Oct. 2, 2013
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- In 2013, the Vols are averaging 9.6 points per game off of turnovers, the best rate in the SEC and 10th best nationally.
The others have come in the forms of three touchdowns and two field goals by the offense.
The other seven turnovers, need to be converted into points according to offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian.
"We need to do a better job of taking care of the football at all times," said Bajakian. "As you look at redzone efficiency, points generated off of turnovers, at minimum, in some of those situations we should line up and kick a field goal."
"When we turn the ball over, we walk away with zero points as opposed to three and not being able to move the ball and get the seven points is something that we stress," continued Bajakian. "We are always emphasizing getting touchdowns in the redzone but at the same points, at least have the three points in our back pocket."
The Vols main objective when they get into the rezdzone?
"If you go up in our team room, you will see our plan to win," said Bajakian. "One of our plans to win is score touchdowns in the redzone. Our guys have known not since we just started the season, since training camp, since spring football that that is very important. We spend a lot of time practicing in the redzone and we need to execute better."
"You have to make your possessions count," added Head Coach Butch Jones. "That is the big thing. You can't become frustrated. Everyone has to do their job and manage it. Offensively you can't go three and out, you can't put the defense back on the field. The big thing is just managing expectations and understanding what you are in store for and managing that part of the game."
The offense, like the rest of Team 117, has a snap and clear mental approach to every game. And heads into Saturday's meeting with Georgia with confidence.
"We are always confident," said Bajakian. "Sure we have a snap and clear mentality. If you have a bad play, clear it and look to the next play. Always look to improve upon all of the details of the pass and run game and executing the offense."
"Focus on the details. Focus on our habits and our fundamentals. Protect the football. We can't do anything but stress it, practice it and address it."
TIME TO STEP UP
For the most part, the Vols young secondary has been impressive and consistent this season. The one exception - the nickelback.
With the current high-scoring and attacking state of college football and the SEC, the extra defensive back plays a vital role for every unit.
"We're trying to find consistent play," said Jancek. "When guys get out there they are making mistakes. We're looking for a level of consistency from that position.
"You can't just go with base people and throw a linebacker out there when you're playing these teams that are running three and four wide. You're at a strategic disadvantage and you're at a disadvantage in space. We're trying to get somebody to come alive at that position."
With junior corner Riyahd Jones expected to back in the lineup soon, Jancek and the Vols will possibly look to explore some different options at the nickel.
"That's something - when we got Riyahd (Jones) back - that we may look at," said Jancek. It hasn't come to fruition at this point so we are what we are. We have to keep getting better, focus on us each and every week and improve. That's the message to our guys."
With the dynamic and explosive Georgia offense coming to Neyland Stadium this Saturday, Jancek knows his defense will have its hands full.
"They're a fantastic offense," said Jancek. "They have a great quarterback in Aaron Murray. He's experienced, knows what to do with the football, very accurate and can keep plays alive with his feet. We know that's going to be a big challenge.
"They can strike in a lot of different ways and they can hit big. We know we've got our hands full. That's all I can really say."
Under the direction of Steve Stripling, the defensive line has slowly but surely been progressing.
Always the coach, Stripling can see the improvement in each and every one of his players. But isn't satisfied by where they are at.
"I think as a D Line we are coming along but we have so far to go," said Stripling. "Sometimes we talk in terms of these guys are all freshmen in our program, we have only been here a few months. I think we got some confidence out of last week. They had a little livelier step, that look in their eye."
One of those players who has an extra lift in his step is the big man, Daniel McCullers who has had extra energy heading into this week's meeting with Georgia.
"He has always had a good attitude he is just so quiet you don't know it all the time but he is always listening, learning and trying," said Stripling. "I have never had an issue with his attitude. He has had a good week of practice. I thought today, again, he was really lively, probably the liveliest at the end of a practice than I have seen him."
Another Vol getting his quickness back is Corey Vereen who is still returning to full game action week-by-week.
"When you come off of injury, unless you have ever done that, there is always that moment of truth when you are not sure it is going to hold up," said Stripling. "Corey is past that threshold. He is now playing in games, his reps are adding up, so he is gaining that confidence that he is full speed and full go. Obviously, he adds something for us; he adds an element of quickness and burst. It is nice to see on the field."
The Corey Miller-Corey Vereen tandem combined for a sack and a quarterback hurry during South Alabama's final set of downs last weekend.
The latter Corey had the game ending pressure while the former recorded his second sack of the season, the first time since arriving on Rocky Top he has recorded multiple sacks in a single season, and just five games in.
"He is such a great kid," said Stripling about Miller. "His attitude, work ethic and leadership. You always felt that he would do that but it was developing his physical skills. I think it has come a long way. We are asking a lot of Corey, he plays a lot of spots," said Stripling. "You will see him lining up everywhere across the board. He is not only doing good physically but mentally he is as well."
"Corey is able to handle that," continued Stripling. "Mentally he can play outside, he can play inside, and he can play over the center. He is really taking that challenge and able to play multiple positions."
JUST MAKE PLAYS
Tennessee's defense has accumulated 15 turnovers so far this season. Eleven of those turnovers have been interceptions, three of them resulting in pick-6s. Eleven interceptions in five games is not a normal occurrence in SEC play and defensive backs coach Willie Martinez knows just that.
"The thing we focus the most on is--just play hard, have a great anticipation on what's about to happen to get yourself in the position for those plays," said Martinez. "We've had some interceptions from pressure. We've had some interceptions from good awareness and anticipating on what's about to happen. There's been a couple where there's been bad throws."
Sutton will experience his first game against his home state this Saturday against the Bulldogs and Martinez is impressed with the rapid progression he has seen in the Jonesboro, Ga., native.
"Cam's a smart player," said Martinez." He's more advanced than a lot of the young guys from a standpoint of understanding the game and the anticipation of what's about to happen."
Martinez has been stressing to the young defense, especially Sutton, that they must always be aware of every situation.
"He knows it and we know it," Martinez said. "Obviously, we have a young team, especially in the secondary and he knows they are going to throw the ball at him. That's why the main focus has been-- to improve every day, everything that we do, every week is to get better at some fundamental or some technique or some awareness of the situation, whether it's a down and distance or a formation, things that they do really well.
"At the end of the day, he has to come back to knowing, `I have to be really solid in my fundamentals to understand the defense.' Know where your help is, know where the strengths and weaknesses are and he does such a good job with that."
Although Randolph has only played one full season before suffering a season-ending injury last year, the Kennesaw, Ga., native, is playing like a veteran. Randolph has had three interceptions in the end zone this season, one of which stopped a game-threatening drive this past Saturday against South Alabama.
"You have to practice red zone," said Martinez. "Again, there have been a couple of them where he has made some really great plays and other ones, there was pressure and the ball was thrown a little bit quicker. It's really a combination of all of it. You have to have pressure to generate those turnovers."
If Martinez can continue to stress one factor to the defense this week, there's one thing he would say--"Make plays, just make plays, keep making plays."