When watching the Vols’ offense on Saturday during their game against the Florida Gators, the lyrics to The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again” came to my mind for multiple reasons. But the main lines that kept playing in my head during and after that 26-20 loss were perfectly fitting to Tennessee’s offense in that game and for the offense in the entire Butch Jones era.
Larry Scott took over as the Vols’ offensive coordinator this offseason after Mike DeBord left to take a similar position with Indiana. Scott is Jones’ third offensive coordinator since he took over as head coach in 2013, and many wondered just how different Tennessee’s offense would look under Scott.
But not much changed on that side of the ball as was evident in Saturday’s loss.
Roger Daltrey’s line “meet the new boss, same as the old boss,” from “Won’t Get Fooled Again” perfectly encapsulates Tennessee’s offensive woes this season and for the last several seasons. The faces have changed at offensive coordinator, but the schemes haven’t. And that’s because the offense isn’t truly controlled by Tennessee’s coordinator, but by the head coach.
Throughout the Butch Jones era, fans have voiced their frustrations with how inefficient the offense is. At times, the offense can look explosive. But other times it looks downright pedestrian and mistake-prone.
The coordinators have changed, but those issues haven’t. And that’s due to the fact that Butch Jones wants to keep running his offense regardless of who is “in charge” as the coordinator.
Scott’s offense differs from DeBord’s in that there haven’t been quite as many screen plays or short yardage passes thrown so far. But many of the same nuances and schemes from DeBord’s offense and Bajakian’s as well are still around, and that isn’t because Scott was a protege of either coordinator; it’s because Jones feels the need to leave his mark on the offense.
One of the biggest issues with Tennessee’s offense so far this season and for the last four years has been improperly utilizing the skills of talented players. John Kelly was poorly utilized in the Florida game despite leading the team in both rushing and receiving. He wasn’t given a carry a single time at the goal line in the game and only had two carries in the red zone in the entire second half against the Gators.
But he’s not the first offensive weapon to be used improperly under Jones. Alvin Kamara was notoriously underutilized while at Tennessee. There are other examples, but Kamara is the easiest and most obvious to point to.
The “new” Tennessee offense faced their first real test of the 2017 season this past weekend, and they ultimately failed because of their inability to utilize players correctly and because of poor play-calling. Not only that, but the execution on the field was lacking as well.
Quinten Dormady threw three bad interceptions, had poor footwork and mechanics once again, and his receivers didn’t help him out on several occasions by running bad routes. The offensive line played an alright game, but Dormady was harassed far more often than coaches (and Dormady himself, I’m sure) would’ve liked. And that pressure led to some of his bad throws.
The play-calling on Saturday was questionable at best and disastrous at worst. Whether it was the decision not to give the ball to John Kelly at the goal line or calling passing plays behind the line of scrimmage on third-and-short situations, Tennessee’s offense couldn’t get out of its own way thanks to the plays being called.
Tennessee’s offense has a new boss at the helm. But the new boss sure does look a lot like the old boss, and that’s because the real boss of the offense hasn’t actually changed.