Let’s continue to study up some more on this weekend’s big game by looking at the offensive and defensive statistics from last year. Now right off the bat we have to remind ourselves that we have to take these numbers with grain of salt considering our Bruins are going to unveil a new offense under a new staff and without the returning starters from last season. We also lost 75 percent of our starting secondary and are looking to replace couple of our emotional fire starters in Bruce Davis and Christian Taylor. Similarly Tennessee is looking to not only break in a new coordinator, the Vols are also going to feature a new starting QB – Jonathan Crompton – who attempted a total of 12 passes last season. So numbers from last year will not necessarily establish much in terms of what we can expect on Saturday. However, it would be good to keep them in mind as data points for reference as we try to get a total picture on Saturday’s matchups.
I will start by looking at the numbers comparing the Bruin defense v. the Vols offense from last season:
As mentioned in my last post Tennessee
’s fans are looking forward to the unveiling of their Clawfense under their new OC Dave Clawson, which will reportedly feature elements of a spread offense. Whatever it is, I think it will be reasonable to expect these guys to serve up a heavy dose of Arian Foster behind their experienced offensive line. This is where I think where the numbers from last year might be instructive because as we can see Walker
has put together a pretty solid rushing defense at UCLA. If the Bruins are going to have a chance this Saturday, it will have to start with Harwell and Price upfront. They will need to do their best to clog up the running lanes for Foster.
Bruins will have to force the Volunteers to beat us with their passing game. We have discussed before how Walker has had issues with spread offense in the past. We can expect a pretty interesting chess match between Clawson and Walker on Saturday. Clawson is going to be breaking in a brand new QB in Crompton, who doesn’t have much experience (actually less experience than Craft who IIRC started 3 games at San DiegoState, see career stats via WWL). However, on the other hand Walker is going to be breaking in basically a brand new defensive backfield featuring only one returning starter in ATV. He will probably be throwing in some of his true freshmen including Rahim Moore into the fire who will be going up against a core of Volunteers receivers spearheaded by Lucas Taylor (73 rec-1000yds-5TDs) and Josh Briscoe (56 rec-557yds-6TDs). If Crompton gets decent time in pocket enabling him to find these guys we will be in for a long night. So it will be up to our defense to make sure not only to contain if not shut down their running attack, but they also need to put pressure on their new QB disrupting his rhythm and not allowing him to get comfortable.
As for what happens when the Bruins are on offense, this is the great unknown at this point of time. Here are the numbers from last year:
But right now we are not sure what we can take from those numbers because we don’t have any data on our current coaches. We have beaten to death about the concerns re. our offensive line and the inexperience of our QBs. The question will be whether our line will be serviceable enough to mount a decent running attack and give our QBs enough time to get a short passing game going which will move the chains?
Looking at last year’s stats it looks like Tennessee
’s opponents routinely ran up some huge numbers on the ground. They gave up more than 200 yards rushing 3 times last year
(Cal 230/37, Florida
255/46, La.Lafayette 234/48, LSU 212/47). Yes, I doubled checked the stats re. La.Lafayette
. Also Wisconsin
, USC and even Arkansas St.
put together productive running attack against the Volunteers. Does that mean Bruins will have a huge night against the Vols through our running game? Not sure. However, I think the trend lines from last year does point to an opportunity. And it is probably a safe bet that Chow and Neuheisel will attempt to get it going via the running game on Sat night. The question is how they are going to do it. And that’s where it will be interesting for the first time in a long time we will probably not have a running game which will involve repeatedly asking our tailbacks to slam up the middle.
Again it will be up to Craft (or Forcier) to get in the mindset in which they don’t get too excited or feel pressure for having to win this game (easier said than done I know). But I think our coaches will get them to be in a place where they know they won’t have to be heroes on Monday night, instead looking to play an assigned role within Chow’s scheme which will require them to make quick and easy (hopefully) decisions. Chow will probably look for decent play from our QB with a multifaceted running game (through Bell, Carter and our talented frosh) kick started through different looks. Can’t wait to find out on Monday night.