Blog: Looking back to N.C. State and ahead to Tennessee’s showdown with Florida

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KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — I’m 1-0 as Tennessee’s beat writer and the Vols‘ opponent on Saturday should pose little threat to my undefeated record.

Tennessee coach Derek Dooley said all the right things in Monday’s press conference — he even displayed an impressive knowledge of Georgia State’s personnel — but this game should be a breeze.

Because of that, most of the focus this week has been looking back to the N.C. State game or looking ahead to the Florida game on Sept. 15.

Let’s do a little bit of both in today’s 11….

1. While all the focus was on the defensive debut of coordinator Sal Sunseri, changes to the Vols’ offense have been overlooked.

Dooley said the constant no-huddle attack, rather than a quirk for the opener, represents a philosophical shift that has been in the works since the end of last season.

“It was for a lot of reasons. I think it helps Tyler (Bray). Certainly helps the run game. You saw that in the second half,” Dooley said.

2. No-huddle offenses are so commonplace nowadays that sometimes they’re easy to miss. It’s huddles that stand out as being unusual.

Many high school kids come to college having no experience with huddles. Often teams that don’t practice the hurry-up, per se, still like to run an offense without huddling.

3. Dooley said he’s aware that the change on offense can risk “compromising” the defense both in practice and games.

“There’s going to be times when we aren’t helping the defense (on offense), but we think over time the points you can generate is what matters,” Dooley said.

4. Zach Fulton was the SEC offensive lineman of the week. Why? Dooley said Fulton was nominated by the coaches because he graded out highest of any lineman.

From there, the nomination goes to the SEC office. (Dooley mistakenly thought it was voted on by writers. We actually have no say.”

“It’s deserving, he’s played well and he had success,” Dooley said.

5. Alex Bullard’s move to tight end has been in the works since Brendan Downs went down with an injury in the second scrimmage of the camp.

Except for a false start penalty, Bullard did well at his new position.

“He was knocking the ends off the ball,” Dooley said.

6. Starting tight end Mychal Rivera played more sparingly than he might have otherwise as he comes back from injury. He might not be needed much against Georgia State but should be ready to go full-bore against Florida.

7. Speaking of Florida, how good are the Gators? I think we should know more after this week’s game against Texas A&M. I find it hard to believe they’re as bad as they looked in the opener against Bowling Green.

8. Week 1 did confirm what we’ve thought since this summer. The East is wide open. Georgia and South Carolina might be the best on paper, but they’re hardly invincible. The bad news for the Vols on an otherwise favorable schedule is that they play at Athens and Columbia this year.

9. Attendance at the Georgia Dome had to be disappointing for the Chick-fil-A Bowl folks on Friday. The Tennessee-N.C. State game drew 55,000, or about 20,000 less than the Auburn-Clemson game on Saturday.

Home games at Georgia and Florida also appeared to have many empty seats. It’s likely there will be plenty of seats available at Neyland Stadium for Tennessee’s opener.

If this is happening in the football-mad South, you know it’s an issue everywhere. I absolutely believe the economy is an issue. People who might have gone to every game are now going to two or three per season. People who once went to two or three are now going to one. People who used to go to one are now staying home.

I’m not the first to suggest this, but I think this theory has merit: High-definition television is a drain on attendance. The home viewing experience is better than it’s ever been. Why spend all the time and money on going to a game when you get such a great view from your couch.

10. When fog entrances go bad

11. I updated my Tennessee win projections while trying not to overreact to Week 1.

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(Photo credit: Amy Smotherman, News Sentinel)