Vols offense lagging, but special teams offering a boost

QB Justin Worley warms up before the game. #govolsxtra

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — We’ll publish our weekly By the Numbers feature for News Sentinel subscribers later today and it should offer some really interesting data on the Florida game.

For now let’s take a big-picture look at Tennessee’s performance through four games this year.

I like checking out the weekly UPS/STATS Team Performance Index. You can view the details on the webpage, but it essentially tries to combine offense, defense, special teams and “miscues” and weigh that against the strength of the team’s schedule.

Tennessee's national rankings in parentheses.

Tennessee’s national rankings in parentheses.

As might be expected, the Vols fared well in special teams and “miscues,” but poorly against offense and defense. The rankings will become more meaningful as the season goes on. For now, they’re merely interesting. ¬†And they confirm that South Alabama is no pushover.

Tennessee’s strength on special teams has more to do with the kicking and coverage teams than it does with any big returns.

On kickoffs, Tennessee is forcing opponents to start from the 24 or 25-yard line on kickoffs with an average net of just over 40.

Take away a blocked punt and the Vols have a very respectable 38.5 net average.

The return game has been more sluggish, particularly after an injury to Devrin Young.

On kickoffs, the Vols average 24.9 yards per return (boosted by a 58-yard return by Young in the opener) and an average starting starting field position at the 28 (based on kickoffs alone and not considering penalties).

On punts, the Vols have only attempted to return five times in 16 attempts. Opponents are netting 39.7 yards per punt.

Finally, it’s always worth monitoring tempo. For obvious reasons, the Vols haven’t gone as fast as coach Butch Jones and offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian would like.

For comparison purposes, UT had 2.7 plays and 2.17 live-ball plays per minute in 2012. (Live-ball plays are