Tennessee Football: Why the SEC Wants the Vols' Rush to Fail
Compliments of: www.Bing.com http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=tennessee+vols+rushing+picture&view=detail&id=D10009E91C0BE2C92C76579A6A82B4D21CB77BBC&first=36
Why would the rest of the SEC want the Volunteers' rush game to fail in 2012? Well, why not? They are the competition after all. A healthy improvement in the Vols' run game spells bad news for the rest of the SEC.
Assuming Tennessee doesn't get hit with a number of unfortunate injuries to playmakers again, the run game is where they can make the biggest strides this year.
Other than the obvious, being able to run the football adds several other pieces to the overall rebuilding picture for UT. Some of them may even seem surprising at first glance.
If Tennessee is able to run the ball effectively, it will put the rest of the SEC on notice that the rebuilding process is entering another phase.
Here are five welcome and in some cases, unexpected areas of improvement the 2012 Volunteers will enjoy, provided they are effective at running the football. Should these things come to pass, it will be obvious why the rest of the SEC wants the Vols' running game to fail.
No. 5: Balancing the Attack
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Before being drained by injuries to key players, the 2011 Volunteer offense had morphed into a pass-happy group. Sure, they would run the ball a few times, but as soon as the running game sputtered, it was as if June Jones was running the offense. It was chunk away Charlie on the Hill.
Obviously, that wasn't all bad. They beat a few teams handily, until they ran into top line SEC defenses. Of course, that's also when the injuries started. In fairness, you can't say that the pass-happy offense would have been a failure, or can you?
Let's assume it would. Since the goal of most good SEC defenses is to make your offense one dimensional, Tennessee was in a way, helping them along by not being able to run the ball.
The Vols don't have to get 225 yards on the ground every game to be balanced, but they do need to get way more than the 90 per game average from last year.
If the 2012 Vols can line up and run the football effectively, other defenses will have to respect their run game. That will put less pressure on the passing game and much more pressure on opposing defenses.
Why would the rest of the SEC want a UT team capable of doing that?
No. 4: Control the Clock
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
I could write a book about all the good things that happen to the football team that controls the clock. John Majors used to say "attack, attack, attack!" Other than the obvious, he was also saying you should keep your opponent on the defensive, never allowing them to regroup.
That said, you see games all the time where the team that held a small lead in possession time lost the game. Those games are normally blowouts. Team so superior that they are scoring at will while the other guys are just trying to keep from giving the ball back.
I'm not talking about those games. I am talking about games where the teams are fairly equal in talent, but one team is imposing it's will over the other and continuously controlling the flow of the game. To do that, you must be able to run the football effectively.
The upper-tier defenses in this league do not want to face a Volunteer squad who can move the ball on the ground. If that becomes the case, they will lose the initiative to containing the Vols' offense.
No. 3: Limit the Time the Vols' Defense Is on the Field
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
The 2012 Volunteers have some intriguing players on defense. Some of them may turn out to be stars. As a group though, they are still very new to the defensive schemes of coach Sal Sunseri.
Don't be fooled, they will not just line up 3-4 all day. Early on, you may see these guys in the 4-3 half the time or more. They are transitioning over, not dumping the 4-3 forever.
Last year, the defense played fairly well by the numbers, ranking 28th nationally in yards given up. But that stat was very deceiving for several reasons.
First, the stats were a result from playing a few weaker teams. Secondly, hidden deep in those stats is the fact that the Vols did not pressure the football well at all (16 total sacks). Third, also hidden is the fact they didn't create enough turnovers (the difference in UT turnovers against opponents was zero).
The real deception about how the defense performed last year was in the difference that showed in the first half versus the second half of games with upper-tier teams. At the half, UT was tied with Georgia and Bama, South Carolina only led 7-3 and even the LSU game was still a contest with the Tigers leading 17-7 at the half.
This defense was on the field too much last year. If the offense could sustain drives more effectively against good defenses, the overall numbers for the UT defense would have been better. The SEC definitely hopes the Volunteers' offense doesn't help keep these guys off the field this year.
No. 2: Keeps the Opponents Offense Out of Sync
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Remember Major's mantra "attack, attack, attack!" Here is another one of the subtleties of what it does for a team. Everybody who has played football from junior high knows that the offense sitting on the sideline just gets out of whack.
They want to be in the game. The big uglies start to get stiff and sore if they sit too long. The backs and receivers push a little too much when they are in because they know if they mess up, it may take a while to get back on the field.
Another thing that happens is coaches begin to think: how many more times are we likely to get the ball this half? Keeping the other offense on the bench a few extra minutes a possession eliminates their number of opportunities in the game as well.
You would think that the same would apply to defenders. Maybe they would stiffen up and the defensive backs may make risky breaks, etc. Not at all! The big equalizing factor is adrenaline.
A defensive player sitting on the sideline watching their offense control the clock and move the ball are up cheering and getting into the game!
No 1: Opens Up the Playbook for Everybody
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
The No. 1 reason why the rest of the SEC wants the Volunteers' run game to fail this year. When a defense has you one dimensional, they have all the strategic advantages. They can almost dictate the kind of passes you throw. They can take one or even two of your best receivers out of the mix with double teams and disguises.
Yes, you can still complete passes and gain ground. But you will only get the big play by their defender making a mistake. It is not available through the type of coverage employed by the defense.
If your offense is balanced, you become the one who dictates what the defense does. If they want to drop back or play nickle, that's fine. Just run the football, preferably right up the middle or off tackle.
When the offense dictates the defensive coverages, no longer must a defender make a mistake in order for your guy to make a big play. They can simply be in the wrong defense and have your speedster covered by a guy who can't keep up. Not his fault, he just isn't fast enough.
Man is this game fun when your offense is balanced. That's when those big-time, highly paid coaches over on the other sideline have to really do the job on game day.
Just one more big reason the rest of the SEC doesn't want to have to start dealing with Tennessee being good again!