Preview 2008 - Offense
2008 CFN Tennessee Preview |
2007 CFN Tennessee Preview |
2006 CFN Tennessee
What you need to know:
Welcome to the Dave Clawson era. The former Richmond head coach
has taken over the offensive coordinator reins from David
Cutcliffe and while he's not going to overhaul the solid attack,
he's going to change things up a bit. He'll add more to the
running game giving the offensive line a chance to be more
physical and use more power than it did under the Cutcliffe
finesse attack. Fortunately he has the line to do it. The Vols
won't give up just four sacks again, but it'll do more for the
running game and with five starters returning and a slew of good
backups, it should be dominant. Lucas Taylor and the receiving
corps are promising, and Arian Foster leads a strong group of
running backs who should thrive with the new tweaks. And then
there's the quarterback. Can Jonathan Crompton be the player he
was throughout spring ball? If so, the offense will be
unstoppable. The only real concern is at fullback where David
Holbert was supposed to help the power game before hurting his
knee. Kevin Cooper needs to be the blocker who helps add more
balance to the offense.
Passing: Jonathan Crompton
7-12, 97 yds, 1TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Arian Foster
245 carries, 1,193 yds, 12 TD
Receiving: Lucas Taylor
73 catches, 1,000 yds, 5 TD
Star of the offense: Senior RB Arian Foster
Player who has to step up and become a star: Sophomore FB
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore RB Lennon Creer
Best pro prospect: Senior OG Anthony Parker
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Foster, 2) Parker, 3)
OT Chris Scott
Strength of the offense: Offensive line, receivers,
Weakness of the offense:
Proven quarterback, fullback
Projected Starter: Does Jonathan Crompton
really want it? That was the main question going into the
off-season for a talented prospect who didn't always show off
the best work ethic. At least that was the perception. That all
changed this spring as the junior took over the leadership role
and showed that he could be the type of quarterback to revolve
the offense around. He only got a little bit of work last season
completing seven of 12 passes for 97 yards with a touchdown and
two interceptions, but he's an experienced veteran with a good
arm and nice mobility. At 6-4 and 220 pounds he has the size,
and he's not afraid to use it to get the hard yards. While that
Tim Tebow-like ability is nice, the team needs him to make
everyone around him better like Erik Ainge was able to do.
Projected Top Reserve: With Crompton taking the
starting job by the horns, that led sophomore Nick Stephens
looking to solidify himself as the No. 2 man in the mix, The
6-4, 215 pounder has worked with the scout team but he doesn't
have any playing time to count on. He improved this spring, but
he didn't do anything to stand out and show he can be the No. 1
6-3, 210-pound redshirt freshman B.J. Coleman has the
high school résumé and has the potential to be the main man down
the road, but he'll spend the year looking for mop up duty. He
has the arm and the potential to push Nick Stephens for the No.
2 job, but he'll likely work mostly with the scout team.
Watch Out For ... the backups to be thrown into
the mix sooner than later. Crompton takes too many chances with
his body and is too physical a runner to stay healthy for a full
season. He's tough, and that could mean Stephens or Coleman will
be thrown into the mix sooner than later.
Strength: Passers. All three options can throw
extremely well and should get plenty of time to operate. The O
line will make them look better than they actually are, but
they'll make the throws since plays will get time to develop.
Weakness: Experience. Crompton wasn't all that great
when he had his chances to shine, and while he appears to be a
new player, the season is relying on him staying healthy.
Stephens and Coleman aren't ready to win an SEC East title with.
Considering Crompton had
elbow surgery, there's reason to be concerned. Very concerned.
Crompton might not be Erik
Ainge, but he appears to be the real deal and ready to make a
huge jump up in production. He doesn't have to do it all by
himself in this offense, but he'll have to be steady and he'll
have to keep the chains moving.
Coleman are fine, but they need more time and seasoning.
Projected Starter: Never considered an elite SEC
back, mainly due to injuries, senior Arian Foster came up
with a huge season as the main man for the ground game ripping
off 1,193 yards and 12 touchdowns with five 100-yard days. He
also turned into a fantastic receiver catching 39 passes for 340
yards and a score. The 6-1, 215-pounder is being talked about as
a first round draft pick next year with the cutback ability and
quickness to go along with his size. He's not necessarily a home
run hitter, but he's good at getting to the second level and can
tear off yards in chunks. He'll have to change up his running
style a little bit in the new offense, he'll be used in more
power sets than last year and he should thrive. Only 685 yards
away from being Tennessee's all-time rushing leader, he should
have few problems getting it if he stays healthy.
Unlike last year under former offensive coordinator David
Cutcliffe, the Vols will use a fullback more often. 6-0,
240-pound sophomore Kevin Cooper likely won't see any
carries, but he's a big blocker who needs to step up in the
starting role after projected starter David Holbert went down
with a knee injury. A special teamer so far, the spotlight will
be on Cooper.
Projected Top Reserves: 6-0, 210-pound junior
Montario Hardesty has a little bit of flash and a decent
résumé as a No. 2 back finishing behind Arian Foster last year
with 373 yards and three touchdowns, but he got hurt in spring
ball suffering a broken leg. The star-crossed runner suffered a
torn ACL in 2005 and wasn't 100% last year with an ankle injury.
He's never going to be a workhorse, but he's a good backup for a
few carries here and there.
Hardesty's injury opened the door for sophomore Lennon Creer,
a great looking 6-1, 210-pounder who finished third on the team
with 214 yards and a touchdown with a gaudy 5.9-yard-per-carry
average. A sprinter who was one of the top relay runners in
Texas, he can crank out big runs from anywhere on the field and
did a little of that this spring when he got the opportunity.
He'll see time as a kickoff returner as well as a key reserve
running back after averaging 29.5 yards per try highlighted by a
50-yarder against LSU in the SEC title game.
5-10, 200-pound true freshman Tauren Poole got to school
early and established himself as a possible option in the mix.
The two-time Georgia player of the year ran for 5,413 yards
including 2,138 as a senior. He's a shifty little back who'll be
an occasional change of pace and could see mop-up duty if he
The fullback job was supposed to go to 6-1, 250-pound senior
David Hobert, but he tore up his knee in spring ball. Now
Kevin Cooper is the starter with true freshman Austin Johnson
looking to make an impact. A big-time linebacker from North
Carolina, he was needed on the offensive side and is undergoing
a trial by fire. He'll need a while before he figures out what
he's doing, but he's 6-2, 242 pounds and physical.
Watch Out For ... Creer. He's not a threat to move
Foster out of a starting spot, but he's good enough to get ten
carries a game and carry the offense for a game or two.
Strength: Production. Tennessee always has good backs,
and it has another possible first rounder in Foster and Creer
looks like a keeper. If and when Hardesty is back and healthy,
the backfield will be loaded with options.
Weakness: Fullbacks. Everything depended on David
Holbert being the man in the backfield, but his knee injury
forced the Vols to go to a plan B. Kevin Cooper and Austin
Johnson had better produce or the power running game will take a
The passing game dominated the offense under Cutcliffe, but with
backs like Foster, Creer and Hardesty, the focus of the offense
will shift back to a more balanced attack with the running game
doing more. Foster isn't a special back, but he's really good;
the offense can rely on him to carry things until Jonathan
Crompton and the passing game gets going. The Vols won't be
ninth in the SEC in rushing again.
Projected Starters: It's not an overstatement to
suggest the key to the 2007 season was the emergence of Lucas
Taylor as a bona fide No. 1 target. The Vols lost all their
star receivers from the 2006 season and Taylor filled the void
with a fantastic 73-catch, 1,000-yard, five touchdown season
despite being academically ineligible for the Outback Bowl win
over Wisconsin. When he was on, he was unstoppable torching
Mississippi State for 11 catches for 186 yards and a score, but
he wasn't a consistent scorer with two of his touchdowns coming
against Arkansas State. At 6-0 and 185 pounds he's not
that big, but he can move and he can jump out of the stadium.
Senior Josh Briscoe tied for second on the team with 56
catches for 557 yards, and he tied for the team lead with six
touchdown catches. The 6-3, 183-pounder was a minor surprise,
but he turned into a steady, realiable No. 2 man who came
through big late in the year with 15 catches for 180 yards and
two scores combined against LSU and Wisconsin.
Junior Austin Rogers tied with Briscoe for second on the
team behind Taylor with 56 catches, but he stretched things out
a bit more than Briscoe with 624 yards and four scores. The 6-2,
185 pounder is a phenomenal athlete who has the tools to do a
lot more. He had a key three game stretch in November when he
caught a touchdown pass against Arkansas, Vanderbilt and
Kentucky, and he was a reliable weapon throughout.
The team's next great tight end appears to be junior Jeff
Cottam, a 6-8, 260-pound monster who caught four passes for
19 yards and a touchdown. A huge blocker with decent hands, he
should get more passes his way Chris Brown and his 41 catches
and six touchdowns gone. While he'll be in a rotation with Luck
Stocker, he'll be a big part of the passing game.
Projected Top Reserves: Josh Briscoe might be a
solid veteran, but it was 6-0, 185-pound sophomore Gerald
Jones who turned the most heads this off-season. He's not a
big receiver and he's hardly imposing, but he makes the
highlight reel catches and is expected to play a huge role this
year after making 11 catches for 111 yards and a touchdown.
Battling Austin Rogers for playing time is 6-3, 200-pound junior
Quintin Hancock, a dangerous prospect who appears ready
to make more of an impact after catching 16 passes for 165 yards
and three touchdowns. One of the stars of spring ball, he showed
he deserves more passes his way. While he didn't do much last
year, he caught a 40-yard scoring grab in the fourth overtime in
the seminal win over Kentucky.
Sophomore Denarius Moore came up with a nice freshman
season as a key reserve making 14 catches for 212 yards with a
15.1 yard-per-catch average. He came through big when
suspensions hit making four grabs for 86 yards in the Outback
Bowl win over Wisconsin, and with his tremendous speed and
potential, he could be used as a home-run hitter behind Lucas
Taylor as well as a kick returner.
While Jeff Cottam might be the
future star at tight end, sophomore Luke Stocker isn't
far behind, if at all. The 6-6, 245-pounder caught four passes
for 11 yards and a touchdown in a reserve role and showed this
off-season that he's ready to become a huge part of the offense.
He might not be the blocker that Cottam is, but he's not going
to shy away from contact.
Watch Out For ... the tight ends. Chris Brown was
phenomenal last year catching 41 passes for 282 yards and six
touchdowns. While he was a good possession target and great
around the goal line, Jeff Cottam and Luke Stocker should be
better overall, at least with a bit more experience, and will
stretch the field a bit.
Strength: Fast veterans and backup options. What was
there to worry about last year? This is Tennessee; it cranks out
stud receivers off an assembly line. Lucas Taylor stepped up and
Austin Rogers and Josh Briscoe were excellent. Now there's depth
to rely on with players like Denarius Moore, Gerald Jones and
Quintin Hancock ready to push for starting roles.
Weakness: A sure-thing deep threat. The Tennessee attack
relied on getting the ball to the receivers on the move and
letting them do something with it. Robert Meachem was phenomenal
at that two years ago, and while last year's receivers were
solid, they didn't crank out that many big plays. The speed and
talent is there to do more deep, but now the production has to
A potential weakness of last year should now be a strength.
Taylor is a true No. 1 target with at least five good players
around him to take the attention away. That doesn't count the
tight ends who should be fantastic. The key will be to see how
this group produces with a new quarterback. Erik Ainge made
everyone look great, and now the corps has to return the favor
to Jonathan Crompton.
Projected Starters: Senior Anthony Parker,
an All-American and All-SEC performer at left guard last season,
will play around with his position this year seeing time at both
guard and center. The 6-3, 300-pounder got over issues with a
knee injury that kept him back a few years ago and turned into
one of the nation's best all around blockers. A devastating road
grater for the running game, he's quick enough to handle any
interior pass rusher. He's a special player who'll be a
multi-millionaire very soon.
Next to Parker on the left side will once again be junior
Chris Scott, a 6-5, 310-pound mauler who stepped in for an
injured Eric Young over the second half of last season after
starting out at right guard. Able to play any position on the
line, Scott will move where needed but will stay outside as much
as possible. While not a top talent like Parker is, he's a
fantastic pass blocker who should get all-star recognition this
6-4, 280-pound junior Josh McNeil is back for his third
season at center with 23 straight starts under his belt. While
he's not a huge blocker, he became more and more consistent as
last season went on and became phenomenal in pass protection.
Tough as nails, he played hurt throughout the year and spent the
off-season healing up. He's an all-star waiting to happen.
While several players will move around from time to time, 6-6,
325-pound senior Ramon Foster is a right tackle. While
he's good in pass protection and is a good athlete, he needs to
keep his weight in check and might turn out to make some money
at the next level at guard. Toughness isn't a problem after
holding up throughout the year with a busted thumb.
The right guard job will go to Jacques McClendon early
on, but he'll have to battle to hold on to the gig. The 6-3,
320-pound junior started the final five games of last year when
Chris Scott moved to tackle and was more than fine. He made one
of the signature plays of the year with a fumble recovery to
save a late drive on the way to the overtime win over South
Carolina, but he was more than that. A smart player who doesn't
make mistakes, now he's expected to become a monster of a run
Projected Top Reserves: If Chris Scott moves from
tackle back to guard, 6-5, 315-pound sophomore Ramone Johnson
should be ready to
step in. A very big, very promising prospect who'll eventually
be a top starter, he'll start out as a key backup at left tackle
and will see plenty of time in the rotation. He'll be an
all-star before his career is over.
Anthony Parker could see a bit of time at center, and
Vladimir Richard is a decent veteran able to start at right
guard when needed. The 6-4, 300-pound junior isn't in Parker's
class, but he's been a good backup at either guard spot and can
beat people up in the running game. The former defensive lineman
is a smart, tough blocker who will be a regular starter at some
point over the next two years.
Watch Out For ... plenty of reshuffling throughout
the year. Phil Fulmer likes versatile linemen who can fill in
the gaps when injuries or other problems arise so he can always
have the best five blockers on the line. Watch for more backups
to see time whenever remotely possible to get more seasoning.
Strength: Pass protection. Give some credit to the
system, give some credit to the coaching staff, and give some
credit to Erik Ainge, but the line really did a fantastic job in
pass protection allowing a mere four sacks. Four. With all the
experience returning, there's no reason for things to slip that
much, even with the new offensive coordinator and quarterback.
Weakness: Consistent run production. With all the size
and all the veterans returning, there's no reason the running
game should average just 4.2 yards again. Making the overall
rushing production even more mediocre was the pass protection.
Usually teams that finish around 73rd in the nation in rushing
has problems with sack totals bringing things down. That's
hardly the case here. Spring ball did nothing to show that this
group can pound on anyone.
A monster disappointment over the last several years, the
Vol front five was fantastic last season in pass protection and
was decent, but not great, for the ground attack. Now the line
should be phenomenal with five returning starters and a few good
backups ready to step in and start when needed. This is an
extremely versatile, very good line that'll give the skill guys
all the time they want to operate.