First things first, Butch Jones began his weekly Monday press conference by saying that he “fully anticipates” playing against Florida “in Gainesville” this upcoming Saturday. However, that aspect of football operations is in the hands of Athletic Director John Currie.
In addition, Butch offered a quick injury update: Eli Wolf (sprained ankle) is questionable, as are Marcus Tatum, Evan Berry, Austin Smith, and Baylen Buchanan. Meanwhile, Tyler Byrd, Josh Smith (who could’ve played Saturday against Indiana State), and LaTrell Williams are all ready to go.
Now, for the juicy stuff.
Aside from the usual — commending his team for the win over Indiana State, saying they need to get better, and showering an awful Florida offense with praise — Butch dropped a couple of interesting tidbits.
Quinten Dormady in the running game
Dormady’s ability as a passer remains a work in progress. He made strides in his downfield accuracy against Indiana State, but against Florida’s defense, the pocket won’t be as clean and the passing lanes will become much tighter.
However, one area of Dormady’s game we haven’t seen much of is his running ability. The junior isn’t a trail blazer like Josh Dobbs or Jarrett Guarantano, but after running a couple of run-pass option plays against Georgia Tech, it’s evident Dormady has just enough athleticism to effectively run those type of plays.
Last season, there was a conspiracy floating around that Tennessee’s slow starts against Appalachian State, Virginia Tech, and Ohio were attributed to Butch “hiding the playbook,” as in, he was intentionally calling a vanilla offense in order to catch SEC defenses off guard.
Clearly, this wasn’t the case, but the lack of Dormady’s usage in the running game — as well as zero implementation of the much-desired Guarantano wildcat package — suggests Butch and offensive coordinator Larry Scott might have a few tricks up their sleeve.
Defensive Line Play
Tennessee’s rush defense ranked 111th nationally last season, allowing a staggering 231.7 yards per game. The Vols then allowed a school-record 535 rushing yards against Georgia Tech, and although Indiana State didn’t gash Tennessee on the ground, the Sycamores still experienced some success, especially from running back Lemonte Booker (15 carries, 76 yards).
There was a valid excuse why the Vols struggled against the run in 2016. One that was emphasized by Butch time and time again.
This season, Butch provided a different reason why the run defense is struggling.
“It’s been a challenge to really evaluate everything defensively,” Butch said on Monday. “Because of the different types of offenses we’ve seen the last two weeks.”
Although Georgia Tech’s triple-option offense and Indiana State’s whatever-the-hell-all-that-motion-stuff-is offense both present unique challenges, the defensive coaching has been criticized in one schematic department.
LITERALLY A ENTIRE YARD OFF THE DAMN BALL!!!! pic.twitter.com/IbPKHbcRz7
— Albert Haynesworth (@haynesworthiii) September 5, 2017
2&1 and we line up on the first down line!!! We will have the worst rush defense in the SEC!!! But good news is we are CHAMPIONS OF LIFE!!! pic.twitter.com/3Pha2EHope
— Albert Haynesworth (@haynesworthiii) September 9, 2017
Butch, being his typical media savvy self, addressed the criticism.
“We’re always a yard off the line of scrimmage,” Butch said. “Or hand behind the ball… not quite a yard, but that’s something we continue to talk about.”
Deciphering that quote is a headache, so let’s just address the initial claim that Tennessee’s defensive line is “always a yard off the line of scrimmage.”
A quick observation of last season’s game against Nebraska completely dispels this.
All three plays occurred on the same drive.
Clearly, the reasoning behind playing the defensive line so far off the line of scrimmage was to avoid immediate cut blocks. Against Florida, this won’t be a constant issue.