KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee doesn’t have much margin for error on offense now that Josh Dobbs is no longer around to save the day when offensive linemen miss blocks and receivers run the wrong routes.
Fifth-year Vols’ coach Butch Jones knows this, and that’s why his summation of Friday’s first day in pads led off with one of the biggest areas of concern: the passing game.
“The big thing overall was just consistency, especially offensively, too many dropped footballs today,” Jones said. “The big thing is one drop is too many.
“As we know, a drop in our offense is basically the equivalent of a turnover, and we can’t have that. That goes back to having the discipline of a football team that doesn’t beat itself.”
That will be especially true for No. 24-ranked Tennessee in its opener at 8 p.m. on Sept. 4 against Georgia Tech, a team that focuses on time of possession in an attempt to limit the oppositions’s amount of plays.
Yellow Jackets coach Paul Johnson, 3-0 against the SEC, said by huddling and running the play clock Georgia Tech can make opponents’ really pay for their mistakes.
Tennessee is breaking in new quarterbacks, with junior Quinten Dormady and redshirt freshman Jarrett Guarantano both expected to play.
But there are several questions at receiver, where the Vols lack any proven talent behind junior Jauan Jennings.
Sophomore Tyler Byrd has great speed and athleticism, but he has not yet shown the intuitiveness of a great receiver nor the vision to make game-breaking runs after the catch.
Senior Josh Smith has yet to make a significant impact in his career, and sophomore Brandon Johnson is coming off a shoulder injury that forced him to miss spring.
Junior college transfer Jeff George was a bust last year, making just one catch, and redshirt freshman Latrell Williams is still dealing with consistency issues.
Jones does like the attitude, however, and he seems to be encouraged by Williams’ progress.
“We thought Latrell had one of the better springs of any of our receivers, and he’s picked it up where he left off,” Jones said. “The big thing for him is just consistency and route running, and catching the football.
“We all know he’s very explosive and he works exceptionally hard, as do all our players, but I’ve been very encouraged with Latrell.”