In between reviewing the Mumme Poll e-mails, I watched a replay of the Northern Illinois-Tennessee game last night, mainly to see what the new quarterback, Nick Stephens, looked like. His good points were that for a kid making his first start he seemed composed (of course it helps to play a mid-level MAC team out of the gate), he was able to hand off the ball without incident (more than you could say for Crompton), he spread the ball around and he was able to throw the deep ball successfully. The downside? While he could throw the deep ball with some accuracy, there wasn’t as much velocity as you’d like to see. He also had a tendency to lock onto receivers, which is understandable considering his lack of experience, but which isn’t going to serve him well with SEC secondaries.
Of course the biggest problem is that UT managed only 13 points and nine first downs (!) against a MAC defense. The offensive line didn’t do much of anything – Stephens faced a surprising amount of pressure for much of the game and the running attack produced a mere 69 yards on 32 carries.
As for the passing game, much of it is what you’d expect in this day and age for any school that doesn’t run a spread attack. Lots of two and three step drops from the QB with quick throws with some play action mixed in. The kind of stuff that ‘Bama ran against Georgia with great success, in other words. Except that Stephens isn’t as experienced as Wilson and Tennessee doesn’t have Alabama’s offensive line. If I see Georgia come out this Saturday with its DBs giving the UT receivers 8-10 yard cushions, I won’t be a happy camper.
UT’s two best players are Eric Berry and Gerald Jones. The catch is that the Vol coaches only know how to deploy one of them successfully. Stafford had better account for Berry on every passing play this week or he will pay at some point in time. On the other hand, the “G-Gun” package is a waste of talent. It’s a very good idea to get the ball in Jones’ hands early and often; it’s just that there’s very little imagination behind the way that they’re doing it with that formation. Right now he scares me a lot more when he lines up at receiver than when he does so behind center.
Last, I leave you with these musings -
From Chance the gardener in the movie Being There: “In a garden, growth has its season…as long as the roots are not severed, all is well, and all will be well in the garden.”
From Tennessee wide receiver Denarius Moore: “I was telling some of the wide receivers that just consider fans like a tree,” he said. “Sometimes you’re going to kind of lose some of the leaves. Sometimes you’re going to lose some tree branches, but you’re always going to have some strong roots.”
UPDATE: Say what you will, this is some genuinely bizarre stuff. “Speak Pterodactyl”? What is going on in Knoxville?