Tennessee Vols Football: Not a Bad Time for a Bye Week
There may be a better time for a bye week during the October stretch that includes Georgia, LSU, Alabama and South Carolina in consecutive weeks, but no one's complaining about the Vols' only off-week coming after last weekend's loss in The Swamp.
Head coach Derek Dooley talked of the young Vols' need to get some scars heading into Florida week. Now, the team needs this week to heal from some of those scars.
The biggest scar from last Saturday—other than the loss—is the ACL tear that star wide receiver Justin Hunter endured last weekend.
There's no denying that the injury, five minutes into Saturday's game, knocked some of the Vols off of their game in the moments following. But it was the Gators running out to a 30-7 lead and holding the Vols to minus-nine yards rushing that beat Tennessee.
The Hunter scar will not be healed for at least eight months, but the emotional residue from the loss left on this impressionable group of mostly freshmen and sophomores should begin to heal up just fine over this bye week.
Of course, it's not like the team has done nothing since Saturday. A sluggish Tuesday morning practice left Dooley so aggravated that he didn't even speak with the media.
The head coach was a bit more talkative on Wednesday when he discussed some of the issues facing this young team.
For starters, Dooley took on an apparent perceived misconception about his offensive line. "Y'all are talking like we have this disaster on the offensive line," Dooley said.
He continued, "We don't."
Which Vols offensive unit is more of a disaster?
Dooley is partially correct on the angst surrounding the offensive line. That group, almost all sophomores, has been pretty good in pass protection. Despite Florida's three sacks and center James Stone's snapping issues, quarterback Tyler Bray still threw for nearly 300 yards last weekend.
But, the line has allowed six sacks in 114 pass attempts through three games. The only teams that have allowed more sacks with at least 110 pass attempts are Arizona, Duke, Hawaii and Idaho. Those teams are a combined 4-8. That's not exactly the best company to be in.
And then there's the running game—27 yards on 14 carries for Tennessee's running backs against Florida is about as close to "disaster" territory as it can be.
Apparently, Dooley has an answer for that as well. "More than anything we've got to play with a little more violence, at runner especially."
Dooley could not be more spot-on in that respect. Vols backs have not run with any kind of burst or instinct through the season's first three games.
Senior running back Tauren Poole has racked up just 217 yards as the starter in all three games and true freshman Marlin Lane has chipped in a couple of short touchdown runs, but there has been nothing dynamic about either back to this point.
There's no better time than the present to work on both of those glaring issues.
Luckily for the Vols, Buffalo comes to town next week before the SEC schedule and that aforementioned murderer's row comes calling. So Tennessee really has a couple of weeks to iron out the issues that have plagued the team throughout the first quarter of the season.
Right now, the Vols have time. Dooley and company better use it wisely.
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