When a college football team’s offense doesn’t produce, the offensive coordinator is typically the first person to get blamed.
So it’s not exactly a surprise that through the first five games of the 2018 season, Tennessee Vols offensive coordinator Tyson Helton is receiving most of the blame from fans for UT’s offensive woes.
But I’m not sure that’s fair.
Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt told reporters last week that he didn’t think the Volunteers’ scheme was the reason for his team’s ineffectiveness on offense. Pruitt chalked it up to a lack of execution, saying “it’s all about being able to execute”.
I completely agree with Pruitt. It doesn’t matter what Helton calls if players don’t execute properly. A great play call doesn’t mask players not doing their jobs.
That’s why I think it’s unfair for fans to cast any blame on Helton. If the players execute properly on some of his “questionable” play calls, then no one is saying a negative word about Helton.
Helton is already making his mark on Tennessee
Simply looking at the offense as a whole isn’t a good way to gauge whether or not Helton has made an impact during his short time at Tennessee.
There are way too many other factors that go into a successful offense. As Pruitt mentioned, if everyone isn’t doing their job, then the offense just isn’t going to work.
But Helton’s work with quarterback Jarrett Guarantano provides tangible evidence that the former USC quarterbacks coach is making an impact on Rocky Top.
Some interesting data in @davidubben nice piece on Jarrett Guarantano’s 2017 vs 2018 advanced stats.
JG’s improvement on throws between the hashes mirrors what I wrote over the weekend. Still, JG continues to show scarily similar completion % on normal drop-backs vs play action. pic.twitter.com/ggbVpEQ4eF
— Jesse Simonton (@JesseReSimonton) October 9, 2018
As you can see from those stats, Guarantano is improving, completing more passes between the numbers beyond the line of scrimmage.
Critics will likely point out that Guarantano’s completion percentage on drop back passes is still similar to last season’s. While that’s true, it’s also important to remember that Tennessee’s offensive line troubles are still affecting what Guarantano is able to do in the pocket.
I think it’s important to point that Guarantano has only played five games with Helton as his quarterbacks coach. He’s going to continue to improve. It’s pretty obvious that Helton has JG trending in the right direction.
As far as the rest of the offense goes, it’s going to take some time to get UT’s players in a position where they can consistently execute what Helton is trying to do offensively.
It’s way too early to be passing judgement on Helton as a play caller. Especially when the offensive line has struggled the way it has.
In the coming weeks, I think you’ll see the Vols’ offense start to form its identity.
I also think they’ll find their groove, which could translate into some key wins down the stretch.
Featured image via Knox News