Tennessee storming the Neyland Stadium field after defeating Alabama in Knoxville. Photo via Tennessee Athletics.
No offense racked up as many yards on the Alabama defense during the 2022 season as the Tennessee offense did.
Arkansas was close while Utah State had the second-most, but at the end of the day, no one touched the 569 yards of total offense that Tennessee put up in Neyland Stadium.
Josh Heupel’s Tennessee offense is a prime example of the offensive-minded shift that college football is going through – some places more quickly than others. Heupel’s offense features a tempo-focused, quick-thinking, high-powered unit that uses the run game and the passing game to complement each other. One of Tennessee’s staples under Heupel has been to open the field by spreading the receivers out wide and allowing them to work with more space.
Former Tennessee assistant and newly-appointed Alabama defensive coordinator Kevin Steele spoke about the offensive changes to college football on Sunday and hinted at the Tennessee offense being an example of the new shift.
“It is a challenge defensively right now in terms of the tempo– several years back started things, and then the multiplicity of formations have gone off the roof,” Steele said about new-age college offense via BamaCentral. “We even have people that if they spread out any further, they’d be on the sidelines, they’d be on the bench. They’re using the whole thing.”
Whether Steele was intentionally implying it or not, Tennessee’s high-powered offense certainly falls in the category of using the whole field by spreading out personnel to nearly both vertical sidelines.
One play from the first quarter of CBS Sports’ Tennessee-Alabama game this past October highlights an example that Steele is referring to. With about seven minutes left in the quarter and Tennessee on Alabama’s 36 yard-line, Jalin Hyatt and Bru McCoy lined up as close to the sideline as they could on the top side, thus creating space with the one safety over top. After the ball was snapped, Tennessee went on to score a touchdown with Jalin Hyatt going deep on this play.
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And the Vols use that to their advantage, too. Tennessee ended the 2022 season with the No. 1 scoring offense (46.1 PPG) and the No. 1 offense (525.5 YPG) in the nation.
“Those kind of things have happened, but then also the RPOs (run-pass options),” Steele continued on to say. “And then the look, the eye-candy that goes with that– play-action type stuff where you’ve got pullers and runners going opposite. That’s going down the exit ramp.”
Josh Heupel and newly-appointed offensive coordinator Joey Halzle have added RPO wrinkles throughout each of their two seasons conducting the Tennessee offense. The Vols have often been effective at moving defenders around on the field with motion to take advantage of matchups down the field, too.
All of these aspects come together to give Tennessee one of the best offensive schemes in the nation. After two years of tearing through the college football landscape, opposing defensive coordinators are certainly taking notice.
With a new quarterback in Joe Milton III, Tennessee will look to recreate their offensive success from the 2022 season this year starting on Sept. 2 against Virginia. The Vols will open the season in a day game in Nashville’s Nissan Stadium.
To see the full interview with Alabama defensive coordinator Kevin Steele on Sunday, click here.