#VolReport: Preparing For The Razorbacks

by UT Sports Information on September 29, 2015

in Tennessee Vols Football

unnamed (1)KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee opened Tuesday’s practice with “Circle of Life” drills, perhaps foreshadowing a physical grind-it-out game on Saturday between two dominant rushing attacks.

The Vols (2-2, 0-1 SEC) rank third in the SEC with 248.0 rushing yards per game and third in the league with 12 rushing scores. The Razorbacks (1-3, 0-1 SEC) are averaging 186.2 rushing yards per contest and have dominated time of possession at 36 minutes per game.

“I know they want to run the ball,” Tennessee defensive coordinator John Jancek said. “I know Coach Bielema certainly has come out and stated that they are going to run the ball. And so we’re preparing for that as we go forward in the week.”

Saturday’s game will feature two of the premier running backs in the SEC in UT’s Jalen Hurd and Arkansas’ Alex Collins, who are tied for the conference lead in carries at 86. Hurd’s seven rushing touchdowns rank third in the league and his 402 rushing yards rank sixth. Collins has rumbled to 502 rushing yards (third-most) and four scores.

Hurd: Fighting for an Advantage

The Tennessee running game has been a real strength in the first four games of the season. After a breakout freshman season, Jalen Hurd has come back stronger in year two.

Hurd ranks ninth in the country with seven rushing touchdowns to go along with 402 rushing yards in four games.

“He’s done a good job of durability, just staying healthy,” UT running backs coach Robert Gillespie said. “He’s just doing everything that he needs to do for this offense to click: unselfishly running the ball, blocking, catching the ball out of the backfield. I think he’s expanded the type of running back he is. I think he’s becoming a complete back.”

Offensive coordinator Mike DeBord knows Hurd will fight for extra yardage.

“I knew Jalen was an excellent running back,” DeBord said. “He is hard to tackle right now. What he has been able to do is run through guys or make guys miss and he has been outstanding. He is a warrior, a tough guy, and a guy you like to put the ball in his hands because he is going to do something with it.”

The Tennessee offense has relied on the ability to hold onto the ball this year, only turning over the ball two times. Hurd has not turned the ball over at all.

“Sometimes the best defense is a good offense. That’s one thing our kids know. It’s our job to stay on the field and put points on the board,” Gillespie said.

Hurd has helped Tennessee hold the ball for 12 more minutes than its opponents. The Vols have outscored the opposition 165-99.

Defense Preparing For Battle In The Trenches

Since 2006, Bret Bielema-coached teams have averaged 210.8 rushing yards per game. Tennessee’s coaches and players know there is no margin for error when facing Bielema’s physical brand of football.

“I tell you what, the formations they do, if you want to run just two coverages and two pressures, you better be on point,” Jancek said.

Defensive line coach Steve Stripling said UT will rotate five defensive ends and five tackles. He is preparing Tennessee’s big men for a game that will be decided at the line of scrimmage.

“At this point, our motto this week is ‘every play is 4th-and-1,'” Stripling said. “The guys who are producing on the field are the ones who are playing, so right now we have a pool of 10 that are all going to be in there.”

Tuesday Quotes

  • Offensive Coordinator Mike DeBord(On the 16-play, 70-yard TD drive at Florida)“I just thought that was a drive of execution. I thought that whoever had the football, they did a great job of getting the ball up the field and making guys miss. I thought our linemen did as well of a job of blocking the second level as we’ve done all year. Guys were downfield getting on linebackers and stuff like that. It was a combination of a lot of things.”

    (On limiting Joshua Dobbs in the run game)

    “That varies game to game. I’m going to be very honest, I didn’t know he was going to run the ball that much going into the game. We had those runs, we practiced those runs, but when you get in the game it’s a new story. All of a sudden, now the quarterback runs are very effective against them. I’m going to stay with what’s effective, and that’s the quarterback run. He’s such a threat running the football and throwing the football. He’s hard to defend for defenses.”

  • Defensive Coordinator John Jancek(On preparing for Arkansas’ offensive physicality)“They do a good job. The thing for us is that it is pretty foreign. I don’t know if you guys noticed, but last week when we got 12-personnel we played nickel. This week there is no way. They will knock you out of the stadium if you do that. So, we’ve got to play base. So, we’re going to have some young guys in there. I tell you what, the formations they do, if you want to run just two coverages and two pressures, you better be on point.”

    (On Arkansas having a lot of pass attempts)

    “They have been in some situations where it’s really required them to do that. I know they want to run the ball. I know Coach Bielema certainly has come out and stated that they are going to run the ball. And so we’re preparing for that as we go forward in the week.”

  • Assoc. HC/Defensive Line Coach Steve Stripling(On change in line rotation against running teams)“In a shorter yardage, like third-and-short or fourth-and-short, when you think they are definitely going to run it, I think you are definitely going to get your biggest, most physical, most leverage players in there.”
  • Running Backs Coach Robert Gillespie(On the importance of ball security)“We make a conscious effort of it. Coach Jones stresses it every day. In this league, we have to point out all the time that defenses are going after the ball. This is a turnover game. So far, these guys have done a really good job, but it’s every carry. Those guys have done a really good job of taking care of the ball, and they’ll continue this week versus Arkansas.

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