By Jimmy Hyams
Before this season, I didn’t think Tennessee’s offensive line would fare well.
I wasn’t optimistic just because several starters returned.
I didn’t think you could go from a zone-read blocking scheme where linemen seemed to push and shove to an I-formation, pro set where you had more isolation blocks, which require more strength.
Former Auburn offensive lineman Cole Cubelic of the SEC Network backed up my theory during an interview.
So here are the four reasons I think UT’s offensive line isn’t up to SEC standards:
- Change of philosophy. The Vols simply aren’t strong enough.
- Sixty strength coaches in six years. OK, that’s an exaggeration. But you get the point. So many changes in strength coaches is a good reason UT’s offensive line isn’t strong enough. You can’t have a revolving door like that and expect good results right away.
- Linemen were overrated. I don’t care how many four or five star offensive linemen UT has, the only one that plays at an SEC level is left tackle Trey Smith, and he’s not having a great year – probably because of the offseason blood clots around his lungs that kept him out of action for six months. Smith might also be better suited for guard.
- Play calling. Against Florida, UT called seven passes on 43 first-down snaps. (I count the pass interference call against Florida as an attempted pass, although it isn’t officially in the record books.) UT averaged 2.2 yards on first down, with the 36 runs amounting to 64 yards. That’s anemic. When you become predictable with play calling, it further exposes a weak offensive line. You don’t have to call 22 reverses per game, but you have to mix up screens with quick hitches or slants with double-team blocks at the point of attack with zone-reads from the quarterback.
That leads us to Georgia.
Georgia doesn’t have a great run defense – Missouri had 172 yards and ran for four scores — but I don’t see UT having much success on the ground against the Bulldogs, especially if the Vols aren’t more creative with their play calling.
With that said, let’s recap our picks from last week:
Odds-makers had their best week of the season, going 15-35 when the spread was within 7 points and the right winner was picked. The previous 3 weeks odds-makers hit on less than 30 percent.
Double digit misses last week: Virginia Tech favored by 27 over Old Dominion; Oklahoma State favored by 14 over Texas Tech. Also, Kentucky beat Mississippi State despite being a 9.5-point underdog.
A recap of last week:
The hits: Best pick was Alabama by 21; Tide won by 23. … I had Missouri scoring 30 v. Georgia; Tigers scored 29. … I had Auburn 34-10 over Arkansas; it was 34-3. … I went 3-1 in my SEC best bets against the spread, missing UT when Vols got 8 v. Florida.
The misses: I had South Carolina winning by 4 over Vanderbilt; Gamecocks won by 23 … I had Ole Miss by 36 over Kent State; Rebels won by 21 … I had Mississippi State over Kentucky; Wildcats won 28-7
Last week: 6-2 (3-1 on SEC best bets)
My picks for this week
Alabama 54-7 over Louisiana-Lafayette
Texas A&M 44-17 over Arkansas
Auburn 37-10 over Southern Miss
Vanderbilt 50-10 over Tennessee State
Mississippi State 24-20 over Florida
Kentucky 24-20 over South Carolina
LSU 30-27 over Ole Miss
Georgia 41-7 over Tennessee
My best bets in the SEC:
Florida getting 8 points against Mississippi State
Ole Miss getting 13 against LSU