We're getting close enough to the end of the season that perhaps the most important thing to look at right now in terms of improvement is this year's number as it relates to last year's number. Kickoff defense has been strong not only for this entire season, but for last as well. Protecting the ball is much better than last year, as is pass defense, first downs allowed, kickoff returns, and red zone efficiency. Some of the other stuff we can't really tell until we look at the under-30 and over 90 numbers, which we'll do at the end of the season. Anyway, here's the chart as it stands now of the things the team is doing (or has done) well in 2011.
|Categories In Which Tennessee
Was In The Top Quartile This Season
|Kickoff Return Yardage Defense||9||14||12||21||18||13||24||11||13||12||9|
|Time of Possession||90||14||5||10||5||12||-||-||-||28|
|First Downs Allowed||-||-||-||-||20||22||30||30||-||24||29|
|Red Zone Efficiency||104||T-7||-||-||23||17||16||9||20||27||-|
|Offense Third-down Efficiency||-||11||4||7||T-1||4||5||23||-||-||-|
|Passes Had Intercepted||-||-||-||-||T-17||T-6||21||-||-||-||-|
|Defense Third-down Efficiency||-||-||-||-||-||30||-||-||-||-||-|
|Defense Fourth-down Efficiency||-||-||T-1||19||T-7||-||-||-||-||-||-|
Notice that those things that the team is doing well are primarily team-ish things. The current team is mostly devoid of stars, save Da'Rick Rogers, who's the only player showing up in the top 30 at any position in any stat, and then only barely:
|Da'Rick Rogers||Total Receiving Yards||-||-||-||-||29||28||-||-||28||26|
|Da'Rick Rogers||Receiving Yards Per Game||-||-||-||17||23||29||-||-||-||29|
And now for those . . . ahem . . . areasofgreatestopportunity. Again, looking at year-to-year comparisons, UT's running game is actualy worse than last year's national ranking of 105. First downs and scoring offense improved significantly, but have taken a major hit after gnawing on the bone sandwich that is this year's schedule. Net punting and everything in the chart below from Punt Return Yardage Defense to Turnovers Gained looks like it's worse than last year (but it's possible that I just didn't record the number last year -- we'll see for sure at the end of the season.) It does look like the team has improved penalty discipline and punt returns, so there's that.
Categories In Which Tennessee
|Punt Return Yardage Defense||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||101|
|Red Zone Efficiency Defense||-||-||-||-||-||-||T-105||-||-||-||-|
|Fewest Yards Penalized Per Game||-||-||-||98||-||-||-||-||-||-||-|
|Fewest Penalties Per Game||-||-||-||97||-||-||-||-||-||-||-|
|Offense Fourth Down Efficiency||96||59||94||-||-||-||-||-||-||-|
Question to ponder. How much of this improves along with an improved rushing game? Most offensive categories, right? Perhaps even the passing game by making the offense two-dimensional? What sort of positive impact may it have at the margins on defense? Does it allow the defense to play more aggressively? Is that good? The reason I'm asking is that it would seem that fixing the running game in the offseason is Job One, not just because it's an important goal in itself but because it may have ancillary benefits as well. Thoughts?