Come on down: OC Helton calls plays on sideline for Vols
AUBURN, Ala. — Tennessee offensive coordinator Tyson Helton called plays from a new vantage point in the Volunteers’ 30-24 win at No. 21 Auburn on Saturday.
Helton, who spent Tennessee’s first five games in the press box, worked from the sideline against the Tigers (4-3, 1-3 Southeastern Conference).
The Volunteers (3-3, 1-2) happened to post their best offensive performance of the season.
“I think it definitely made a big difference,” redshirt sophomore quarterback Jarrett Guarantano said. “We were able to get a gauge on what he was feeling. I think that’s going to continue further.”
Guarantano threw for a career-high 328 yards. He tossed two touchdown passes and did not turn the ball over in his first SEC win as a starting quarterback.
Head coach Jeremy Pruitt said he thought it was important for Helton to be on the field so he could be closer to Guarantano.
“I think it’s easier to call the game from the press box,” Pruitt said. “I do. My whole life I (worked) in the press box calling the defense. But there comes a point in time when you need to be able to look the people on the sidelines in the eyes, and you get a lot better feel.”
Tennessee struggled to run the football but averaged 15.6 yards per completion while distributing the football to nine receivers.
“The quarterback position, the ball goes through his hands on every snap,” Pruitt said. “So it’s important that he make really good decisions, that he understands and he’s in control. So I think it’s something that helped us today (having Helton on the sideline). I think it helped us just in sideline organization. I think it was a big move for our staff.”
Pruitt thought senior safety Micah Abernathy would be able to play, even though he was limited during practices this past week with an ankle injury. Abernathy could not play after all.
The unexpected absence allowed sophomore defensive back Shawn Shamburger to gain his most extensive playing time of the season at safety. Reserve defensive back Marquill Osborne also played extensively in the second half.
“I think it says a lot about our players’ willingness to learn and learn multiple spots so we can plug guys in,” Pruitt said.
Junior Baylen Buchanan started at the nickel (fifth defensive back) position, which lines up against inside receivers, after playing mostly as a perimeter cornerback this season. Later in the game, he moved to the sixth defensive back slot. Pruitt said Buchanan had not practiced that position at all this past week.
“It talks about what a good job (cornerbacks coach) Terry (Fair) and (safeties coach) Charles (Kelly) have done teaching those guys,” Pruitt said.
Senior defensive end Jonathan Kongbo left the game in the third quarter and did not return. He was using crutches on the sideline and appeared to be wearing a brace on his right knee. Offensive lineman Jahmir Johnson left the game in the second quarter.
Redshirt sophomore Nathan Niehaus started in place of Jerome Carvin at right guard, but Carvin entered the game when Johnson was injured.
Contact David Cobb at d cobb @times free press.
Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown gets in Tennessee quarterback Jarrett Guarantano’s face during the first half Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium.