published Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

Coach Derek Dooley likes 'rhythm' offense

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    University of Tennessee football coach Derek Dooley speaks to the press during an event.
    Photo by Jenna Walker.
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KNOXVILLE -- Tennessee's offense has shown in four games this season that it has the potential to score at any speed.

Count tailback Tauren Poole among those who wouldn't mind if the Volunteers sped things up a little bit like they did briefly in the first quarter of Saturday's win over Buffalo.

"I think we're going to have to do it more, and I know [offensive coordinator Jim] Chaney, as he analyzes it and critiques it, he'll do it more," the senior said at Monday morning's weekly news conference. "If we show that we're being successful out there and that we can do hurry-up, we'll continue to do it. It's getting the defense off balance. That's what I hope we continue to do, but I'm going to run whatever's called and run it as best as I can."

The Vols have faced three up-tempo spread offenses this season, and Florida used a no-huddle on its opening touchdown drive in beating UT in Gainesville two weeks ago. UT only slightly sped up the tempo Saturday for a couple of plays, and coach Derek Dooley said his offense is built more on rhythm than anything else.

"We have different paces," Dooley said. "We break the huddle, we're snapping the ball probably at the same time as a lot of no-huddle teams by getting in the huddle. I don't mean the speed offenses, but the ones that kind of mill around -- they look around, they call the play. We like to stay in a rhythm and we'll change up the pace periodically, but that's not what we do."

Whatever tempo UT uses, it's worked, albeit against some questionable defenses. The Vols are second in the Southeastern Conference in total yards, and quarterback Tyler Bray leads the conference in total offense and passing efficiency. UT is fifth nationally in time of possession.

"A lot of teams, when we look at film, Coach Chaney will say by the 30th or 40th play, he sees [the defense] getting tired and starting to line up slower," right tackle Ja'Wuan James said. "If we can keep our tempo going and set the tempo for the game and don't let them set it, that's in our favor."

Almost special

The kickoff coverage has been good, the return game appears to have found a spark with freshman Devrin Young, and Michael Palardy nailed two field goals against Buffalo. UT's special teams, though, can't seem to avoid that one "horrible breakdown," as Dooley termed it.

"We haven't had a good, clean game," he said. "When I say clean, I mean if you don't make a play, OK, but don't give one up. Two games now we've given one up, and really there's no reason. It had nothing to do with the opponent."

The Vols have had punts blocked in consecutive games. Young fumbled one kickoff return Saturday, and UT's up men bumbled around attempting to recover a short kickoff that led to a turnover. Dooley also wants more from Palardy on kickoffs.

"There's always mechanical issues," Dooley said. "I think there's mental issues that go into it. I think it's leg-strength issues. I think it's a combination of a lot that goes into it.

"He's got a talent. He doesn't have the leg to where if he hits it good it's 10 yards deep [in the end zone], but he's got a good enough leg. So hopefully he'll get better and better at that. We need him to. He's been kicking his field goals pretty good."

The missing piece

Dooley typically talks up UT's opponent at his weekly news conference, and with Georgia visiting this Saturday, the coach had plenty of talent from which to choose. He honed in on Isaiah Crowell, the Bulldogs' freshman tailback who was a consensus top-five recruit.

"It looks like they have found kind of their missing piece, and that was a good runner," Dooley said. "[Crowell] is physical, he's fast, he's productive and, of course, that allows them to be efficient, which is what they want to be on offense -- very balanced."

The 5-foot-11, 215-pound Crowell is fourth in the SEC in rushing, averaging 103 yards per game. Dooley said he's also enhanced Georgia's play-action-pass capabilities with quarterback Aaron Murray, freshman receiver Malcolm Mitchell and tight end Orson Charles.

"He's got the size and he's got good body quickness -- so you never really get a clean hit on him -- he can break tackles and he's got speed," Dooley said. "In his first few games, he's shown that he's got the tools."

Status updates

UT's Oct. 15 game against top-ranked LSU will kick off at 3:30 p.m. on CBS. ... Dooley, whose father Vince is a legendary former coach and athletic director for the Bulldogs, said his Georgia ties mean "absolutely nothing" this week. ... Special-teamer and reserve linebacker Raiques Crump is back after missing the Buffalo game with an infection.

Contact Patrick Brown at pbrown@timesfreepress.com or 901-581-7288. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/patrickbrowntfp.

about Patrick Brown...

Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...

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Very excited about this game. It will be a huge challenge for the Vols defense but I think Bray and company will be able to move the ball through the air. Whoever wins certainly has a leg up in the race to Atlanta.

Values in Flux on the SEC East Stock Exchange http://www.checkerboardchatter.com/2011-articles/october/values-in-flux-on-the-sec-east-stock-exchange.html

October 4, 2011 at 10:19 a.m.
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