published Thursday, October 6th, 2011

Vols well aware of Aaron Murray's run ability

KNOXVILLE — Justin Wilcox has no need to watch any video of Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray running the ball.

Tennessee's defensive coordinator got a close-up look at Murray's ability to hurt defenses with his feet last season.

Murray ran for two touchdowns in the Bulldogs' 41-14 romp in Athens last year, including a 35-yard scamper in which he broke containment and outran several Volunteers to the end zone. The sophomore added a 5-yard score to go with his 266-yard, two-touchdown throwing performance

"When you pressure the quarterback, you've got to have somebody always assigned for if [Murray does] get out of the pocket and scramble," Wilcox said Wednesday. "He's done it on tape and we've seen it firsthand: He can outrun people. He's outrunning defensive backs, he's outrunning linebackers.

"We've got to do a good job with our eyes and staying disciplined in the pass game and knowing when to take our shots and when not to."

The Vols have had some issues with running quarterbacks under Wilcox. LSU's Jordan Jefferson went 83 yards untouched for a score last year. Cincinnati's Zach Collaros had a 14-yard scramble earlier this season. Buffalo's Chazz Anderson raced 68 yards for a score last Saturday.

Murray, who's third in the Southeastern Conference behind UT's Tyler Bray and Arkansas' Tyler Wilson in passing yards per game and passing efficiency, has runs of 23 yards against South Carolina and 10 yards against Ole Miss this season.

The sophomore isn't a pure runner, and the Vols are more focused on generating pressure against an offensive line that's allowed 13 sacks this season. UT tripled its season total with three against Buffalo, but the Vols believe simply being disruptive can turn the game in their favor.

"Their passing game is a rhythm-throwing game," defensive line coach Lance Thompson said. "[Boise State] did a good job of getting to him when they were up and [Georgia] had to throw the ball, but in the operation of when they're playing on schedule and the game's even, they're a rhythm-throwing team. It's going to be important to mix things up and change the looks for him certainly, but we're going to have to cover the guys and get pressure in the pocket and affect his throwing motion."

Pick up the picks

The Vols are just one of 10 FBS teams in the country with one or no interception this season. Murray has been picked off six times after tossing just eight interceptions in 2010. UT has yet to fully settle its secondary, but Wilcox said the low output goes beyond the defensive backs.

"It involves the linebackers being in the pass games to force a high throw. It involves the pass rush, either hitting the quarterback or affecting the pocket, putting people in his vision," he said. "It's a lot of levels, and it's not just one guy's job or one position's job."

Florida completed just three passes to wideouts against the Vols, and Montana's and Buffalo's spread offenses hardly tested them down the field. Defensive backs coach Terry Joseph said it's not the time to "press the panic button," but the Vols will need to force more turnovers as the season progresses.

"I think we've got to win some one-on-ones," Wilcox said. "I think we've got to be aggressive and get the ball when it's up in the air. You've got have confidence in what you're doing and confidence in your matchup and believe in what you see."

No cheating

There likely be some instances Saturday night when what UT's defenders do see could fool them. Georgia's offense will be the most traditional UT has seen this season, and the Bulldogs rely on effective play-action passes.

"That's part of their scheme. That's really how they're built," Wilcox said. "All their runs have a good complementary play-action to them, so it's not like you can cheat. Some teams, you can get a good key on them, and these guys you can't. We've got to be very disciplined with our eyes. that's the key to playing a good team like this that can complement their run and pass game."

The Bulldogs have been balanced offensively this season. In each of their five games, their rushing and passing yardage totals have been within 100 yards of each other. Against Mississippi State last week, Georgia threw for 160 yards and ran for 155.

"These guys, we were watching film and I couldn't tell what they were doing," defensive tackle Malik Jackson said. "These guys' stances stay the same, their keys stay the same and it's very very hard to read them."

Status updates

Freshman linebacker Curt Maggitt wore a noncontact jersey during Wednesday's practice as a precaution. ... Thompson compared Georgia freshman tailback Isaiah Crowell to South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore, who was the SEC freshman of the year last season. ... UT coach Derek Dooley didn't like the Vols' mindset during Wednesday's practice. He said the team was "a little self-absorbed."

about Patrick Brown...

Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...

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