2018 is a transition year for the Tennessee Vols.
Jeremy Pruitt’s in his first season as a head coach, Kevin Sherrer is a defensive coordinator at the Power five level for the first time in his career.
And Tyson Helton, Tennessee’s offensive coordinator, is the primary play caller for an offense for the first time ever.
Helton’s performance has been a hot topic among Vol fans this season. Tennessee’s offense has left a lot to be desired through the first nine games of the year. When this happens, it’s usually the offensive coordinator who catches the blame.
So it shouldn’t be a surprise that there are plenty of UT fans who want to see a different offensive coordinator next season.
But I don’t think that’s fair. I also think there’s a zero percent chance Helton isn’t back next season.
There’s no doubt the Vols have looked bad on offense at times this season (last week against Charlotte for example). But there have also been games where Tennessee looked like they were making vast improvements offensively (the Auburn and South Carolina games).
Offensive coordinators tend to get too much blame and too much credit when things are going wrong/right. Ultimately, it comes down to players executing the play that’s called.
It can be the best play call in the world, but if players don’t execute, it won’t matter. The play will fail.
Asked if he’s been pleased with game-planning of OC Tyson Helton, Pruitt said there is a learning curve when you take over a new program and you need a good OL to be effective, but he likes Helton getting ball in hands of playmakers and offense has improved every week but one.
— Jimmy Hyams (@JimmyHyams) November 7, 2018
Tennessee has some players that know how to execute. Jarrett Guarantano has improved tremendously as a quarterback this season (perhaps thanks to Tyson Helton?). Marquez Callaway, Jauan Jennings, Josh Palmer and Ty Chandler are all capable playmakers.
But the offensive line has been a mess this season. Pruitt and his staff inherited a roster ripe with undersized offensive linemen that don’t necessarily fit what Helton is trying to do offensively.
It’s nearly impossible to overcome bad offensive line play. Just look at the New York Giants in the NFL. They have a quarterback in Eli Manning that’s won two Super Bowls. They have one of the best running backs on the planet in Saquon Barkley and a wide receiver in Odell Beckham Jr that has some of the best hands I’ve ever seen. And they can still barely score because of their terrible offensive line play.
It doesn’t matter who is calling plays on Rocky Top, the Vols’ offense won’t get better until UT adds some elite offensive linemen.
That’s why I think Tennessee fans need to be patient with Tyson Helton. He’s not working with a full deck right now.
In a couple of years, when the Vols have beefed up their roster, then we can judge whether or not Helton has done a good job.
Until then, fans need to withhold their judgement.
Featured image via Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports