Is Mike Bajakian the weak link on UT's staff?
The Tennessee Volunteers finished their second season under head coach Butch Jones with a 6-6 (3-5 SEC) record. The Vols earned bowl eligibility for the first time since 2010, finishing with a 3-1 record in their final four games.
Tennessee dominated the recruiting trail, ranking No. 5 overall in 2014 class. Four of the Vols coachess — Tommy Thigpen, Robert Gillespie, Mark Elder and Steve Stripling — ranked among the top 100 recruiters.
The Vols defense improved from No. 83 overall to No. 35 in 2014. However, Tennessee’s offense struggled through most of 2014, ranking No. 98 overall.
The Vols had the worst offensive line in the SEC, ranking No. 118 in sacks allowed and No. 124 in tackles for loss allowed. Offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian accepted blame for the position group’s struggles in the trenches.
“It starts with me,” Bajakian told GoVols247 in October. “Obviously I’ve got to do a better job of preparing our guys during the week for those different types of situations and putting them in situations to make those plays.”
Bajakian also received blame from a portion of Tennessee’s fanbase for his play calling decisions. The second-year coordinator relied heavily on screen and swing passes, despite facing long third downs and late-game deficits.
But, with the Vols struggling offensive line, the coordinator made the most of what he had, adjusting the playbook to avoid a collapsing pocket. With the o-line’s inability to provide protection, Tennessee needed to call quick plays to prevent sacks.
The jury is still out on Bajakian, who should have job stability given his long history with Jones. At the moment, the offensive coordinator has been less impressive than his colleagues, given their dominance on the recruiting trail and improvement at their positions.
However, Bajakian may be limiting his playbook given a lack of personnel in the trenches and should expand his play calling with an improved roster in 2015.