KNOXVILLE – The Vols were ripped for numerous big plays against Florida on Saturday night. They’ll have one game against Akron to correct some of those mistakes before returning to the thick of SEC action the following week at Georgia.
Here’s Nooga.com’s weekly analysis of some of the Vols’ defining plays:
(First quarter, 9:15): Florida linebacker Lerentee McCray interceps Tyler Bray and returns it 24 yards
UT Formation: Shotgun, 3 WRs (2 right, 1 left), 1 TE (left), 1 RB
Analysis: This was Bray’s first interception of the year, so it has to be analyzed. Bray gets fooled by the Florida zone blitz in this situation. A zone blitz is when a linebacker or a defensive back blitzes, and somebody on the defensive line drops into coverage. In this situation, McCray is lined up as the left defensive end. He takes one step like he’s rushing the passer, but then drops into a middle-zone coverage. The middle linebacker blitzes, so Bray assumes he’ll have tight end Mychal Rivera open on the crossing route. He’s wrong. McCray grabs the easy interception and rumbles into Tennessee territory to set up the first Florida score.
(First quarter, 4:11) Quarterback Tyler Bray hits receiver Justin Hunter for a 42-yard gain
UT Formation: Under center, 1 TE (right), 1 RB, 3 WR (2 right, 1 left)
Analysis: The Vols are going to like their chances when they can get Hunter in a one-on-one situation with a cornerback. They do it here. The Gators are in a man-to-man defense with one free safety on this play. The strong safety looks to be responsible for the tight end, thus he’s out of the equation for any deep help. Receiver Zach Rogers, who is in the slot, runs a post pattern to keep the free safety occupied. That leaves Hunter alone with Florida cornerback Marcus Roberson. It’s a good throw, and the 6-foot-4 Hunter has little trouble hauling the pass in over the 6-foot Roberson.
(Third quarter, 7:30): Wildcat quarterback A.J. Johnson runs for a 1-yard touchdown
UT Formation: Wildcat, A.J. Johnson (normally a LB) at QB, 3 TE, 1 FB, 1 WR (Bray, the normal QB, is at WR)
Analysis: The Vols utilized this look twice in the third quarter, and it was successful both times. Johnson doesn’t do anything wrong on this play, but he’s not the reason they score. It’s just good blocking. And good math. The Gators have only five players to the defensive left side of the ball. Once tight end Mychal Rivera motions to the right side of the offensive formation, the Vols also have five players to that side of the formation, not counting Johnson, the ball carrier. Everybody covers up a Gator defender. Rivera in particular has a strong block. Johnson can stroll into the end zone. Having the 240-pounder in there was nice, but not even needed on that play.
(Third quarter, 3:27) Florida Wildcat quarterback Trey Burton runs for an 80-yard touchdown
UT Formation: 3-4
Analysis: Tennessee needed one of three defenders to make a play here: linebacker Jacques Smith, linebacker Johnson or cornerback Marsalis Teague. None of them did. Smith gets knocked out of the play by the Florida left guard, James Wilson. Johnson doesn’t bite on the fake to the Florida receiver coming in motion, but he simply doesn’t get off the block of the fullback, Hunter Joyer. Both Gators had textbook blocks. Wilson forces Smith to stay outside, while Joyer keeps Johnson just enough inside to create a seam for Burton. The well-blocked play should’ve gone for about 20 yards. Teague is responsible for the rest. The 230-pound Burton is just too strong for the 180-pound Teague. He can’t force him out of bounds, and he shows impressive speed outrunning Teague and the rest of the defense all the way down the field.
(Fourth quarter, 10:11): Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel throws a 75-yard touchdown pass to receiver Frankie Hammond
UT Formation: Nickel (4-2-5)
Analysis: Defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri likes to be aggressive, and it cost him here. The Vols are in straight man-to-man coverage because they are rushing a total of six. Linebacker A.J. Johnson and nickelback Eric Gordon are the two blitzers in addition to the four defensive linemen rushing. Driskel stands tall and delivers a strike to Hammond, who was loosely guarded by Teague, for what should've been a 10-yard gain. Just as in the 80-yard run by Burton, Teague and the rest of the secondary can’t get him on the ground.
Daniel Lewis covers Tennessee football for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @Daniel_LewisCBS.