Who are the Tennessee Volunteers?
Right now, a couple of games into the season, that’s a difficult question to answer. So difficult, not even head coach Butch Jones is able to provide an adequate answer.
“The two type of offenses (Georgia Tech and Indiana State) we’ve went against have been exotic,” Jones said following the team’s 42-7 win over Indiana State. “… so we’re still ongoing in terms of where we’re at as a football team, especially from a fundamental standpoint.”
So because Tennessee has squared off against a pair of unique opponents — Georgia Tech runs the triple-option, while Indiana State runs an offense with millions of pre-snap shifts — the Vols have yet to discover who they are as a football team.
Isn’t that what you want to hear heading into the most important game of the season?
Against Georgia Tech, Jones opted to throw the ball 37 times and run the ball 22 times. It was one successful two-point conversion away from being a dud in the play-calling department. Against Indiana State, the Vols were more balanced, throwing 30 passes compared to 37 rushes. However, 18 of those rushes came from John Kelly, which was one less carry than he had against Georgia Tech.
That’s right. In an absolutely meaningless game designed for backups to gain valuable repetitions, Kelly was the workhorse. Meanwhile, Carlin Fils-Aime and Ty Chandler only recorded seven carries between the two.
Luckily for Butch, Kelly left the Indiana State game unscathed. With SEC play approaching, now is the appropriate time for Kelly to receive an abundance of touches.
That offensive philosophy should become a reality considering there are lingering questions over Quinten Dormady’s accuracy 10 yards or more down the field. While the junior showed improvements in that department against the Sycamores, facing the Gators in The Swamp is an entirely different animal in itself. The last time Tennessee visited Gainesville, Josh Dobbs threw for 89 yards, with a healthy chunk of those yards coming during the final drive of the game. Given Dormady’s performance thus far, an under 100-yard passing performance is in the cards. That’s why establishing an identity on offense is paramount — when one aspect of your team is faltering, you have your bread-and-butter on offense to lean on. Oklahoma does it with Baker Mayfield. Alabama does with its defense. All the top-tier programs in the nation have a defined trait that makes them championship contenders.
But knowing Butch, and given the patterns of his play calling over the past two seasons, it remains a virtual uncertainty how he will approach the Florida game, and every game proceeding it. More than likely, we’ll never know the true identity of Team 121.