Monday, November 23, 2015

By George, Hurd is Good! And, Other Observations

(insert Beverly Hillbillies theme here) Back in '96 the Houston Oilers loaded up the truck and they moved to Tennessee.  Memphis that is, gang bangers, barbeque.

Originally the plan was for the Oilers to play two seasons in Memphis before relocating to the state capital, but the support was less than expected and the Oilers loaded the truck again and moved to Nashville a season early.  The last straw in Memphis was the last home game of the season when the
Pittsburg Steelers rolled into the Liberty Bowl and brought more fans with them than the Oilers.  That's a fact, I know, because I was at that game and there were way more Steelers fans than Oilers fans.  A little research shows that of the 8 home games the Oilers played that season only 1 drew more than 32,000 fans.  The Pittsburg game brought more than 50,000.  So, you can imagine how much Black and Gold there was in that place.

Without access to local NFL football for a number of years, I gladly welcomed the opportunity to go to every home game.  I loved the NFL and relished the opportunity to see it live on a regular basis.  Others in Memphis didn't feel the same.  On a late August Sunday the Oilers welcomed Jeff George and the Oakland Raiders to Memphis.  It was hot, really hot, but of course heat and football mean beer. Come to think of it so does cold and football.  The year prior to moving to Tennessee the Oilers drafted Eddie George at running back.  That day, Eddie George rushed for more than 200 yards and had officially arrived as a force in the NFL.  So what does all this have to do with anything, especially the Vols? 

An interesting thing happened during that game that was a direct result of the confluence of heat, beer, and Eddie George. A chant began to rise throughout the stadium.  Eddie! Eddie! Eddie! rang out after each big run.  There was a group of us sitting together that day including my brother, uncle, brother in law, father, and several others. And, I know many will find this hard to believe, but we started that chant.  Because he had such a big game there were many opportunities and early on, our group prodded the crowd along in an effort to create some excitement.  The Oilers went on to finish the season 8-8, they moved to Nashville, and the Eddie chant rolled onward and followed him throughout his career.  Even if we didn't make up the chant, which obviously required very little creativity, we started it that day and it stuck.

Jalen Hurd had a chant worthy game Saturday night against a very good Missouri defense.  And, it was obvious that Butch Jones and his staff learned something from some of their early season losses.  Feeding Hurd the ball more than 30 times equaled his career high in rushing and a victory on the road for the Vols.  His 223 yards on the ground saved the offense from a poor passing night.  Well done by that young running back.  Jalen! Jalen! Jalen!

Alvin Kamara is the real deal.  His style is the perfect compliment to the power of Hurd.  he is fantastic in the open field.  Several times on Saturday his speed was incredibly impressive, and certainly the Missouri defense isn't as slow as they looked on some of those plays.  Kamara has more than filled the gap left by Pig Howard's dismissal.

College football fans live up the name, fanatic. For coaches, the current environment resembles the NFL more and more.  Coaches of big time schools are paid like NFL coaches, and then they walk away with huge buy outs if they are fired.  In other words, coaches don't need anyone coming to their rescue about the pressures of winning.  But, this thing is out of control.  If today's coaches actually find a way to win championships or seriously contend for them, the clock is ticking on their tenure. It's just a matter of time before a coach wears out his welcome. Think this is being overstated? Ask Phillip Fulmer, Bobby Bowden, or Steve Spurrier if it's overstated.  And before you jump to the fact Spurrier wasn't fired, don't believe for one minute he didn't see the writing on the wall.  He didn't want to coach this season to begin with because he knew he had a bad team and he knows if you have a bad team for more than a year or two after extremely high expectations, you will be run off. 

So, now you have Mark Richt at Georgia and Les Miles at LSU under fire.  They're not just on hot seats, their chairs are red hot piles of coal, the heat is almost over.  Do you think Richt will survive an 8-4 record if they lose to Georgia Tech this weekend?  The bulldogs were picked by most to win the East.  He's tied for first or won the SEC east 6 times in 13 seasons. He's won the SEC championship once. He has 10 or more wins in a season 9 times, and has only one season with less than 8 wins. In spite of all that winning, he may not be back at Georgia after the season.

Do you think Miles will survive at LSU if the Tigers lose their 4th straight on Saturday? Not only no, but hell (that's how hot the seats are) no.  In fact, word on Monday morning was he wouldn't survive the day, much less another loss.  Miles has won a National Championship, played for another, won
division titles 3 times and at least 10 games in 7 of 11 seasons at LSU. He's never won fewer than 8 games at LSU and has won 10 or more 7 times. If LSU needs a real reason to fire Miles, it should be because he literally doesn't own a hat that fits his head properly.  Maybe that's partly why he's called the Mad Hatter.

Tennessee fans would likely be the one's to ask about what those schools should do.  Many Vols fans would tell you to be careful what you wish for, or get ready to spend some time down in 5-7 land where the Vols were stuck for practically a decade.  Firing a top notch winning coach can lead to some very lean times. The schools who have done it recently are easy to find. Look at Miami, Nebraska, and Michigan all of whom have struggled to regain national prominence after firing or forcing out their coach. 

 Look at the Vols season opening opponent for next year, Virginia Tech. They are forcing Frank Beamer to retire.  He's been running their football team since 1987.  He's taken Virginia Tech to a bowl game every season except the first two, and even this season will go to a bowl if they win their final game against Virginia.  The season after the Vols won the national championship Virginia Tech played for the National Title against Florida State.  He took Va Tech to a National Championship game!  Good luck Hokies, you're going to need it, and get ready to watch bowl games from the comfort of your own home, because there won't be many to travel to in the near future.

There will be a number of glamour coaching opportunities open in the off season including, but not limited to Miami, USC, South Carolina, and quite possibly Texas to name a few.  That anyone would
consider Lane Kiffin for a serious head coaching position is
completely baffling to me, but the word today was that he's the lead for the Miami job and that says a lot about the state of college football.  It's a wreck, and getting wrecked further by the "what have you done for me lately" approach to coaches. Miles and Richt among others could be available but Miami is seriously looking at a snot nosed, gutless wonder to run their program that's always been known for it's cheating.  Hey Miami fans! Listen up!  You're program is overflowing like a full toilet and cousin Eddie is ready to pump the tank for you!  Go for it!  Speaking of cousin Eddie, when I see Lane Kiffin I am triggered to give a rant like Clark Griswold gives at the end of Christmas vacation.  In the true spirit of Christmas, "save the neck for me Clark."

I'm OooooouuuuuuuUT!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

All Hands on Deck!

Attention Vols fans!! Attention! This is an alert from the Volnation Emergency Management System a division of TEMA. All hands on deck, all hands on deck.  Sound the alarms!!  This is not a drill!  Repeat, this is not a drill! It is with deep concern that I announce a Code Orange!  Women and children first of course, need to be moved immediately to the center of the Big Orange Bandwagon. 
Repeat, move all women and children to the center of the Big Orange Bandwagon, we're about to take on a bunch of wagon jumpers, it's coming.  The time to prepare is now!  Grab all available safety equipment: flask, coozie, visor or cap, rain poncho, peanuts, beer, whiskey, ibuprofen, binoculars, extra cash for rising ticket prices, a couple of hot dogs and rack of ribs could come in handy as well.

We've seen it before.  When the going gets good they begin coming out of the wood work, out from under rocks, from out of the woods and from anywhere else the jumpers may be lurking.  Many of them will discard their University of Miami colors for the Tennessee orange.  They'll jump off the USC wagon, they'll sneak in from Florida State territory, and some will return from the Ohio State wagon when they fall apart.  They'll come back from their frustrating ride on the Notre Dame wagon, the Memphis wagon, and the TCU/Baylor wagon. 

High Alert, High Alert!!  Do not allow Volcats and BammerVols back on the wagon.  Repeat do not allow Volcats and BamerVols back on the wagon, they tend to be excessively overweight, poorly mannered, intellectually questionable, and with poor hygiene.  In other words they are easy to spot. You know them well- The so called Vols football fan who also claims to root for Kentucky basketball.  Most of these bottom feeders won't attempt to board the wagon until after the Kentucky team is eliminated from March Madness before it matters most.  The BammerVol is a little more difficult to identify, but they are the fans who claim Alabama as their own while bashing everything about The University of Tennessee program with a fake voice of concern, they like fueling the fire while pretending to care.  But, secretly the BammerVol watches every single Tennessee game and then when things are going well they toss the crimson hats into the back of the closet and pull out their Vols cap from the 1998 national championship season.  Do Not Allow these people back on this wagon!!

And, make no mistake about it the wagon jumping is going to begin in earnest within the next three weeks.  As this 2015 team steam rolls their opponents down the stretch people are going to begin to believe. The near misses will be forgotten by all but the true died in the wool Vols fans.  The pain of giving away three games will only linger for those who have lost years off of their football lives while watching Oklahoma, Florida, and Alabama snatch defeat from the jaws of Volunteer victory.  The wagon jumpers aren't going to remember those losses, no those folks are only going to focus on what is ahead.  They will not recall the total disrespect shown my Lane Kiffin and the complete embarrassment of Derek Dooley.  They will not remember the pain of watching it slip away from Phil Fulmer, a slow, painful, avoidable death. No, the bandwagoners are going to be all about what lies ahead. 

The wagon jumping will pick up steam when Tennessee finishes the season 8-4 and then slaps around some traditionally respected name in a bowl.  And, when the new recruits sign in early February a slow, palpable energy will begin building toward spring practice.  Neyland will be nearly filled for the Orange and White game and folks will begin talking less about what could have been and more about will certainly be, and it will feel good.  Really good!!  But, don't forget the bandwagon jumpers take seats from the faithful, they drive ticket prices, they tend to be the ones who give Vols fans a bad name on game day when they are sitting in Neyland after pounding Milwaukee's Best for 6 hours before kickoff.  This is an Emergency situation!!

Bandwagon jumpers are not to be mistaken for true orange blooded fans.  True fans make up games like "Snatch the Hat".  Yes, it was a game played in our college days.  I don't want to name parties, but my roomie in college was the master at the post game snatch the hat off of that obnoxious opponents noggin and run like hell.  The idea was, not only did we beat you, we will further humiliate you by stealing the very hat you love from the top of your head and make you walk to your car, a long haul I might add, without your security cover . The only rule of the game was you had to snatch the hat from someone who could truly put up a good chase, no senior citizen targeting stuff allowed. Now, that was a fun game only thought of by true die hard non-wagon jumping Vols.  But, my roomie took Snatch the Hat to a hole new level the year he plucked an Alabama bass drum player's band cap from his head.  Ok, you're right, bass drum  players traditionally fall in the same category as senior citizens, but after further review he got full credit purely for creativity.  Bandwagon jumpers have no creativity, they have no real heart, at least not a heart that pumps orange blood, and certainly those folks don't have the creativity of a Snatch the Hat champion. 

Get prepared Volnation, the jumpers are coming, and if we allow them on board all at once, they could flip the wagon over, something we certainly don't want to see happen, because a lot of innocent die hard fans could get hurt. 

Prior to the start of this season most rational Vols fans would have agreed that an 8-4 record would be an outstanding year.  And, while it is difficult to forget about what could have been, it's time for Tennessee to get hyper focused on running the table to end the season.  There is genuine opportunity at hand for a positive finish.

For the first time in a long time the Vols are competitive with everyone they face, and while they haven't figured out how to consistently close out games they coould win, they are getting closer.  I stress to Vols fans everywhere that getting caught in the mind set that they "should" have won all these games they lost isn't healthy or accurate.  They "could" have won them all, but the fact is "should"  doesn't come into play until next season.

The Georgia game was incredible.  I think the team learned they are not out of it even when they are handing the game to their opponent.  They had everything working against them in the first of that game with the unfortunate exception of the serious injury to Georgia's Nick Chubb. The very young Vols could have packed it in after some very bad breaks, but instead they fought back and got in the game before half and the rest is history.

The Vols could have beaten Alabama.  But, once again a late drive and some big plays by a couple of Alabama receivers sent the Vols home without a win.  But, even with a loss, these players have hopefully learned that when you are playing a good team, every drive is potentially a game changing drive.  The Vols will get better as a result of losing that close one.

The Vols are to Kentucky what Florida is to Tennessee.  The Cats cannot get beyond the mental road block when it comes to the Vols.  Kentucky is improved, but last Saturday proved how important big time recruiting classes can be to building a true power in today's college football world.  Big play after big play came as a result of solid recruiting, and the big orange wave of talent that hit shore in that game washed all the Wildcats chairs, towels, coolers, and toys out to the deep college football sea. 

So, Tennessee is well on the way to a big season and in the meantime some very important things are happening outside of the program that will likely pay huge dividends down the line.  With Miami, USC, Virginia Tech, and most notably South Carolina and Georgia staring at coaching vacancies or turmoil, some big time recruits most certainly will choose to wear orange and that will add to the much needed lack of depth that has prevented Tennessee from jumping to the head of the class this season.  Momentum is building and everyone who watches sports knows how important momentum can be in championship runs.

Finally, I would like to suggest that college football leadership take a moment this off season to take a close look at the state of officiating.  Anyone who knows me knows I am beyond convinced that the SEC has the worst officiating of any sport in the country.  It is infuriating to watch the missed calls
over and over again.  And for the record it is not just call s that go against Tennessee.  They miss calls all over the place both directions.  What makes it especially egregious is when the officials blow a call not just on the field, but then follow that by not seeing the obvious on a replay.  The targeting call against Emmanual Mosely against Kentucky was easy to miss at game speed, but when the replay officials can see Mosely duck his head to avoid the head of the receiver and yet they uphold the targeting call, is inexcusable. 

While that call did not alter the outcome of the game and likely will have minimal impact on the outcome of Tennessee's game today, it remains inexcusable.  And, the officials fro the Duke/Miami game last weekend should not only be suspended, they should never call another game again.  That was not only inexcusable it was an embarrassment to the sport of football. Something needs to be done.  Either eliminate replay and let things fall as they may, or get these people making decisions that determine the outcome of games some real training.

The Vols should stomp the Spurrierless Gamecocks Satuday.  What a shame he jumped ship before we could embarrass him one last time.  Would have loved to see that visor flying in pure disgust, but it isn't meant to be.  What a shame.

I'm OOOOooooooouuuuuuUUUUT!  GBO!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Grab a Bucket. The Vols Ship is Taking on Water!

If you want to go fast Go alone.  If you want to go far Go together. 

That African proverb sums up where things are for the Tennessee football program right now. It will take a unified Vol nation to endure the next two games, and then hopefully finish the season with success. There's a lot of stone throwing going on in Knoxville, and Butch Jones doesn't have much hair to help soften the blow of those lobbed at his noggin. It will take strong leadership to keep this train on the tracks, so we are about to find out if Jones can lead during pressure filled times.

Before this season started most would have agreed the Vols fortunes are most likely to turn in 2016.  But, that glimpse of glory against Oklahoma in game two of this season, and then the near miss in  Gainesville have an awful lot of folks saying things I didn't expect to hear in 2015. There's a lot of talk about firing Jones which is really unfortunate, and frankly crazy. Strange and disturbing rumors are swirling around about players quitting prior to the season only to return.  Specifically, I heard mention of three offensive linemen quitting, and then today during his press conference Butch was asked about a physical altercation with offensive lineman Mac Crowder during that time period.  Jones called the question ridiculous, but the airwaves are cluttered with talk about it. So the pressure is sky high right now on Rocky Top. 

It appears the coaches are feeling that pressure too.  Some of the decisions Saturday night were perplexing.  There were two very questionable decisions both in the 4th quarter.  The first was the decision to throw a reverse pass with Jauan Jennings. I never thought I would say this, but I miss the days when we ran the ball down our opponents throats and crushed their will.  Yes, I said it, we should have run the ball more. Hurd was very difficult for them to tackle.  The other decision I questioned was to go for it on 4th down on the Vols last possession.  There was enough time to punt and play defense, maybe even get a shot at a kick return if the defense could get a stop.  It also appeared there was an over reaction to the lack of a passing attack in the weeks leading up to the Arkansas game, and it seemed like the Vols offense was forcing things in an effort to pass more.

To be fair, Tennessee only had four possessions in the second half, and there was a sense that Arkansas had seized all momentum during their opening drive of the second half.  Arkansas simply imposed its will on Tennessee and when you combine that with very sloppy tackling and poor angles, the defense was simply not going to get it done.  The defense was on the field for a very long time, and that offensive line for Arkansas is disturbingly large.  The largest offensive line in the entire sport of football?  Wow.  Give it about 10 years and the Big Loser can have a special full season addition that features this year's Razorback blockers.  They can change the name to The Biggest Loser: Fattest Pig Edition, or something like that. 

Has anyone else noticed that this season Tennessee's offensive line is really struggling with pass blocking?  That has to be impacting the ability to throw the ball down the field.  But, even with that, Dobbs is just not getting it done with the passing game.  With Georgia on the way and Bama waiting for a few weeks to host the Vols, it's not going to get easier for Dobbs and company.  In fact, the next two games are very worrisome.  Tennessee is potentially one play away from missing post season.  If either Dobbs or Hurd were to get injured it could be very problematic for the season out look.  Kamara is so good it could be less of an impact to lose Hurd, but I don't want to find out if that's true or not.  If Dobbs goes down, the season is changed drastically.  I recommend Butch decide now to get Dormady some snaps in a big game. 

So, it's Georgia week and last Saturday around 5:30 pm Eastern time the Dawgs were getting their necks stepped on, and it appeared the Vols were poised to salvage the season after a couple of heart breaking defeats.  Now, the idea of watching Nick Chubb run around in the Tennessee secondary is like taking a swim in the ocean a couple of hours after watching Jaws.  The thought of it is chilling.  Can you even wrap your mind around how many yards Nick Chubb would gain behind the Arkansas offensive line?  Well, the Georgia offensive line ain't shabby.  But, this is a young team, and if these coaches are ever going to earn their paychecks it's this week.  This team has to be prepared and simply cannot continue the same mistakes it's made so far this season. 

I'm OoooooouuuuuuuuUT! Go Big Orange!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Bogged Down

It is difficult to decide where to start the conversation about Saturday's loss to Florida.  We could start with Butch Jones and what seems like a growing pattern of questionable in game decisions.  We could start with Mike DeBord and his failures as an offensive coordinator to help our passing game. We could start with John Jancek and scrutinize his inability to call a defensive play that would result in a stop on 4th down.  We could start with the youth of the team and talk about folding to the pressure during critical times. I suppose we could identify other areas to analyze as well.

But, let's start with a positive tone. Josh Dobbs has Heisman like talent.  In fact, if he had the ability to throw for an average of 200+ yards per game he would probably be the front runner right now to win it.  Can anyone point out a game, college or pro, when the starting QB was the leading rusher, passer, and receiver?  I don't recall that ever happening before, but it happened Saturday. 

Creativity found it's way onto the field Saturday and for once it was Tennessee that pulled out the tricks.  A jump pass for a first down and reverse throw back to the QB for a TD.  If I had told you prior to the game those two plays would occur, everyone reading this would have guessed it was Florida who pulled that off, not Tennessee.

Jalen Hurd may end his career at Tennessee as the best back that's ever strapped on the Power T.  That guy is impressive.  Talk about a work horse. Former Tennessee QB Jerry Colquitt said if Tennessee had run him 30 times it would have been a 3 touchdown win.  Not sure that's true, but I do know he should have gotten it 3 times late in the 4th quarter when we needed a first down to seal a win.

There are other positives too, but I would like to focus on the 4th quarter and what I saw.  For all it's worth I don't agree with a lot of the criticism Butch has gotten about this loss.  Yes, he used a time out that gave Florida a chance to reconsider kicking the ball and they ended up getting a touchdown out of it.  Yes, he should have gone for two instead of kicking for a point.  Yes, there was confusion on the final drive when Dobbs fumbled.  And, yes Tennessee should have gotten off more than 4 plays with 1:21 remaining and two time outs. And, yes you could say those mistakes cost Tennessee the game.  Jones hasn't thrown his players under the bus, he never said (as far as I know) why they burned the two time outs, but I would be willing to bet either someone was out of position, or there was some mistake going on that forced it.  Think about it, coaches don't just call time out to think in those circumstances.

I've re-watched the 4th quarter twice.  Yes, it was painful.  But, I have been listening to incredible criticism of Butch Jones for the past few days. I've actually heard some people say he needs to go and that he can't get it done. There have been comments about him doing everything right Monday-Friday, but he can't coach.  Of course fans, especially those who have endured about 12-15 years of brutal experiences are going to be hurt and angry after two collapses in the 4th quarter.  But, I needed to see for myself if all the blame belonged to him.  Tennessee found a way to score 27 points on the road against a very good defense and their QB only passed for 83 yards. That probably had nothing to do with coaching, right?  Here's what I saw:

The Vols went on a 16 play touchdown drive followed by Juan Jennings making a huge tackle on the kickoff at the Gators 15 yard line 10:14 left to play.  With 7:05 left we blitz and Gary Danielson says, "Its as if John Jancek is in the FL head set, perfect call again."  Not that Danielson says a lot of things right, but he said it.  With 6:25 left the FL QB is slightly injured on a run to avoid a sack, FL calls time out, 4th and 7.  On 4th down the QB makes a back foot throw on an out route to the tight end.  The ball was perfectly placed and TE made a nice play to make the catch.  6:00 left, FL makes another throw under pressure for a 1st down and the Vols defense seems slow to react.

4:40 remaining, 3rd and 8, incomplete pass.  4th down and 8 with 4:38 left, FL completes a crossing route to the 5 yard line.  4:09 left Florida touchdown.  On the kickoff, Evan Berry falls down at the 15 yard line without being touched.  Hurd goes off tackle for 3 yards.  3:20 left, up the middle for no gain, T.O. Florida. On 3rd down Dobbs attempts a sweep for a loss of yardage.  After a good punt Florida ball with 2:18, but due to the previous plays they have good field position.  Florida attempts a screen for a loss of yardage.  With 1:45 remaining Florida drops a pass near the sidelines, it's 3rd and 14.  Next, the Florida QB again avoids a sack and throws the ball away.  It's 4th down with 1:39 remaining and Florida converts for a 63 yard TD.  On this play the primary defender is out of position, fails to make a tackle, and then one blocker takes 3 additional defenders out of the play.

Tennessee returns the kick to the 32.  With 1:21 remaining Dobbs completes a pass to the 42 to Wolf.  Next is a false start, :56 remaining 1st and 15.  The Vols line up and delay running a play, T.O. Tennessee.  Dobbs completes a pass to Kamara to the Florida 44.  The ball is snapped with :38 left, Dobbs runs to the Florida 36 and fumbles forward, which means the ball comes back to the point of fumble and the clock runs, and that's where the confusion begins.  Completion to the FL 32, more confusion and a substitution violation.  In order to avoid a 10 second run off the Vols lose the penalty yardage and their last time out is used.  Medley comes on to attempt roughly a 54 yard kick, he's never previously attempted anything 50+.

That's what happened.  Can you blame coaching?  Of course, and good leaders take that blame.  Jones took it too.  Did he say, "I lost the game?"  No, and rarely do you see coaches do that.  In many ways saying things like that is setting yourself up for more criticism down the road and your words used against you.  He did say he shoulders the blame.  And, he also said, "we need to learn to close out games."  He's absolutely right about both.

So, it's regroup. Time for these young guys to grow up and finish somebody off. Unfortunately, the news broke today that Curt Maggitt is out for the season, so they'll have to continue to rely on these young players for the rest of the season.

The last time Arkansas won in Knoxville was 1992.  I like the Vols chances on Saturday night.  Let's just hope they don't have a two touchdown lead late in the 4th quarter. 

I'm OOOOuuuuuuuuuUT!  Go Big Orange.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Let's Go Muddin' in the Swamp

It's here.  Time to head down to the state south of Georgia and take on a team that's beaten us 10 straight times.  I think breaking that streak is long overdue.  Let's take a look at how the Vols can stomp a mud hole in el lagarto and walk it dry.  El lagarto, that's the Spanish word from which aligator is derived.  I am committed to not using the name of that school or their mascot in this post.  Those words make me queasy.

Some interesting things are buzzing on the airwaves in and around Knoxville.  I listen to several sports stations out of K-town on a daily basis and have done so since Lane Kiffin left and all the buzz about John Gruden began.  Speaking of Gruden, a guest on one of the talk shows mentioned an article that is already kicking around replacement names for Butch Jones.  That's right, there are people out there who actually believe that if Jones doesn't get it done this season it could be over.  Of course, that is incredibly ridiculous notion.  Regardless of what happens this season, he deserves minimum of one more year, and while I was as frustrated as anyone about the outcome of the Oklahoma game, I never had the thought that he can't win in Knoxville.  Now, it is true that he can't win making the same mistakes week in and week out.  But, that program was in such bad shape when he arrived he needs a fair shot at it.  I think there should be an arrangement made that includes someone publicly punching Derek Dooley in the gut every time we lose.  He made this mess.  Even better would be a plan that had him flogged for every sack we take since he didn't sign a lineman in the 2012 class, and then both he and that punk Lane Kiffin can be punched in the gut for every loss.  Yeah, I like that plan better.

Back to the point.  Prior to the start of the season anyone who honestly looked at the schedule would probably agree that there were a number of games that were questionable at best.  Most would have said Alabama was likely a loss.  Those of us who are long time fans would have reluctantly agreed that Florida was a tough one to win, especially on the road and especially after last year's blown win.  And, Oklahoma was certainly going to be tough even at home.   Then there's Georgia and Missouri, both of whom have beaten us multiple times.  And, even Arkansas seemed like a tough game prior to the season.  The point is, most Vols fans came into the season knowing it could be a great year or it could be another tough one.  The first half of the Oklahoma game convinced a lot of us the Vols were arriving a year earlier than expected.  And then, it fell apart of course.

After three weeks of football and an exciting first half against Oklahoma, things have drastically changed in regard to future Vols opponents.  The Tennessee football team, Butch Jones, the city of Knoxville, and Vols fans everywhere badly need a win this Saturday.  The emotional aspect of this game is torturous. But, if you analyze the schedule a little bit, it is clearly critical to success of this season for the Vols to win on Saturday.  Here's why:

Arkansas has serious issues and unless something significant changes, I expect that game to be a win for the Vols at home.  The next game is also at home against Georgia.  We owe Georgia whoopin big time.  I'm talking about a pick out your own switch whoopin.  If we can stop their run a little bit, I like our chances.  To win the next 3 would be huge.  After those 3, there's a bye and then a road trip to Alabama.  Those of you who stayed up last Saturday night and watched that one saw a different Alabama team than they've had in recent years.  They aren't scary any longer and likely are not going to win the West.  But, let's say it's another year before Tennessee is ready to take down the Tide. A loss there would put the record at 5-2. Everyone else on the schedule is beatable and the only road game left is Missouri.  So, let's say for some reason we can't get past Missouri again this season.  Win the rest and the final record is 9-3 with only two conference losses.  If that had been offered to you pre-season would you have taken it Vol fan?  I would have, and would have been thrilled to know we would be a serious contender in 2016.

Looking at that same plan I just laid out, only change Missouri from a loss to a win, and it is likely a slam dunk that Tennessee wins the East, and that would certainly be a year earlier than most ever would have seriously predicted.

In an ironic twist the two stars of last year's win over Tennessee, Treon Harris and Jalen Tabor, were each suspended for Saturday's game.  Tabor made a huge sack on Tennessee QB Justin Worley forcing a fumble and completely changing the momentum of the game.  Harris then entered the game as the new QB replacing the sarter for El Lagarto. Harris then led a touchdown drive and a drive that ended with a game winning field goal.  Both players have been starters this season. The backup quarterback is a receiver who transferred from Vanderbilt.  Thank the good lord above Vols fans that the backup isn't a receiver from Kentucky.  The last time that happened the Vols lost!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Let's Get it Done and Move On

Western Carolina opened it's football season with a convincing 42-10 win.  If you stop with that, it would appear the Vols are facing a test on Saturday night when they face the Catamounts.  But, a glance at the Western Carolina schedule would tell another story.  The Citadel beat them by 18 points last weekend.  The team they beat in week 1 was Mars Hill, which I believe is located in Decatur County between Blue Goose and Lexington.  Presbyterian, Mercer, Wofford, Samford, and VMI are a few teams on their schedule, and Chattanooga too.  They play at Texas A & M near the end of the season, which means their athletic budget is set for the next couple of years based on two games this season.  Yes, I did have to research to find the name of their mascot, that's not part of the useless information that floats around the football corner of my mind.  I happen to be familiar with where Western Carolina is located because we pass the exit for that school just before we head through the Smokey Mountains as we drive down I40 headed to Knoxville. That's a beautiful area of the country, and that pretty much wraps up this week's pre-game analysis of the Vols Opponent.

A few things to look for on Saturday:

(1) Do they give Dobbs an opportunity to throw some deep passes?  If not, I'm giving fair warning about next week.  Florida has one of the best defensive backfields in the country.  And, they have talent up front too, which means if they don't fear the pass at all, it will be a long game for Dobbs and company.  Look for the Vols to air it out a little against Western Carolina.

(2) How much will Quinten Dormady play?  It's vital that he get serious playing time.  Imagine a Dobbs injury early against the Gators and the Freshman forced into action down in the swamp.  He needs some confidence coming out of this weeks game.

(3) Darrin Kirkland getting the start at middle linebacker is either a sign that he's ready, or a sign the coaches don't want to start another game with Jumper in that position. We'll see if this game gives him the confidence he needs.

(4) Time to get the Wide Receivers involved early and often.  The team owes Marques North about 8-10 targets to make up for the start of this season.  But, if he can't get open against the Catamounts, that's a very bad sign.  It would do the offense a lot of good to roll up about 300 yards passing.  We'll see what happens.

(5) Khalil McKenzie needs to make some plays, expect to see that tonight.

(6) Butch Jones will show the Vol faithful a lot tonight.  His opponent is over matched, the offense should roll up some points early and make way for more guys to play.  Will they dial it back, or will they do what Ole Miss is doing this season and drop a 70-burger on somebody?  How the Vols play this out will come into play next week.  I'd like to see them give the Gators defense a lot to prepare for during the week.

Let's face it, this week is nothing more than a glorified scrimmage.  Reminds me of week 4 of the NFL preseason.  Fans tend to come away from these types of games wondering why we played a game, and chomping at the bit waiting for the next weekend.  The most important thing this week is to leave Neyland Stadium at about 10pm Saturday night with zero injuries.  The Vols are about two key injuries away from playing in the Campbell Soup Bowl, or missing post season all together.  It would be a disaster to lose any key players in a game like this one. 

Let's enjoy watching some of these "younger" players get some significant time on the field.

I'm OoooouuuuuuUT! GBO!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Big Orange Melt Down

I know, I know.  It's been two years since the blog was updated.  After Saturday night's epic come apart by the Vols, I decided I needed to get this thing back up and running and I need the therapy of getting these things off my chest.  Once again I invite any of you who read this regularly to contribute your own post.  All you need to do is write it in word format or some text format and send it to me,
and I'll post it.  On to the game.

What a fan base!  Tennessee has without a doubt, if not the best, certainly one of the best fan bases in any sport.  Not sure how that can truly be measured, but a good place to start when you're looking for the best is Rocky Top.  Name another fan base that turns out crowds like the one Saturday night after the agonizing experiences we've had over the past 7 years.  Checker boarding Neyland will without a doubt start a trend in the sport, and likely will spill over into the basketball season.  What a fantastic idea that was, and our fans have pulled that off twice and it is a sight to behold on television.  That sends a pretty loud message to the rest of the country about who has the most passion.  Mix the look with the sound on Saturday night and you have an atmosphere that is unrivaled.  I'm proud to be a part of such an energized sports family.

This fan base does not deserve what happened Saturday night.  We didn't deserve to lose to LSU a few years ago, we didn't deserve to lose to North Carolina the same season.  We should have beaten Georgia in O.T. two years ago, but those things happen.  Last season the loss to Florida, you remember, the one we should have won by four touchdowns, we shouldn't have lost it period.  But, Saturday night was beyond painful.  And, I have some real concerns about it.

First of all, the decision to kick a field goal from the 1 yard line was not shocking, it was disappointing.  I felt the message in that to the team and the country was, "I don't have confidence in my offense."  Coach Jones said he kicked because points were at a premium, and if he had gone for it and failed, the question would have been why not kick.  Well, that's hog wash.  I believe it is obvious now that he feels the same about this offense as many of us do.  If you have to line up in the shot gun from the 1 yard line because you have no power game, you run a good chance of being stopped.  Shame on us for not having a full back or the ability to run from the I formation. It's insult to the fan base to leave our 240 lb running back on the sidelines after we got to first down from the 5 yard line! Would it have mattered if we had gotten 7 instead of 3?  Yes, I'm not a math major, but I do believe those extra 4 points would have left OU a little short at the end, just sayin. 

But, coaches make those tough decisions all the time.  Some times it works out, some times it doesn't, that's why it's called a game.  So, the fact that we kicked there is just 1 play and decision.  The concern is it shouldn't have mattered.  Tennessee dominated a good team for a half and two plays into the second half.  The Vols haven't done that in years.  Everything was working, or seemed to be, but even as we were making a push to blow them out of that Orange and White Thunderdome, there were some curious things going on. 

For one, Hurd carried the load on the first three drives until we got close to the goal line and then Kamara came on the field.  Wait a minute... they aren't called thunder and lightening for nothing. Hurd is the Thunder.  He should be on the field near the goal line for the power.  Speaking of Kamara, he only had 4 carries, I hear he got injured, but don't recall hearing that during the game or after. 

Pig Howard returned from his leave of absence (hope he stays away from the weed for the rest of the season) with a bang!  He took a reverse up the field and made the OU defense look like it was standing still.  From there he never ran the ball again, and had only 1 catch on the night.   Our most dynamic playmaker for the past two seasons gets 2 touches the entire game. 

Our two top receivers touched the ball once each.  How in the world do we not get the ball in the hands of Pearson and North more than once each?  Pearson did get a reverse, for a 3 yard loss.  Our leading receiver was Josh Smith, who did look good, but let's face it, he should be the third or fourth choice most of the time.

Oklahoma out passed us.  The questionable choice for starting QB for the Sooners threw for more yards than Dobbs.  And our "dual threat" QB rushed the ball 12 times for 14 yards.  Granted his sack yardage took that number down a little, but his opposition, the guy with two last names out rushed him.  Baker Mayfield was the better athlete as far as I could tell on Saturday.  That's just the way it seemed to me.  I don't know the last time I saw a QB escape that many tackles behind the line of scrimmage.

Is it possible we have so many athletes on offense that the coaches are trying too hard to give everybody playing time?  Between plays it looks like a Chinese Fire drill out there.  Substituting practically every play kills any chance a receiver is going to get into a rhythm with the QB.  With this system before you know it the game is basically over and our best receivers end up with 1 catch each.  Not sure how that is going to work long term for the QB and receiver relationship.

As much as I like Josh Dobbs, I am concerned that he's not the right guy to get us where we need to be, and frankly should be.  We need to stop calling him a dual threat.  At best he's a threat to run the
ball, a legitimate threat.  But, he either will not do it, cannot do it, or is not allowed to do it when it comes to throwing the ball down the field.  We are zero threat to beat teams deep.  He really doesn't have the kind of touch needed to succeed in the SEC, at least to this point.  Teams are not afraid of his arm, so that makes us vulnerable up front both running the ball and throwing.  It's a very bad position to be in when the defense doesn't have to be concerned with the long ball, or for that matter the intermediate routes.  I'm not attempting to bash Dobbs.  He seems like a great kid and everybody knows how smart he is.  And, speaking of how smart he is, maybe there's a reason we've never heard of a football player being a rocket scientist.  Maybe he's too damn smart for football?

Tennessee has had some dual threat QBs.  Too many to mention them all, but Condredge Holloway, Jimmy Streater, Tony Robinson, and Heath Shuler make Dobbs look like a running back playing QB.  I bet you thought I was going to include Casey Clausen on that list right?  Ok, a little humor never hurts.  Poor Casey couldn't out run a lawn sprinkler.  But, he could damn sure throw it.  Back to the point.

Our offensive philosophy is to snap the ball as fast as possible and keep the defense on their heals.  Prevent them from substituting, and create a rhythm.  But, when you have a 17 point lead, and then a 14 point lead against a pretty good team. We had a possession in the 3rd quarter that lasted 40 seconds. If you aren't clicking on offense, dial it down.  Dial it way down and let that clock roll.  That's basic football philosophy.  The 1 back read option, fast break style offense is nothing more than the flavor of the month.  At the end of it all, offensive basics still apply- block, run, throw, protect the ball, and manage the clock!!!!

Our defense played an outstanding game.  Jaylen Reeves Maybin had 21 tackles and Barnett had 15. Todd Kelly, Jr. played a fantastic game and the loss of Curt Maggitt hurt.  As well as they played,
they were on the field longer than OU's defense.  That's right, Oklahoma won time of possession.  And, the worst of it, we still don't have a middle linebacker.  That has to get fixed.  People have been screaming for freshman Darrin Kirkland to play instead of Jumper, but the word is Kirkland is struggling to get up to speed with lining up correctly.  He's much more athletic than Jumper, but we have to wait to see him do anything of significance.

I believe Butch Jones has the train moving in the right direction and picking up speed.  Prior to the season, very few would have circled the Oklahoma game as a win.  But, that first half gave us a real glimpse of the future. Watching so many really good young football players run around that field was fun. Shy Tuttle didn't have a tackle, but he sure blew up some plays.  And, don't get me wrong, a kicker is a kicker, but I think we found a punter.  He was a huge part of that big early lead.  Other guys were looking special too, and I think the first half allowed some of us to imagine it really could be we are very good. 

There's a lot of football left to play and we can still win the East, but it'll take a better game plan, actual adjustments at half time and some of the young guys have to play like they're older in crunch time.  In less than two weeks we're going to run out onto the field down in the swamp with a chance of starting a win streak against Florida. I hope we drain that mud hole and have gator tail for dinner.  But, let's get ready for Western Carolina, they give us a chance to get some confidence back.  Who knows, maybe we can figure out how to milk a clock.  I'm OooooooouuuuUT! Go Big Orange.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Crystal Ball

I am confused.  I'm irritated.  I'm looking for answers and I keep searching everywhere I can find for an answer about the Vols future.  Every turn comes up empty.  So, because I'm a dedicated Vols fan I'm taking one for the team.  I've gone on ebay and made a purchase.  No need to go look for one of your own, I bought the last crystal ball.  The bidding was pretty fierce and I finally out bid some guy with the user name  It was close, seemed like he just gave up toward the end. 

I had it shipped overnight and when I got home from work today I ripped open the box and prayed that it would tell me something, anything.  I placed it on the table and was shocked at what happened when I asked the simple question, "can you tell me anything at all about Tennessee football's future?" Smoke rose within the glass sphere and remarkably, info freely flowed.

So, there you have it.  Seems like the crystal ball got tired of talking about Tennessee football, so I never got to the part about who will coach the team next season.  I'll keep trying.

I'm OoooooooooouuuuuuuuuuuUT! Go Big Orange

Monday, November 5, 2012

When a Win Feels Like a Loss, It's Over

I am having a very hard time coming up with a previous win that felt so much like a loss, not just for the Vols but any sports team.  Beating Troy the way Tennessee did stunk.  Troy is not a name for a football team.  It's more like a name for the annoying kid who sat across from you in 5th grade and just couldn't get out his own way. "Knock it off Troy, you're getting on my last nerve with the spit balls."  No, the name Troy does not shake Vol nation to the core hard enough to wake General Neyland.  But, Tennessee's incredibly embarrassing defensive effort probably had him rolling over in his grave.

I've heard some so called Vols fans say they wanted Tennessee to lose to Troy so that Dooley would be fired.  Hell, if it takes losing to Troy to get the attention of the powers that be, heaven help us all.  I have been a vocal supporter of Dooley, and thought he was the right person at the time he was hired.  Today, I'm done.  Truthfully, I was done after the South Carolina game.  I'm no longer par taking of the Dooley Coolade, or Doolade as some call it.  Under his leadership the Vols invent new ways to lose every week.  I would argue that the only reason they managed to win against Troy was the obvious difference between the athletes on Tennessee's offense and Troy's defense.  Specifically, CP and Hunter.  It's time for Dooley to hang up the cane and the orange pants and move on to another place to start over.  Regardless of who the coach is, I will never pull against the Vols.  I have to trust that the decision makers know a change has to happen whether they win out or not.  And frankly, if they win out, I will be absolutely floored.

It's not just that the Vols are 0-5 in the SEC for the third straight season.  It's much bigger than that.  Regardless of how long the University waits, he'll never succeed at Tennessee.  It is obvious he cannot lead.  He offers no reasonable explanation for how bad the defense has become.  And, it's gotten worse through the course of the season.  Think back to the NC State game.  On Saturday against Troy, the halftime adjustment should have been firing the defensive staff.  I'm sure there was a high school defensive coach in the stands somewhere, assuming he hadn't left by the half like most others did.  Pulling someone out of the stands to the sidelines would have been a tremendous upgraded at that point.

This week Dooley says he's devoting all his time to the defense.  The good news about that is the offense should immediately improve if he's letting go of it.  Blaming Sal Sunseri or even Mike Hamilton no longer holds water.  He was hired to stabilize and turn around a proud football program.  Instead, he stabilized some things and has turned the team into the laughing stock of the SEC.  Believe me, the other schools are laughing.  I did a fair amount of laughing at Bama just a few years ago when they went through similar circumstances.

I've seen enough.  That win was like a painful loss.  I, along with most, can no longer deal with that.  Apparently, Dave Hart and some others have seen enough too.  Reportedly, on Sunday after Peyton was finished whooping the Bengals, he hopped a plane and headed to Knoxville to assist some others in an attempt to kidnap Jon Gruden.  You didn't see that on the news?  The kidnapping attempt was thwarted, the truth is in the photo.  Desperate times call for desperate measures.

By the way, Vols fans deserve better.  If Dave Hart doesn't get that he needs to go too.

The time is now.  Make the announcement and put everyone out of their misery!  Bring on someone. Anyone.  Help!

I'm OooooooooooouuuuuuuuuUT!  Go Big Orange.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Ground Swell

(This article is written under the assumption that Jon Gruden IS a viable candidate, a follow up to previous article)

It is incredible how quickly the momentum has grown regarding Jon Gruden as a candidate for the Tennessee job.  So, let's take a moment to consider the possibilities.

I'm not convinced he is coming, nor that he will come.  Jon Gruden is a savvy individual, he knows what is happening in Knoxville.  He's known for quite some time.  It's a fact that the University contacted him in 2008 before reaching out to Kiffin.  If he had wanted the job a year later, Dooley wouldn't be our coach right now.  Knowing the state of the Tennessee program he had to figure the chances were good he'd be contacted again.  He signed a 5 year contract extension with ESPN at the end of 2011.  Maybe he has it written into his contract he can leave for his dream job, crazier things have happened, right?

Jon Gruden has never been a head coach at the college level.  Does that matter?  It matters if he has no interest in the recruiting process.  It matters a lot.  College head coaches have to give up large chunks of their lives to be successful.  NFL coaches do as well, but recruiting is not something everyone wants to do.

Now, if he's okay with the recruiting process, I'd say he would be an instant hit on the recruiting trails.  Do you think top QB recruits would want to play for Jon Gruden, hell yes!  Our stock would immediately rise on the recruiting trails, and as we all know talent is a must to rebuild this program.

A hire like that would resolve the money problems in the athletic department, almost instantly.  Season ticket sales would soar, immediately.  Merchandise sales would soar immediately.  The fan base would be electrified.  Think about how many people would show up for the spring game.  It would be like the old days right out of the gates.   The excitement alone could help win a couple of games.

There are other places that are interested in Jon Gruden.  Arkansas is one of them.  Would he choose them over the Vols, I have no idea, I would guess not, but who knows.  What about the NFL?  There would probably be a handful of teams looking for a coach at the end of the season.  The Jets may need a coach, the Chargers, and a little team down in Texas called the Cowboys could need a coach.  He wouldn't coach for Jerry Jones you say?  He coached for Al Davis, he would certainly coach for Jerry Jones.  I, along with most people, have no clue whether he would take a college job over another NFL job.

Jon Gruden did an outstanding job as a coach in the NFL.  He took over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after Tony Dungy was fired.  He won the Super Bowl in his first season.  Some have argued that he won that Super Bowl with Dungy's players.  Of course he did.  And, he beat the Raiders whom he left to take the Bucs job.  You could say he took two teams to the Super Bowl that year.  I'm not sure that's ever happened before.  He built the Raiders into a Super Bowl team from nothing, they were a wreck before he got there.

What if he failed at Tennessee?  Well, then someone else would need to take over.  But, the state of the program, I would bet, would be better.  What if he coaches 3-4 years then bolts for the NFL?  Well, then someone else would need to take over.  If he was at Tennessee 4 years, I would bet he would hand off a much improved, and most importantly, respected Tennessee team. 

His offensive coordinator could be his brother, Jay.  He's the offensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals right now.  Maybe he would be Jon's replacement?  Who knows what the possibilities are with a Gruden team running the show. 

As stated before, I'm not convinced he would come.  But, he would bring immediate energy, much needed energy, and most importantly hope for Vols fans.  I like the looks of his wind breaker above. If it's Gruden, I'm all in.

I'm OooooooooouuuuuuuUT! Go Big Orange.

Monday, October 22, 2012

(This article is written under the assumption that Joh Gruden is not a viable candidate)

Derek Dooley opened his press conference with these words of wisdom,

"Talkin' to myself and feelin' old
Sometimes I'd like to quit,
nothin' ever seems to fit
Hangin' around, nothin' to do but frown
Rainy days and Mondays always get me down"

Okay, he didn't say that, but I'm sure he was thinking it.  What he did say was this,

“If he’s loose with the football, he’s coming out of the game and
we’re going to play Justin,” Dooley said. “I told him that.”

The natural question that should have followed Dooley's statement is, "Why wait?"  Why not give Justin Worley the same luxury Bray had two seasons ago when he took over for Matt Simms who had been beaten senseless by teams very similar to the ones Bray is losing to right now?  Dooley was reportedly upset with Bray for refusing to speak with the media following the game.  Said he needs to "man up."  Again, why wait.  It's not going to happen.  Tyler Bray isn't going to man up.  He'll be 21 years old at the end of December.  He's been coddled long enough.  Time to give someone else the reigns, at least for a little while.  Get this kids attention.  By the way, some are referring to him as coach Derek "Stooley" now.  Back to Bray...

Bray has gotten away with things on and off the field that others would not get away with.  He's immature, he slings the ball around with nothing but hope written on it, and from what I'm hearing out of Knoxville he doesn't watch film.  Doesn't watch film?  If that's true, no wonder he isn't improving and neither is the team.  It wouldn't hurt Bray to come off the bench, it might even help him.

One of the reasons Dooley looks like he can't coach (I realize it may be fact), is because he doesn't have a leader on the field.  Bray certainly isn't a leader.  Look at the careers of the best QBs ever and you'll find they were frequently referred to as "field generals."  They brought more to the table than an ability to throw or read a defense. 

I have to admit, I am back and forth on the fire Dooley thing.  I'm on that band waggon and then I'm off.  I'm on, and I'm off.  Right now, I feel like I've been run over by that damned band waggon.  So, I don't know what should happen.  From what I've read the athletic department is out of money for the most part.  Doesn't sound to me like UT can afford the buy out or what it would take to get someone proven on the sidelines.

I do know this, and I thought it at the time, it is hard to understand why Dooley kept offensive coordinator Jim Chaney on staff when he arrived.  Some of the play calling this season is just baffling.  Maybe Bray is changing the play, who knows?

I also know that the gap in talent between Tennessee and the top SEC schools is Ginormous.  That's a cross between Gigantic and Enormous.  I had to combine them because I'm not sure which is bigger.  We have never had such a lack of talent in the defensive secondary. Those kids got embarrassed at times.  Wide open receivers, with no one within 20 yards on multiple occasions, along with more "air" tackled than actual bodies.  Prentiss Wagner would have led the team in "air tackles", but he got juked so bad on one play he couldn't even grab air!  It's not their fault really.  They just aren't as good as the National Champion's players.

This is a painful thing to watch.  And, the screaming for Dooley to be fired in Tennessee has gotten so loud it woke me up several times early Sunday morning.  Reminder- I live on the coast of North Carolina.  That's some loud screaming.  But, without talent, who will win?  The Vols are more competitive than they were last year.  Until Saturday night it was clear that our offensive line is worlds better.  We have some very good linebackers.  And CP, well I'm not sure the Vols have ever had anyone like that on the field. 

Speaking of CP, we all know he's the best player on the team, so why wouldn't he get a minimum of 20 touches a game.  Okay, 20's a lot, how about 15?  Touchbacks on a kickoff don't count.  He had 1 catch Saturday night, 1! And, it was phenomenal!  He ran the ball 2 times for -6 yards (remember he dropped a pitch, thus the loss of yardage), and we can't get him the ball more than that?  He returned 4 kicks for 111 yards, that's 4 touches 111 yards of offense.  I'm certainly no offensive coordinator, but even I know that if 4 touches equals 111 yards, it's time to start getting the guy the ball more than anyone else on the field.  That lack of production falls squarely on the Offensive Coordinator and Head Coach.  Stop for a minute and consider this... What would Spurrier's staff do with a player like Cordarrell Patterson?  Do you think he would have had more opportunities Saturday?

Justin Hunter has to be losing stock on the NFL draft board.  He started the season as a near slam dunk first round pick and he may still be one, but if he is the NFL's standards for a WR has changed.  Hunter looks tentative and like he's afraid of getting hit.  Maybe I am misinterpretting the alligator arms and the lack of catches over the middle.  If he is afraid to go over the middle I don't blame him a lot, he did blow out his knee last season.  I don't blame him for not wanting to do it, but it is his job and if he can't do it in college how the heck will he do it at the next level.  Hopefully he'll be himself again once the opponents get easier. 

Back to the talent thing.  If the coaching staffs had swapped sides, the result would have been the same.  It may have even been worse. How's that?  Well, we don't know what Dooley would have done with a lead like that.  Hell, Maybe he would have pulled a Spurrier and thrown a couple of TDs late just to say go stick it!!  But, Dooley hasn't had a lead like that over an SEC school, so we'll just settle for the result would have been the same.  Saban wouldn't beat Alabama with Tennesee's players, and that's the truth.  Who's at fault for that lack of talent?  Hell, I don't know.  I know our current recruiting class is ranked 17 by rivals.  That's not bad, but Alabama is #1 and Florida is #3.  Auburn is #10, Georgia is #12, and Texas A & M is #15 right now.  If he lands a couple of surprises, maybe we jump to the top 10.

The primary reason I jump off the fire Dooley band waggon is simple.  Saturday night's game doesn't matter right now.  I didn't say I don't care, I said it doesn't matter right now.  No one believed Tennessee was going to win Saturday night.  I doubt too many people thought it would be close.  Has it become a standard for Tennesse to enter ball games thinking it's okay to lose?  No, and losing like that is unacceptable.  But, it's not a standard right now.  No Vols fan is happy with the situation.  But, unless things fall completely apart, he should get a shot at coaching the players he's recruited after they have matured and have experience. 

If the Vols get embarrassed on Saturday it may be over.  But, if they show up for 4 quarters, and especially if they get a win, they could be set up for nice run to end the season.  Ladies and Gentlemen, the combined record of the teams we have lost to is 27-1.  South Carolina has lost two in a row, by the way to teams with a combined record of 13-1.  The Vols have a real shot at this game.  The bad news- it's in Columbia.  The good news- it starts at 12 eastern time so if it's painful, it'll be over early, won't ruin your evening.

I'm OoooooouuuuuuuUT!  Go Big Orange.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

How Long Does Dooley Have?

DooleyLuckily, my job security is not determined by the number of wins the Tennessee football team produces.  Likewise, I am fortunate that I don't get paid to decide about the fate of the head coach.  But, at some point in the very near future, Dave Hart has to make a decision.  Does he stay or go?  How many wins secures his job? Does it matter who those wins come against?  Would an upset of Alabama or South Carolina secure his job regardless of record at the end of the season?  Is he in danger of losing his job this year?
Those are very tough questions.  I've been listening to a lot of Knoxville area radio this season.  The level of optimism heading into the Florida game was reminiscent of the glory years of the Fulmer era. After that loss, optimism was still there, not as strong, but there.  Heading into the Mississippi State game, the consensus was this would be the first big win of Dooley's career at Tennessee.  I personally fired Dooley several times Saturday night.  I fired Sal probably a dozen times.  I fired our special teams coach and cut our punter.  Luckily for them, I don't have any say, especially in the middle of a game.
Right now, I don't want to see any of them lose their job (except the punter).  On the flip side, if Dooley, Sal, and Chaney were all let go tonight, it would not break my heart.  I don't claim to know what the right answer is, and I doubt anyone really does know.  What I am about to share is not an argument to keep Dooley, it's just facts, that's all.  There are some things to consider.
It may be the wrong answer completely, but my argument today, and I reserve the right to change my mind and deny all together that I ever made the following suggestion.  Even though it's in writing I could easily claim delirium brought on by Tennessee football despair.  So, here goes...
I think Dooley needs to be the coach for the rest of this season, and unless things just fall completely apart he should be back next season too.  I know, some of you are done with it and him.  I get that.  And, like I said before, it wouldn't be heart breaking if it were over now.  When he arrived at UT the program was a mess.  My favorite Vol fan and long time Vols viewing companion stated the other day that if UT ends the season with a losing record he will be fired, and he followed that with, "there hasn't been any improvement."  I agreed.  But, upon further consideration I'll offer up some observations.
I don't believe that moral victory is a part of Tennessee football, so staying close to an oponent really doesn't hold water.  If we begin thinking staying close is acceptable we are done as a fan base and UT is done as a football power forever.  It is true fan bases lower expectations over time if their team loses enough.  Ask Vandy fans.  Ask Memphis fans, and countless others who are never a factor in National conversation when it comes to football.  If Tennessee fans ever reach that point, I can't see myself in Knoxville for a game again.
But, if you look at who we have played and the margin of loss, maybe we have improved.  The BCS poll came out on Monday.  It is sobering for a UT fan base that came into this season with high expectations.  We are not a top 25 team and haven't been all season.  But, as of Monday we have lost to the number 2 in the BCS, number 11 and number 12.  And, we very well may lose to number 1 on Saturday.  What team has ever faced that in the first 6 games of the season?  Should we be one of those ranked in the top 12, well hell yes, this is Tennessee by damn.  That's what we expect.  But, we r not one of those.  And, we are a season or two from even having a shot at that, no matter who is coaching.
Speaking of which, if Dooley is let go, who is going to replace him.  Gruden would have been here after Kiffin if he wanted to coach college ball, forget it.  So, who is it?  Petrino?  Please.  Tuberville?  He's not likeable.  Could I get over that?  Maybe, look what he's done at Texas Tech.  Texas Tech! What about Dan Mullen?  He just beat us.  But, then again, why would he leave what he's built to come to UT where the fans may turn on him before he's had adequate time to fix what's broke? That leaves David Cutcliffe who is managing to win at Duke.  Duke, people! But, that would be moving backwards.  No need to go there. Of course there are other options, but who is a truly big time coach who can step right in and make it work?  A change could easily just continue what is happening now and then we face another change.  WE ARE NOT OLE MISS!
I don't know what the answer is, but if we plan to part ways with Derek Dooley, we damn well better have a slam dunk winner in the wings.  Why not give Dooley a full four years and see what happens.  If it doesn't work, maybe Peyton will be ready to leave playing for coaching.  It's what we all want anyway.
While you think about it, take a look at this information about Nick Saban, Dooley's mentor and current world beater at Alabama.
I find the 1998 season especially interesting to consider.  After two huge upsets, things did not turn out so well.  We didn't notice and we didn't care because we were busy winning a National Title.
Michigan State
When Saban arrived in East Lansing, Michigan prior to the 1995 season, MSU had not had a winning season since 1990, and the team was sanctioned by the NCAA for recruiting violations committed under his predecessor and former mentor, George Perles.[15]
  • 1995–1997 – Beginning in 1995, Saban moderately improved MSU's fortunes, taking the Spartans to minor bowl games (all of which they lost by double-digit margins) in each of his first three seasons. From 1995 to 1997, Michigan State finished 6–5–1, 6–6, and 7–5. In comparison, MSU had finished 5–6, 6–6 and 5–6 (prior to NCAA forfeits) in 1992–1994.
  • 1998 – On November 7, 1998, the Spartans upset the No. 1 ranked Ohio State 28–24 at Ohio Stadium. However, even after the upset and an early-season rout of then-highly-ranked Notre Dame the Spartans finished 6–6, including three last-minute losses featuring turnovers, defensive lapses, and special-teams misplays, and failed to earn a bowl invitation.
  • 1999 – Saban led the Spartans to a 9–2 season that included wins over Notre Dame, Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State. However, the two losses were routs at the hands of Purdue and Wisconsin. Following the final regular-season game against Penn State, Saban abruptly resigned to accept the head coaching position with LSU. Saban's assistant head coach and successor, Bobby Williams, then coached MSU to a Citrus Bowl victory over Florida, giving the Spartans an overall record of 10–2 for the 1999 season. It would be the best season in terms of wins for the Spartans since 1965, and it would see the Spartans reach their highest ranking since the 1966 team.[16] Future former NFL Head Coach Josh McDaniels served as a Graduate Assistant on Saban's 1999 coaching staff.
Saban left Mich. State for LSU where he won a National title.  He left LSU for the NFL and then returned to college at Alabama and the rest is history.  One of his pupils was Derek Dooley.  Let's hope Dooley turns it around soon.

I'm  OOOOOOooooouuuuUT!  Go Vols