Stokes’ Stance: What I Expect from the Tennessee Offense
There are a lot of differing opinions on what the Volunteer fan base expects from Team 117, the 2013 edition of Tennessee football. I put it out on Twitter and got anything from who cares as long as they are competitive to 10 wins and 2 losses. But I don’t want to talk in just generalities today; I want to get into some of the specifics for each side of the ball that I expect to see. And I’m not going to just leave this as a players only article either; there are things I expect from the coaching staff. So let’s dive right in.
This unit has the most question marks of any on the team. From QB to receiver to tight end, it’s a toss up as to what the 2013 offense will look like or how they will perform. There are a ton of new additions, which means this team is laden with everyone’s favorite phrase; “YOUTH AND INEXPERIENCE.” So keeping that in mind, I expect to see a few things from this young and inexperienced unit.
Before anyone says anything, I know that the offensive line is NOT young. Nor are they inexperienced. So we’ll start with them. I want to see FEWER PENALTIES from Tiny. The number of yellow flags he draws need to be TINY. Also, they need to be nasty in the run game. With the youth at receiver and a new starting QB, the run game is paramount. Teams will load the box until the passing game proves to be a threat, which means in order for this offense to move the ball, they will need to move it on the ground regardless of how many jam in the box.
The running backs are going to have to run harder and better than they have ever run. I expect to see Marlin Lane as the starter, but I also expect Rajion Neal to push him all season and for there to not be a drop off when he comes in to give Lane a breather. Lane is running very well in practice and I expect him to keep progressing.
My biggest expectations go to Neal. He has waaaaayyy to much ability for him to not produce big time behind this line. He is a threat in the pass game as well as on the ground and I expect him to be a big-play back against SEC defenses. I expect him to pick up his feet when he runs and not let turf monsters and ankle tackles keep him from picking up extra yards. Finally, I expect Alden Hill to shrug off whatever is keeping him from progressing and become the short yardage back UT needs him to be. He looked really good by the end of spring but has recently hit a wall. I expect him to push through, thus eliminating the need for Jones and Bajakian to resort to the “beast package”.
There’s no question that the wide receivers are not up to par. That said, there is talent and potential there. I expect to see that potential. I expect Marquez North to be the number 1, not by default but because he is just that damn good. From what I can tell he is more of an 11-on-11 player so I expect him to rise to the top so to speak. Behind him though, I expect to see a player or two take the heat off of him by mid-season. Paging Devrin Young. Young is a junior and has some nice ability. He and Pig Howard can be a good 1-2 punch at the slot and give North and the QB some relief on the inside. Young has been praised by the staff recently and I expect him to continue progressing.
I don’t expect much from the tight ends because there really isn’t much there. Woody Quinn has some ability but is very raw. I expect him to progress but it may be mid-season before you can really see what he can do. Because of that, Brendan Downs will have to step up and be the leader of this group. He is a nice tight end, nothing great but solid and can be a decent go-to while Quinn is getting his sea legs.
From the QB’s,I expect one of them to fully take control of this offense. I really don’t care who it is, but my money is on either Worley or Ferguson. Regardless, somebody needs to grab the reigns. I do not want a QB competition to continue past Western Kentucky. When you have two, you have none. I expect there to be a clear-cut, I’m-the-guy QB no later than Western Kentucky.
All in all, I don’t expect this offense to put up points in bunches like last season because there are no proven play-makers. The talent that was on the roster when this staff arrived just doesn’t cut the mustard. They did well with the 2013 recruiting class, but there is a reason why they continue to recruit offensive skill position players. The NEED them in a bad way.
That being said, I expect the offensive play callers and coaches to know this teams’ strengths and weaknesses. I expect them to put the players in positions to succeed and to call good situational plays. I expect Coach Bajakian to RUN the football in short yardage situations. I expect to see a lot of screens and a lot of match-ups that favor Tennessee. Football is a game of match-ups and I fully expect this staff to be able to scheme guys up better than we have seen in awhile. It will be up to the players at that point to execute and I expect them to execute. I expect to see 4 quarters of heartfelt effort from this offensive unit and not one single player throwing his hands up halfway through the 3rd quarter because he doesn’t like something.
That does it for the offense, we’ll talk defense next.