice sometimes. Sometimes you get so keyed in to a guy flying upfield instead of crashing hard that when he does crash hard, you aren't prepared for it."
In the Oklahoma game, Worley didn't keep it at all. And he said after watching the film, he doesn't feel like he left yards out there by not deciding to pull it and keep it on the zone read.
"It was maybe one or two plays," Worley said. "And it would have potentially been blown up in the backfield.
"No, there weren't any where I was beating myself up for not pulling it."
Head coach Butch Jones admitted he would like to see his quarterback keep the ball a little more but also reiterated that what people oftentimes see isn't what they think it is.
"Yea, we would. What Im going to do is I'm going to hold a free media clinic on the quarterback reads and pulls because so many times to the observer out there or the naked eye, you think it's a zone read and it's not zone read," Jones said. "It may be a gap scheme or a power scheme and when you flatten hinge the backside you don't ask the quarterback to read. Also, a lot of times when it looks like it should be a zone-read keep, it's just a defensive end closing and making a great play. When the decision point comes it's not there.
"But there has been a few occasions where he could (have kept it). We worked exceptionally hard in the work week (last week) to get that corrected in teaching him how to get down and get 4 or 5 yards for us. So we would (like him to keep it a little more), but there are also some things where were aren't asking him to read it as well. So it's a combination."
Both Jones and starting left tackle Kyler Kerbyson made clear they believe the Vols' offensive line has benefited from largely working intact for the third week in a row. The grouping that started Sept. 13 at Oklahoma --- Kerbyson, Marcus Jackson, Mack Crowder, Jashon Robertson and Coleman Thomas, from left to right --- has remained in place since that time.
"For sure, I'm feeling a lot more comfortable at left tackle than I was a week ago, just being my first week over there," said Kerbyson, a former state champion at Knoxville's Catholic High School. "Now with my third week, pretty much with the bye, I really feel comfortable, and I feel like Jay and Coleman are getting a lot more comfortable, too.
"Just little things; Coleman getting his footwork right, being able to pass off games if we have them. Jashon getting his hands right on run-blocks, being able to get great double-teams together, which is a really, really big part of our offense."
Added Butch Jones, "I do [see daily improvement]. Obviously from here on out, with SEC play they're going to be challenged, and they're going to have to block the best of the best of the best, and that's a great challenge for (18-year-olds). But I see their confidence growing and I see them continuing to get better and better and better with the repetitions that they're seeing."
Jones also noted that redshirt-senior tackle Jacob Gilliam, who suffered an ACL tear that required surgery following the Vols' season-opening win Aug. 31 against Utah State, is trying to work toward a potential return sooner rather than later. Jones said Gilliam is trying to find a way to be back this year, even if only potentially for a bowl game if Tennessee returns to postseason play for the first time since 2010.
"He still has a dream in the back of his mind, and we'll see how he progresses," Jones said.