September 26, 2012

UT offensive breakdown


It is tough to find a quarterback more capable of putting together sustained drives or big plays than Tyler Bray. The third year starter does almost everything right when he is able to stand in the pocket. He has a high release and very solid footwork and both allow him to deliver the ball accurately to any point on the field. A lot of quarterbacks struggle to throw the ball to the outside but Bray does an excellent job of staying on top of the football and delivering it where the receiver can make a play. When he has room around his feet in the pocket, he also does a great job of stepping into throws to the middle of the field and delivers them with quickly and accurately. There is very little that he can't do as a passer. He does a good job of reading defenses pre-snap, and looks off defenders well. Bray has an excellent understand of Jim Chaney's offense at UT, and does an excellent job of running through his progressions. There are few things that Bray struggles with. First of all, he doesn't make the last-minute adjustment to his throw very well. If a defensive back jumps a route, Bray rarely sees it happen quickly enough to throw his receiver open. He also had a problem delivering passes when he moves to his left. When moving to his right, he is very accurate. When moving to his left, he often lets balls get away from him and struggles to get his shoulders square to the line of scrimmage.

Running back

Junior running back Rajion Neal leads the Vols in rushing, and has gotten steadily better with each game. Neal has put on weight this season, but doesn't appear to be breaking more tackles than he has in the past. He is a fairly balanced runner with solid vision and has the quick burst to bounce it outside and make things happen on the edge. Between the tackles, he isn't as physical as some backs his size, but he has good lateral quickness and can change holes well on a dime. Neal is a very good receiver out of the backfield, and has some ability to make plays in space when he catches it. Neal is the primary back, but it is tough to understand why sophomore Marlon Lane doesn't get more touches. Lane is a playmaker with tremendous balance and very good speed. He does an excellent job of pressing his track to the line of scrimmage, and then making the appropriate cut at the last second. When he has a seam, he has the explosiveness to burst through it, and while he isn't very powerful, he does have the forward body lean to run through tackles. Lane is most effective on the edge and in space, and does a good job, like Neal, of catching the ball out of the backfield. Both Neal and Lane have a tendency at times to try and do too much with the football, and have gotten thrown for big losses and taken more punishment than necessary.


There is no better group of receivers in the SEC. Justin Hunter is one of the most talented wide outs in all of college football, and while he may be coming off an ACL injury last season, it hasn't slowed him down much. At 6-foot-4 200 pounds, Hunter has the length and strength to make plays when he isn't open, but he also has the explosiveness to get behind defenses and make the big play. He is a solid route runner that rarely rounds off his routes, and he does an excellent job of catching the ball out front and at its highest point. He doesn't really struggle with the jam, but defensive backs have had some success when they initiate with him during the route. A guy Georgia fans are very familiar with is Cordarrelle Patterson. Patterson, like Hunter, is a big receiver at 6-foot-3, 205 pounds, but he also has the speed and ability to accelerate and get behind defenses. Patterson is a big play threat any time he touches the ball, and has had a couple of long, impressive runs this year. Two other receivers Bray uses a lot are tight end tight end Mychal Rivera and slot receiver Zach Rodgers. Rivera had a big game against Georgia last year with five catches for 85 yards, and is arguably the best tight end in the conference. He is a solid route runner with excellent athleticism. Rivera is also a big time third down target for Bray. Zach Rodgers isn't considered a burner, but he has a knack for making big plays in the passing game. He has a long catch of 72 yards this year, and is averaging almost 25 yards per catch this year. While he can make the big play, he can also be a reliable possession receiver that understands how to sit down in zone coverage and help move the chains.

Offensive line

The Volunteers start a couple of tackles that UGA recruited very hard in Antonio Richardson and Ju'Waun James. Both will play on Sundays one day, and have the combination of size and athleticism that coaches love. While both are very talented and effective, neither is perfect. Richardson tends to over set on straight drop back plays, and can be beaten to the inside by a rusher with a dynamic move. He has also shown that he will make the wrong read on an overload blitz to his side and leave the inside gap open. As a run blocker, he does a great job with down blocks, and has the athleticism to reach a defender outside of him and seal the edge. Unlike Richardson, James tends to under set against speed rushers and allow himself to be beaten to the outside. Against average pass rushers, he has the athleticism to make up for it, but he has had some struggles with some of the better pass rushers in the SEC. James is a very solid run blocker that locks on to defenders well and gets good movement at the point of attack. The UT guards, Dallas Thomas and Zach Fulton, are both very good pass protectors, but underwhelming run blockers. Both appear to have the feet and quickness to pass protect as well as most tackles. They do a good job of punching and placing their hands. In run blocking, however, they struggle to get movement and play a little high. They didn't do a good job against Florida of cutting off inside gaps and allowed a great deal of penetration in the second half. They are also prone to missing assignments when blitzes are brought up the middle. Center James Stone doesn't get a great deal of publicity, but he is one of the best in the country. Stone is a technically sound lineman that plays with an incredibly strong base. He rarely gets bull-rushed, and has shown that he can handle one techniques by himself. He has a violent initial punch, and does well when he gets a chance to block at the second level.


• First Down - The Vols have a slight tendency to run the football on first down (56%). Against Florida and North Carolina State, they went on long stretches where they would run the ball on first down, then go on long stretches where they would throw the ball on first down.

• Second down - Exactly 67% of Tennessee's second downs against UF and NCSU were for long yardage.

• Second down and long (7 or more yards) - The Vols are 63% pass here, and it is the down where they tend to throw the ball more to their running backs.

• Second down and medium (4 to 6 yards) - The tendency on this down in distance is to stick with the pass, but not as much as with long yardage. The Vols go to the air 55% of the time with 100% of those second and medium passes going to the wide receivers.

• Second down and short (less than 4 yards) - For most teams, this is a play action passing down. Tennessee only goes with the play action 27% of the time, and they run it 57% of the time.

• Third down - More than half of Tennessee's third downs are for long yardage (51%).

• Third down and long - This down is 100% pass. They rarely try to play the numbers game on third down and long, and have opted to go with the pass every opportunity. They also went to the tight end, Rivera, five times against Florida on third and long.

• Third down and medium - This is still a clear pass scenario for UT as they have gone to the air
83% of the time.

• Third down and short - This is the only clearly dominant run down for the Volunteers. They go to the ground 64% on third and short, and that percentage is still lower than most teams.

Statistical Notes

• Despite being second in the conference in total offense with 513.8 yards per game, they are fifth in the conference in scoring offense with 38.2 points per game.

• The Vols lead the SEC in passing yards per game with 341.2, but they are fourth in the conference in pass efficiency (156.6).

• Tennessee has missed three PATs this season. That is most in the conference.

• Bray has only been sacked twice this year for a total of 13 yards.

The Vols lead the SEC in first downs with 25.5 per game.

• Tennessee is eighth in the conference in third down conversions with just over 40 percent.

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