The number 29 play in our countdown to determine the best plays of Tennessee’s 2015 season is Alvin Kamara’s first touchdown as a Vol.
In 2015, Tennessee saw quite a few new additions to the team make a positive impact. Darrin Kirkland Jr. started ten games at middle linebacker, while right tackle Chance Hall and wide receiver Jauan Jennings added seven and six starts, respectively, on offense. But perhaps no newcomer meant more to the Vols than running back Alvin Kamara.
The sophomore running back came to the Vols after an interesting journey that led him to Hutchinson Community College and the University of Alabama. Originally ranked as one of the best running backs in the country coming out of high school, Kamara signed with Alabama as part of the class of 2013. After sitting out the 2013 season as a redshirt, Kamara decided to transfer. Rather than transfer to another FBS school and sit out the entire season, Kamara went to junior college in order to get immediate playing time.
At Hutchinson, Kamara was quickly a star. In his only year at Hutchinson, Kamara ran for 1253 yards and scored 18 touchdowns. By the end of the season, Kamara was listed as the number two junior college player in the country by 247Sports. He made the decision to come to Tennessee, and joined the Vols in January 2015 as an early enrollee.
All offseason, fans were excited about what Kamara would bring to the table. The speed and quickness of Kamara would seemingly be the perfect complement to the size and strength of the Vols’ lead back, Jalen Hurd.
However, no one really knew how good Kamara would be until he took the field. The JUCO transfer didn’t wait long to show off, scoring a touchdown on his fifth carry as a Vol on a great individual effort.
Kamara’s score came in the season opener against Bowling Green on a brand new play call. In 2015, new offensive coordinator Mike DeBord kept the base offense the same as it was in previous years. However, he brought one prominent new play to Knoxville: the Pin-and-Pull Sweep.
Here at Football Concepts, we’ve covered the Pin-and-Pull Sweep a number of times, including an article that broke down the play right after the Bowling Green game.
As a whole, the play is pretty simple. Here is a breakdown from the previously mentioned article.
“The blocking scheme is pretty simple. On the playside, covered linemen (offensive linemen with a defender across from them) “pin.” This means they block down on the lineman across from them. Uncovered linemen (offensive linemen with no defender across from them) “pull” around the edge and pick up the linebackers. The backside linemen reach block as if it were outside zone.
“This results in down blocks on the defensive linemen with two linemen pulling to the second level to block a linebacker, and the backside being sealed off by the reach blocks. Here is an example.
“Which linemen pull and which pin will vary depending on how the defense lines up. The Vols’ playside tackle, playside guard, center, and backside guard all pulled at some point against Bowling Green.
“The running back is to get outside. This is not really a play for him to cut back, but he is to follow his pullers to the perimeter.”
This was the play call DeBord went to for the Vols first two touchdowns against Bowling Green. After Hurd scored the first touchdown of the game, the Vols got Kamara involved for the second score.
“[Tennessee] lined up in an unbalanced formation with right tackle Brett Kendrick moving over to the left side and Wolf lining up next to right guard Dylan Wiesman. This time, Kendrick, [Kyler] Kerbyson, and [Coleman] Thomas “pin” while [Jashon] Robertson and Wiesman “pull.”
“Thomas and Kerbyson do an excellent job with their down blocks, but Kendrick is beat inside.
“Robertson eliminates a linebacker on the edge. Wiesman has to redirect and help Kendrick rather than pull through for the safety.
“Even though Wiesman is responsible for the safety, he makes a good play to pick up the unblocked man in the backfield.”
For the most part, we see that the Vols did a good job of blocking this play. However, because Wiesman had to help Kendrick out, Wiesman’s man, the strong safety, was left unblocked in the open field.
This is where Kamara got to make a play. After using his speed to get to the edge, Kamara was left one-on-one in the open field with the defender. Kamara stopped on a dime, causing the defender to lose his balance, then immediately was able to accelerate back to full speed and burst into the end zone.
This was a great move by Kamara. Not many players have the ability to go from full speed to a complete stop, then right back to full speed. Even though the blocking wasn’t perfect, Kamara was able to make the defender miss in the open field and get the ball into the end zone.
This play was also a great sign of things to come. Kamara’s first touchdown proved to Vol fans that he was just as good as his billing. This was the first of many highlights Kamara would have before the season’s end. Kamara had a fantastic season for the Vols, and goes into 2016 as one of the team’s best playmakers.
You can read previous installments of this series by clicking below: