Tennessee has proven it can run the football. The Vols ranked 20th in the nation in rushing offense in 2015. Now, it’s time to put some air under the football.
“The thing that we want to do with the passing game is continue to build it,” Tennessee offensive coordinator Mike DeBord said on Thursday.
It needs building. The Vols ranked No. 92 in the nation in passing offense, which means there is plenty of room to improve. DeBord said some of the blame can be cast on him, as the Vols didn’t throw as much as they should have last season.
“If you look at our pass efficiency, it got a lot better last year,” he said. “We were efficient with what we did, but didn’t do it as much on early downs and mixed downs.”
Early downs and mixed downs are those moments when a play-caller has to decide between picking a run or pass play. DeBord said that, based on statistics from last season, the Vols were effective when faced with downs in which they needed to pass. That means DeBord believes the Vols can be more effective passing if they commit to doing so. That comes down to playcalling.
“I have just got to work in our throw game on mixed downs a little bit more, which we plan to do,” he said.
The point man of the passing game is always the quarterback, which is senior Joshua Dobbs. His accuracy has been an issue during his time at Tennessee. He ranked No. 70 in quarterback efficiency last season. DeBord said the Vols have worked on Dobbs’ technique since the end of the 2015 season.
“I don’t know that as a coach that you’re ever pleased with somebody’s fundamentals and techniques,” DeBord said. “That’s what coaching is all about. You want them to get better. Josh is working real hard at getting better at that. He’s improved some footwork things. He’s working at getting better right now.”
DeBord is quick to point out that footwork isn’t what is used to be.
“In this offense and a lot of offenses in today’s college football, there’s a lot of different throws with their feet,” DeBord said. “People don’t realize that. They think it’s the old game of just the three-step, five-step drop and it’s not. Footwork is totally different now with all the different kinds of plays you have. He’s really working hard at owning that footwork at all the throws.”
More pass plays? Better accuracy? Clearly, the Vols need both. A strong running game can only take a team so far.