Tennessee Football: Can Sam Pittman Make the Run Game Click in 2012?
The question: name five things that would make your life better if doubled?
The answers: expense allowances, moving day helpers, cheerleaders, friends with money, but most importantly, Tennessee's running game.
Double the UT run production—is that even possible? The answer is yes. Oh yes, it can surely be done.
The Vols ground game was so pitiful last year, just 90.8 yards per game, that they ranked No.116. That's out of 120 total teams.
If they doubled the output to 181 yards per game, the Vols would still have been ranked No. 35 in the nation in rushing offense. Those numbers are not overly impressive compared to Tennessee teams of the past.
No. 35 in the nation in any category usually doesn't excite UT coaches, players or fans. Still, improving the run game that much would be something to get excited about.
Tennessee has hired the right man to get their offensive line back up to snuff in new line coach Sam Pittman. Coach Pittman spent the last five years at North Carolina. While there, he recruited some of the best linemen in the country and improved the per carry average each year for their run game.
Pittman spent four years at Northern Illinois before going to Carolina. There, the rushing yards per game averaged 160, 238, 207 and 165. Of course for part of that time, their main back was the man who is now the Falcon's top guy, Michael Turner.
What will the Vols rushing yardage average per game in 2012?
Having a Michael Turner, or a kid like Marcus Lattimore of South Carolina, would make a huge difference in the running game at Tennessee. I don't really see the Vols having that kind of explosive back on their roster this year, but it is difficult to assess the possibilities based on the overall run blocking performance of the line last year.
The pass blocking in 2011 was good. Compared to Bray's Freshman year in 2010—where they gave up 41 sacks—last year's 18 is not bad at all. With all the injuries in the pass game and changes made as a result, I'm sure it had an effect on the number.
For comparison, during their last divisional title year in 2007, the Vols only gave up four sacks.
For UT to become relevant in the SEC again, the run game must get to a point where Tennessee can use it as a weapon, not a change up.
Doubling the average yardage would be a nice goal. But, I'm sure the coaches would be happy to see it get up in the 140 to 150 per game average. I figure most fans who watched last year would, too.
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