This was an opportunity two weeks in the making with a youthful, exciting quarterback.
The Jarrett Guarantano-led offense marched to South Carolina’s 17-yard-line. Two plays with no gain followed. Then third-and-10. Tennessee lined up in the shotgun formation, of course. Guarantano took the snap, but whistles stalled his progress.
Defensive end Dante Sawyer was the first to notice. False start.
Tennessee’s offense got flagged three times for starting early against South Carolina, contributing to another afternoon where the Vols failed to score a touchdown. The offense also suffered a delay of game on a third-and-goal. A month prior, the team drew four false start flags at Florida. That included three inside the 20-yard-line.
All have contributed to the bottom line: Ten touchdowns in 19 red zone tries and a month-long touchdown drought.
“You cannot have pre-snap penalties,” Butch Jones said Monday. “It starts with command at the line of scrimmage. It starts with discipline in terms of pre-snap penalties.”
As a whole, the team remains one of the least-penalized teams in the SEC with just more than five flags per game.
Meanwhile, the Vols keep searching for a consistent offensive depth chart. Jones hinted again Wednesday that he’ll tinker with the offensive line before kickoff at Alabama.
A tall order, no doubt, Tennessee has yet to play the same starters in back-to-back games this season.
The Vols offensive line remained identical from Georgia to South Carolina. But that unit responded to Guarantano. In his first career start, three flags before the snap backed the team up on third downs. Tennessee converted just 3-of-13 with an average 7.85 yards to go.
“There’s no magic formula for it,” Jones said. “It’s the quarterback at the line of scrimmage letting them know what cadence we’re on, but also the overall discipline.”
Until last week, Tennessee owned one of the country’s top offensive lines. But seven South Carolina sacks moved the unit to No. 6 in the SEC.
“As an offensive line, at times we come out and lack that sort of intensity,” senior center Jashon Robertson said. “That’s evident throughout some games and it’s also evident throughout the course of the six games.”
A Closer Look at the Depth Chart
Sr. TE Jakob Johnson practiced all week, will play at Alabama.
So. WR Marquez Callaway is expected to play at Alabama.
So. RB Carlin Fils-aime listed as questionable for Saturday.
Sr. SS/KR Evan Berry is practicing, questionable for Saturday.
Sr. CB Justin Martin will practice today, questionable for Saturday.
Fr. DE Deandre Johnson to be evaluated at practice, questionable for Saturday.
Fr. FS Cheyenne Labruzza is out for season, undergoing knee surgery.
R-So. DL Darrell Taylor remains suspended indefinitely.