Oct. 10, 2009
BY DREW EDWARDS
Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin seemed legitimately miffed when talking about his special teams following the Vols' 45-19 victory over Georgia on Saturday afternoon.
After all, the Vols have struggled for most of the season, especially on kickoff and punt coverage. Just last week, Auburn's Onterio McCalebb came up with a crucial 52-yard kickoff return, one of three returns longer than 30 yards.
This week, Vols spent extra time this week on kick coverage in practice and shuffled their personnel.
The results were less than stellar, to say the least.
Georgia scored nine points on special teams with a 100-yard kickoff return Brandon Boykin in the second quarter and a blocked punt that ricocheted through the end zone for a safety just before halftime.
"I don't know what more you can do on kickoff coverage than we did this week," Kiffin said. "Unfortunately, we got momentum and then they got a 100-yard return again. We'll have to look at the film and figure something out. We put everybody that we could on that team to try and make a play. So we're going to have to figure it out."
And it could have been worse.
Dennis Rogan recovered his own fumbled punt that nearly gave Georgia possession deep in Tennessee territory. And freshman Nu'Keese Richardson flirted with disaster as well, letting a punt go between his legs early in the ballgame.
The Vols adjusted their kickoff coverage strategy to limit more big returns, mostly kicking the ball to an upback and surrendering field position
"At least it was functional," Kiffin said of UT's adjusted coverage.
It's still troubling entering this week's open date - and with Alabama return specialist Javier Arenas looming in two weeks.
"When you win a game 45-19 and play pathetic on special teams," Kiffin said, "that says a lot about your defense."