Published September 23, 2011 - 6:05am
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The Tennessee Volunteers have a week to scratch their heads after their recent loss to Florida and figure out what direction they are going to have to take in order to win SEC football games moving forward. Tennessee lost to Florida by 10 points, but the game wasn’t as close as the final score indicated.
Tennessee now has a bye week to work on several areas of their football team before they suit back up next Saturday, October 1 against Buffalo.
Here are three items Tennessee has to accomplish with their bye week:
1. Figure out how to replace Justin Hunter: Let’s face it, replacing a player such as Hunter is no easy task, and it most likely cannot be done. However, there are several other key guys who will need to step up. In addition to Da’Rick Rogers, DeAnthony Arnett played very well against Florida. Arnett caught eight passes for 59 yards. The player likely replacing Hunter moving forward will be Matt Milton. Milton will remind you of Hunter with his tall lanky frame, but he is nowhere near the player-maker Hunter is – and not many college receivers are. Tight end Mychal Rivera will become that much more important for Tyler Bray and the passing game as well.
2. Find a primary running back: Who is going to get the bulk of the carries moving forward for Tennessee? Tauren Poole is the returning 1,000-yard rusher, and he appears to have been hurt on his first carry against Florida last weekend. He didn’t tell the coaches that until later. However, I truly feel the coaches love Marlin Lane’s play-making ability more so than Poole’s. Poole is a steady run-between-the-tackles type of player, and that is okay; however, Lane looks to be more of a game-breaker than Poole. Whoever the coaches go with, they need to give that player the bulk of the carries.
3. Get the special teams some type of confidence: Derek Dooley is known as a special teams guru, as noted by Will Muschamp before the Florida game. The special teams play against the Gators was horrible, from blocked punts to just plain terrible punts and missed field goals. Tennessee is not getting much yardage on punt returns (11th in SEC), and Michael Palardy needs to step up his game, because he is just two of four in field goals on the year, good for last in the SEC. Maybe someone just needs to get in Palardy’s grill and challenge him.
There are plenty of good things with this Tennessee team, namely Tyler Bray and the young defense. Bray and Tennessee could present the best passing offense in the league this season. Young defenders AJ Johnson, Curt Maggit and Jacques Smith are going to be prolific for this team when they get some games under their belt.
Even though it’s a bye week in Knoxville, there are several things Tennessee needs to accomplish and figure out before next week’s game against Buffalo.