Staff Photo by Angela Lewis UT offensive coordinator Dave Clawson, left, talks to quarterbacks Jonathan Crompton and former McCallie star B.J. Coleman, right, before a scrimmage at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville. Clawson has seen the Vols' offense struggle so far this season.
KNOXVILLE — The University of Tennessee’s offense scored a combined 18 points against Florida and Auburn.
One could rationally think the Volunteers were out-schemed.
That’s not the case, first-year offensive coordinator Dave Clawson said.
“I have not found the game planning or the preparation or the play calling to be any more difficult,” said Clawson, who came to UT in January after 15 seasons as a coordinator and head coach at the level formerly known as NCAA Division I-AA.
“If anything, I’ve found overall the defenses do less,” Clawson continued. “I find this to be less of a schematic challenge and more of a matchup challenge.”
Clawson has studied three SEC defenses this season — previous opponents Florida and Auburn, and Saturday foe Georgia.
“Those are probably schematically as basic and simple as I’ve seen in eight years,” he said. “But they’re the most talented.”
UT’s offense lost a vast majority of those matchups against Florida and Auburn, and the Vols spent plenty more time beating themselves.
Six points against Florida. Twelve at Auburn.
That’s not a Clawfense.
UT’s offensive stats, out of 119 FBS teams
Total 97th 317.6 yards per game
Scoring 106th 18 points per game
Rushing 61st 146.4 yards per game
Passing 98th 171.2 yards per game
Passing efficiency 109th 102.6 rating
Third-down conversion 100th 32.9%
First downs 109th 15.8 per game
Red-zone scoring 104th 71%
That’s a Scratch-and-Clawfense.
But don’t blame Clawson, All-America senior guard Anthony Parker said.
“It’s just a lack of focus and execution on our part,” Parker said. “If we do the things we’re supposed to do, there’s things in place that are supposed to happen. But if we don’t do it, then it doesn’t happen, and it makes it look like things aren’t clicking.”
Obviously, they don’t seem to be clicking.
Sophomore Nick Stephens replaced junior Jonathan Crompton at quarterback last week. By all accounts (including statistics), that was a good change.
UT’s offense converted two third-and-longs on its opening drive against the Huskies, but the second ended in a lost fumble.
Stephens completed a pass to sophomore Gerald Jones in the second quarter for what would have been a first-and-goal at the 3-yard line. But a penalty nullified the play, and the Vols ultimately settled for a field goal on a drive that began at Northern Illinois 17.
Jones caught a 43-yard pass from Stephens on UT’s first third-quarter drive, but the Vols settled for another field goal.
Minutes after their first touchdown — a 52-yard strike from Stephens to Denarius Moore — the Vols drove to the Huskies’ 4 and settled for a third field-goal try. This one missed, though, giving UT four scoreless trips inside an opponent’s 10 this season.
“We knew what we were doing on the field,” Stephens said. “Every time we stopped ourselves, we knew it. As soon as we made a mistake, we knew what happened. If it wasn’t getting to the sticks, that one quarterback sneak I didn’t get — it was just little things like that.
“If we just put everything together, we will score more points, I think.”
But will they put it together this season?
Clawson said he has enough talent, but he added that UT isn’t winning enough one-on-one matchups or making enough big plays.
“If you watch teams that score 30 and 40 points, it’s not a methodical 3 and 4 yards (per play),” Clawson said. “There are explosive plays in there. I’ve said this many times, it’s hard to go 80 yards or 60 yards without having a chunk play of 15, 18, 25 yards.
“I think that continues to be one of our big offensive challenges, finding ways and creating ways to get chunk plays.”
Clawson said his system has produced immediate results at some — but not all — of his previous stops. He retained much of the previous staff and experienced players (including future NFL wide receiver Brian Finneran) as a first-year coordinator at Villanova in 1996, and the Wildcats’ scoring averaged double to approximately 32 points per game.
“At other times, when I’ve been other places, it’s taken a second season,” Clawson added. “If I could put my finger on (why), it would be a lot easier. Certainly, the fact that we have five new coaches working together, and it’s a new offense, I think there are growing pains.”
SEC defenses don’t diminish those sores, either. They’re not typically accommodating to adjustment.
“They do what they do, and they’re good at it,” Clawson said. “For the most part, you know where they’re going to be, you know what your matchups are and you know you need to win them.
“I think the challenge has been trying to find ways of creating the mismatches and consistently winning them.”