Veteran UT line not pulling weight
Posted: Friday, October 10, 2008 5:52 pm
KNOXVILLE (AP) — Tennessee needed one yard to seal the win against Northern Illinois and couldn’t get it.
So much for the veteran offensive line that had been touted as one of the Volunteers’ strongest units.
With 2:34 left on the clock and a 13-9 lead last week, Montario Hardesty ran for nine yards on first down.
He had no hole on second down, was dropped for a loss of a yard on third down and pushed back two more on fourth in a performance that has coach Phillip Fulmer criticizing the offensive line for not yet playing up to ability this season.
“We’ve had, certainly, some good moments. We’ve rushed the football well at different times. But we have not been nearly as consistent as we need to be with our physical execution,” Fulmer said.
The Vols stopped Northern Illinois’ last drive, but questions about the Vols’ offensive front still linger.
How does a line that allowed only four sacks all last season give up seven through five games? And how does a veteran line struggle against the defense of a mediocre Mid-American Conference team?
“We just didn’t execute like we needed to,” offensive line coach Greg Adkins said. “Give them credit, they played a couple of the plays pretty well. We just didn’t execute to get it done.”
The offensive line has gone through two major changes from this season to last with a new scheme and a new quarterback.
In first-year coordinator Dave Clawson’s offense, linemen switch sides of the ball based on different formations, meaning they must learn plays at more than one position.
Clawson and Fulmer have repeatedly denied that has hurt the play of the line.
Clawson did credit last season’s starting quarterback, Erik Ainge, for avoiding sacks by getting rid of the ball quickly.
Clawson feels that his line has played well at times, and the run game has been mostly successful prior to playing Northern Illinois. It just comes down to consistency, he said.
Xs AND Os: With five games under his belt as a Football Bowl Subdivision assistant coach, Tennessee offensive coordinator Dave Clawson said he’s noticed something about Southeastern Conference defenses: They’re pretty simple.
“I have not found the game planning or the preparation or the play calling to be any more difficult,” said Clawson, who spent 15 years coaching at the Football Championship Subdivision level.
“If anything, I’ve found overall the defenses do less. I find this to be less of a schematic challenge and more of a matchup challenge,” he said.
Clawson said he found Florida, Auburn and Georgia to be as simple defensively as he’s seen in eight seasons but also well-coached and extremely talented.
“I think the challenge has been trying to find ways of creating the mismatches and consistently winning them,” he said. “In that regard, we’re still working hard and trying to find the best way to exploit them.”