By: Aaron Gibson
Junior Staff Writer
The All Vol Call in Show
Last season, Tennessee's offense looked like a team on Madden playing on rookie mode. Hooker orchestrated the offense flawlessly like a conductor leading an orchestra. Tennessee's pass attack was flashy, but Tennessee actually attempted more rushes than passes last season. Last season Tennessee's offense attempted a total of 945 plays. Out of those plays 523 of them were rushing and just 422 of them were passing. Statistically Tennessee ran the ball 55.3% of the time last season. Tennessee's offense last season was definitely balanced. It's no secret this season that Tennessee's rushing attack has taken a large step forward and is now the identity of this team. Last season Tennessee led the SEC in passing and this season Tennessee leads the SEC in rushing. If you look up the word balanced in the dictionary there is a picture of Heupel's offense. Speaking of which, in 2023 Tennessee is averaging 221.8 yds passing per game and 221.75 yards rushing per game. How has Tennessee's offense become such a dynamic rushing attack?
To find out, I've decided to compare last season's rushing attack to this season's rushing attack. Since we are only in week 8 currently and I want a comparable sample size I compiled statistics from Tennessee's first eight games last season to compare to this current season. In 2022 through the first 8 weeks Tennessee compiled a total of 1,537 yards rushing. In 2023 Tennessee has compiled a total of 1,774 yards rushing. The interesting thing about the numbers are that Tennessee actually attempted 347 rushes through eight games last year, while attempting 321 rushes in 2023. So with less attempts Tennessee has actually gained more yards on the ground than the previous season. Last season Tennessee averaged 4.5 yards per rush. In 2023 they've average 5.5 yards per rush. Speaking of yards per carry, junior Tennessee running back Jaylen Wright
leads the SEC in yards per carry at 6.99 and ranks third in the entire conference and total rushing yards with 409.
Considering Tennessee uses three running backs, that's definitely an impressive feat for the junior. The one statistical category that was actually higher through 8 weeks of last season and the running game was touchdowns. Through eight games last season Tennessee scored 26 touchdowns on the ground, while only scoring 15 touchdowns on the ground so
far this season. One of the factors is the competition. Through 8 weeks last season Tennessee played Ball state, Akron and UT Martin. In those three contests
alone they scored 15 touchdowns on the ground. A second factor is red zone offense. Last season Tennessee ranked third in the entire nation in Red zone offense scoring 94.03% of the time. In 2023 however, Tennessee ranks 54th and red zone offense only scoring 86% of the time. The lesser competition and the more Red zone touchdowns definitely contributed to Tennessee having more rushing touchdowns last season.
It's safe to say that Tennessee's identity is predicated on the run, as it has been the whole time. It appears the Vols have one of the most potent backfields in the country with its three-headed monster of Wright, Small, and Sampson.