Tennessee's Tape Review and Advance Scouting, Week 3

Welcome to the microscope, kid. In fairness, it's not entirely your fault. - Jonathan Ferrey

Yes, Tennessee got their face pounded in by Oregon. What does it mean for the rest of the season, and what happened with the rest of Tennessee's opponents?

1. Yes, we expected this. We may not have expected it to happen in quite this manner - what with Oregon's streaks of five and four straight scoring drives and Marcus Mariota being deadly through the air - but aside from a wildly optimistic few, most everyone figured this was going to be a loss. Tennessee was able to hold their own for a little while, at least - Oregon's first two drives completely fizzled, Tennessee was able to mount an extended drive for the lead - and it's easy to lose sight of that. Related: that TD drive did not include a third down before they punched it in, which matters more than third down conversions.

2. In related news, Tennessee can't afford to spend much of any time in obvious passing downs - 2nd and 8+, 3rd and 5+. You know this implicitly - how much confidence do you have in Justin Worley's arm and ability to make throws? - but the drive charts basically look like a who's who of dead drives when Tennessee ended up in passing downs.

3. Tennessee's second drive in the third quarter was a great example of this: 4-yard gain, 4-yard gain, 5-yard gain, 4-yard gain, 14-yard gain, 1-yard gain, no gain, no gain, punt. Bet you can figure out where the standard downs ended and the passing downs started.

4. Some of the things you'd expect: Worley had one great pass - the TD to Jason Croom was put within 6 inches of the right spot, which is as close to perfect as you'll get - a couple of good ones, and the rest were all moderately to wildly inaccurate. The offensive line looked fine. The running game was decent and got most of the yards available to it, but could't break a run. Thank you, drive through.

5. Of course, the next question is if not Worley, then who? Here's the thing: if you think Butch Jones has a plan, then you have to implicitly trust that Worley - flawed through he is - represents the best chance for Tennessee to win. That may be a knock on the other guys, but I'm not entirely convinced of that. For one, 2014 and 2015 matter way more, and if there's a way to redshirt the true freshmen (Riley Ferguson, Josh Dobbs) then Jones needs to take that opportunity. Worley seems to have the best understanding of the offense, and until Nathan Peterman gets it better than Worley does, Worley will start.

6. The zone read ain't fooling anybody until Worley actually keeps one of them. Right now it's just a delayed handoff, which is death when we face teams with a speed advantage.

7. I don't have much of any comments about the running game beyond that - the lateral runs I think are partly by design, so the speed disadvantage won't help matters. I'd like to incorporate a bit more power style, but not at the expense of practicing core concepts. Marlin Lane didn't have a bad game, and the net totals were fine - 4.7 yards per attempt isn't great on the whole, and nobody was able to truly break a run, but that would've been tough given the strength disadvantages we were running across everywhere. As I said, the ground game got most of the yards it could get, but not anything beyond.

8. I'm pretty sure DeAnthony Thomas forced 25 missed tackles; dude is impressive. Surprisingly - at least to me, Oregon was pretty boom-bust overall; only 2 TDs came on an and-goal situation, and one of those was on a Mariota 9-yard TD run. Then again, when you're giving up TDs on plays of 16, 9, 54, 45, 28, 17, and 11 yards, boom-bust theory doesn't really apply. The problem was - stop me if you've heard this before - speed and strength disadvantages. It was really easy for Oregon to get past the last level of Tennessee's D.

9. That, it should be noted, was by Oregon's design. Mariota is such a running threat that any run fake or rollout is dangerous enough that it should be accounted for by the defenders. However, there's a great coaching point here for the defense: when Mariota rolled out or faked like he'd tuck, he would pull the shortside defender a step or two toward the line of scrimmage. Once that defender was slightly out of his zone (read: once that defender bit on the now-low read of a high-low stretch), he passed over the defender's head. This was most obvious on the Josh Mundt TD reception, but also happened a couple of additional times - the Josh Huff 54-yard TD happened in a similar manner, but in that case the safety bit up on the run fake, vacating his half of the Cover 2 shell. Huff's route split the zone anyway, but the safety was a step up and was never catching up to Huff. (Ed Cunningham blamed the corner who opted for outside leverage, which was a bad choice but only resulted in the completion, not the YAC.)

10. And so, we got our faces pounded in by Oregon. But we'll manage. Oregon did some things that pretty much every other team we face won't be able to do - especially on offense - and so those lessons should just be generalized. What did they do that we'll see more of? They backed off the pass rush, forcing Worley to beat them through the air. This was, as Will mentioned a couple of times over the last week or so, the Rick Clausen defense, and we'll see it over and over again until Worley can make a team pay for an entire half or game.

11. Some short notes on other teams that we'll see this season:

  • There will be other great offenses we'll face - I think. I'm wondering if half the offensive explosions this season among opponents are a function of bad opposing defenses, but South Carolina, Vanderbilt (to an extent), and possibly Auburn and Missouri fall into this category.
  • Alabama, however, is mostly what we think they are, but before you go thinking we have a chance there, read this. Do any of those weaknesses look like something we can exploit? (Georgia, for what it's worth, is in this category but also falls into the spotty defense category; they are, however, the second-best SEC team we'll face at this point.)
  • Fortunately, Florida's offense is still claw-hammer-to-the-face worthy and Kentucky may not be good at football yet. They're probably slightly better opportunities than we figured at the beginning of the year, but that may not mean a ton.
  • I didn't see anything this week that told me anything new about any of our opponents, save Auburn's a bit ahead of schedule and Vanderbilt looks to be luck-regressing a bit (as James Franklin teams do, dating back to his Maryland days). That being said, there's space to lose a toss-up this season, but not a ton of room for error.
So it goes. Florida's this week. Hope you're not ready for offense.
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