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 SonofVinceandBarbaraD@UT.edu  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
M

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.
M

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.
M

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.
M



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
M

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Zip One In There

Okay, writing about playing the Akron Zips is not productive and certainly isn't exciting, so I won't bother to spend any time on that.  The only notable issue is we are matched against Terry Bowden.  We've always enjoyed beating a Bowden, especially on January 4, 1999.  But, that's a distant memory.  This is certainly a must win, I think we'll get it done.

But, there are some things to consider as the Vols move into a warm up for the most critical stretch of the season. 

The loss to Florida essentially negated the win against NC State.  We all knew it was a possibility, but until it actually happened, it was hard to imagine the positive vibe for the season could unravel early on.  I was in Neyland last Saturday with Chris, and technically with Brad and his family along with 102,000 other people.  I haven't been in Neyland when it was that electric since the '90s.  I will say most SEC games were that electric in the 90's, but those days are gone.

It was so loud last Saturday, at least for a half, my ears were hurting.  It was crazy in there.  It was fantastic.  But, a disturbing thing happened on the way to a victory.  The Vols collapsed under the pressure.  Chris and I had a good view of things.  We had great angles on key plays.  We were close to the UT bench and the South end zone.  We had a birds eye view of the goal line stand.  We didn't need a birds eye view to see the fatal flaws of this team.  So here it is, my assessment of what we are dealing with....

No need to hold back, let's just look at the reality of what Vols fans are watching.  For starters, Tyler Bray is not a leader, and I don't see anything that would indicate he will become one.  He's great when things are going well.  In fact, he's entertaining to watch.  But, when it gets rough, he checks out.  It's not just Bray.  The team lacks on the field leadership and has for a number of years.  But, most successful teams have a QB that players believe in and will listen to when it's crunch time.  Bray is not that leader.  He comes off as down right bratty.  He cannot deal with getting hit.  Honestly, I probably couldn't either, but that's only one of a multitude of reasons I didn't play college football, especially QB.  In the end, I predict that lack of leadership ability will mean Tyler plays very little football at a professional level.

We do not have an SEC caliber running back.  There is zero threat from our backfield.  There is zero threat that one of our backs will break a long run.  We just don't have a guy who can do that.  At least, we haven't seen a guy who can do that to this point in the season.

We are an immature team.  Simply, when things got tough this team was done.  I do not believe that the kids "quit."  I just think they were demoralized.  It's like there feelings were hurt when they went from up 7 to down 7 in about 4 minutes of game time.  Instead of stepping up and saying we are not done, the team just melted. That's a reflection of leadership, and you can point the finger at Dooley, and he deserves criticism, but in the end if the players don't want it enough, there is no coach in the country who will win, and that includes people like Saban.  At some point, the players must take responsibility for the desire to win and to execute.

We are bad in the secondary.  Losing Brian Randolph to a blown out knee just adds to the disaster we have with our defensive backs.  And, the fact that he was injured on a humiliating long run after catching a pass only make is worse.  As a side bar, I was pleased to learn that giving up a pass and run like that was mostly due to the fact that the ball was thrown to where our conerback blitzed from.  I couldn't see that from my seat.  Marsalis Teague is a receiver, that's where he played as a freshman with Kiffin, and he cannot tackle.  It is admirable he has tried to help on defense, but he simply is not a defensive back who can bring what we need.

Dan McCullers is big.  It is amazing to look at him on the field.  And, he just tossed the center aside on one play in particular.  He cannot be blocked one on one.

The jury is out on our coaching staff.  Half time adjustments are critical to success, I wonder if we will see any adjustments that actually make a difference as the season moves on.  Chris and I commented over and over in the first half about the fact that it looked like they could not cover our receivers.  That changed somewhat in the second half, but not much, Tyler just seemed to look for one guy at a time and it didn't work.  What did change was attitude and ability to stop the Florida running game.  At the half the Gators had 176 total yards.  By game's end they had over 300 rushing yards alone.  No one wins in the SEC giving up 300 yards rushing, no one.
If the Vols are going to win a big SEC game any time soon, they have to make big plays when they present themselves.  The defense must find a way to cover a fumble at the two.  Hunter must find a way to catch a pass in a critical situation when it hits him between the numbers.  A defensive back must figure out how to hang on to a sure interception in the first half.  Tyler has to know the linebacker is there early in the game when he throws over the middle.  If Patterson can get his hand on a long pass that would be a TD, he has to find a way to hold on in a game like the UT/Florida game.  Bottom line, big players make big plays in big games.  We don't have any of that.

Finally, Johnny Majors was honored prior to the game.  That was very nice.  It felt good and it felt right.  As a coach, John Majors stressed some basics for winning football-  You must win 3 phases of the game-- The running game, the kicking game, and turnovers.  We lost all three against Florida.  If we don't find a way to win those three areas each week, we should expect to lose. 

And, by the way, the best kicker on the team last Saturday was Tyler Bray.  I'm just saying, we need to fix that problem, and I am at a loss as to why that wasn't resolved in the off season.


I'm OOOOuuuuuuuuUT!  Go Vols!
M

Monday, August 27, 2012

Biggest Game in More than a Decade

Da'Rick is gone, Tennessee Tech can suffer through his distractions now that he's transferring to them, and it's 4 nights until the Orange and White take the field.  On the eve of the 2012 football season, Vols fans are anxious.  And, for the first time in a very long time fans anxiously await the start of the season because of optimism.  Of course, there will always be the pessimists; their voices are always too loud to ignore, but for the most part Tennessee fans are eager to get the season under way.

I cannot imagine the level of anxiety Derek Dooley must be feeling.  He just lost his top receiver from a year ago, his next best receiver is coming off of knee surgery, and the next guy in line has never played a down in the SEC.  Not only are those items looming large, he has to find a way to make the Vols faithful forget and unforgivably embarrassing loss to Kentucky to end last season.  Hermann Lathers didn't play last season.  Dooley's fingers must be triple crossed hoping his top linebacker can play a full season.

But, with a lot of question marks lining the depth chart, there is a lot of room for optimism about how this season will turnout.  The Vols have 18 starters returning.  By all accounts Cordarrelle Patterson could make fans forget Da'Rick in very short order.  And Michael Rivera is a top senior tight end who can catch the rock and run with it.  The offensive line is in tact and very experienced.  Tyler Bray is back and healthy.


Maybe the biggest positive, and I do mean biggest, is the defensive line.  Daniel McCullers is 6'6" and 368lbs., on each side of him is Darrington Sentimore 6'2" 288 and Maurice Couch 6'2" and 299lbs.  They are certainly going to get in the way a lot.  Number 45 in this photo is A.J. Johnson, he's 6'2" and weighs 240lbs.  It's rumored that McCullers nick name is the "Green Mile."  I would suggest that instead of healing the pain as in the movie, this Green Mile is going to bring the pain, big time!  As he meets a running back at the line of scrimmage early on this season I can imagine a lot of introductory lines. "I hit you so hard your children will be born with a bruise."  "Hello, I'm Mr. McCullers.  I think your gonna need to change your pants at the half."  "Trust me, your head is still in your helmet, you just can't find your helmet."  "Hi, I'm Dan.  That noise you heard was every bone in your body screaming in terror."  "Hey dude, I think this head belongs to you."  He's a big boy.  Hope the aching Vols budget can afford to feed him.

Sports talk in K-town is a buzz.  Until the news of Da'Rick broke Eric Ainge was suggesting the Vols could average near 40 points a game.  I think he's right, and I don't think the loss of Rogers will change that, the Vols will score a lot of points. 

But, I will suggest to you, my fellow Vols followers, that this game on Friday night could be the most important game since January 4, 1999.  That's the night Tennessee beat Florida State for the National Championship.  Losing the game certainly doesn't spell a bad season necessarily.  But, to start with a loss is going to make it especially difficult for the Vols to gain enough confidence through the season to beat some of the best.  The numbers don't help either if they lose.  The Vols face 3 preseason top 10 teams and a fourth top 25 team.   Recent history would suggest losses to those top 25 teams.  That, combined with an opening loss would equal 5 losses.  I don't have to tell you how stressful that would make the swing games.  That scenario would mean I'll need a new remote, because the one I have would certainly not survive.

But, with all that, the need for a win is bigger than the final win total.  The Vols need to taste victory on the national stage.  It would begin moving the Big Orange back toward relevance, and could start them down the road to significant confidence.  Considering that Florida plays Bowling Green and then goes on the road to Texas A & M, the Vols could be in the best seat they've been in for years when they meet the Gators in Knoxville.  Traditionally, the Gators have started the season against two doormats before playing Tennessee.  Thanks to conference realignment, they have two difficult road games in a row, and Tennessee is number two in that line.

Imagine coming out of the Florida game 3-0 followed by Akron at home.  It is conceivable that the Vols will roll into Athens at the end of September undefeated.  But, it starts with Friday night.  A loss could be disastrous.  But, imagine the "what ifs" if they lose that game and hit Athens with only 1 loss to NC State.

Friday nights game could be viewed in retrospect as the game that turned the program around.  Or, it could just be another forgettable game.  Tennessee has not done well in Atlanta.  Let's hope that changes this week and helps to change the program.

I'm OoooooooooUT!  Go Vols!
M

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Power of Orange Blood

Yep.  It's official, Peyton is a Bronco.  I sent an email last week alerting everyone of where he would end up.  Frankly, and this has nothing to do with my Niners background, he had a better chance of getting to the Super Bowl right away in San Francisco, but I wondered if he would compete with his brother in the NFC, so it wasn't a huge surprise.

Many have wondered how he reached his decision.  Was it Elway?  Was it Tebow?  Was it the fact the Broncos found a way to win a playoff game with Tebow at Quarterback?  Was it money? 

Let me simplify this for you.  The Orange is in his blood.  Did you know that in the 70's when the Broncos first made a trip to the Super Bowl, their Defense was called the "Orange Crush?"  That's right, the Orange Crush.  Need I say more?  All of you are well aware of the power of the Orange.  Many of you claim to have Orange Blood.  Clearly, Peyton has Orange Blood.  That's why he chose to wear yet another Orange Jersey in Denver. 

Okay, sure... He could have signed with Cleveland, they wear Orange.  Who in their right mind would play for Cleveland if they had a choice?  So, he could have played for Cincinnati, they wear Orange too.  But the stripes on their helmets and jerseys is enough reason not to sign to play for them.  That leaves the Tampay Bay Bucs.  But, they would have to wear the orange jerseys they wore in the 70s and 80s, they don't wear orange today except on "throw back" day.  Everyone knows how horrible they were in those decades, and frankly have been forever, with the exception of one season, when they won the Super Bowl.  Ironically, that season they were coach by John Gruden.  Why is that ironic?  Because Gruden was a graduate assistant coach at UT and he married a former UT cheerleader.  No wonder Tampa won a Super Bowl, it was the Orange Blood!

It's the Orange.  I'm telling you, once it's in your blood it has incredible power.  It will make you passionate and fanatical and you will not be able to explain it.  It will make you do and say stupid, yet brilliant things.  It will make you jump, shout, throw things, and cry (clearly the tears are orange).  So, regardless of the color "green" and that played a part too, it was the color orange that was the final straw.  Oh, and don't forget that one of Peyton's closest friends is Todd Helton, first baseman for the Colorado Rockies who plays in Denver.  He was the Quarterback at Tennessee that Peyton replaced when Peyton was a freshman, and he encouraged Peyton to relocate to Denver- I'm sure there was some Orange talk going on there.

Hey, think about it...Peyton replaced Helton who became a Professional baseball star, 5 time All Star in fact.... Look out baseball world, you may get Tebowed soon!!!  I can see the headline now, "Tebow Belts Homer to win first game for Rockies."  Stop the presses, everyone get on a knee and Tebow the baseball world.
Modern technology is incredible.  Just look at this photo.  We already know how it will look when the Broncos are on the road.  It will take some time to get used to this, but I have to say that I have never hated the Broncos.  In fact, I was always a John Elway fan, and I am happy for him that yet another Hall of Famer will lead the Broncos.  Only time will tell how this story turns out.  Let's just hope Peyton doesn't end up in the land of Brett Favre.  I have to believe this story will turn out a little differently.  And, we can all attribute it to the Color Orange.


I'm OuuuuuuuuUT! Go Vols!
M

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Vols Finally Catch a Break

Just a few years ago I could not have imagined writing about a Christmas gift for the Vols like this one.  The SEC released the 2012 schedule today.  A schedule that now includes new conference members Texas A&M and Missouri, and it took a while to work this schedule out because the league had to work around existing schedules in order to accommodate the new teams.

Derek Dooley must have felt like he was opening a gift that was discovered under the couch after Christmas was long past.  I'm sure he slowly pulled the ribbon loose and carefully pulled back the edges of the paper and tried to peak in with one eye shut, both hoping to see it and hoping to prolong the anticipation.  I can hear it now as he tosses the box top aside and rips at the tissue paper inside.  "Yes!" he exclaims.  "I knew it!  I knew Santa wouldn't forget.  Just what I wanted!"  Yep, that had to be the way it was this morning.  Sad, but true.

Arkansas is not on the Vols schedule next season.  They have been replaced by Missouri.  Granted Missouri just blew out North Carolina in the Independence Bowl, but who cares, they are not Arkansas.  And, while this is clearly an early 2012 victory for the rebuilding Tennessee program, it is yet another indicator of just how far the program has fallen.  Had this occurred a few short seasons ago, I cannot imagine it would have been viewed as a good thing.  Oh well, it is a good thing and here is why:

The Vols do not play LSU, Arkansas, or Auburn next season.  Instead, they will play Missouri and Mississippi State.  And, with no disrespect intended to either of those schools, I like the Vols chances against them in 2012.  Especially considering the Missouri match up is in K-town.  I know, I know, we have traditionally struggled with Mississippi State, but my bet is that will not be a part of things next season.  At first glance, without making too large of a leap, it is not difficult to count 6 wins right away.  Assuming the Vols are improved enough to beat Missouri and Miss State, there are 4 other games that "should" fall into the "W" column- Georgia State, Akron, Troy, and Kentucky.  I know, I know, but don't even go there with me.  That was an aberration, I don't care what anyone says. 

If you throw Vandy into the mix (and why wouldn't you?) a strong argument can be made for 7 wins before the Vols have begun spring practice.   That leaves NC State, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina from which the Vols will need to find more success.  If the youth of the Tennessee program matures as it should, surely this team can find two more wins from those 5.  Maybe not, but it sure would go a long way toward fueling the rebuilding project that is painfully slow.  The South Carolina and Georgia match ups are on the road, and that's a tall order any season, but the Vols have historically found a good bit of success in Athens and Columbia.  If they did find two wins along with the 7 that are a strong possibility, that would equal a 9 win season.

The heart of the Tennessee schedule in 2011 included 6 games beginning October 8th and ending November 12th against- Georgia, LSU, Alabama, South Carolina, MTSU, and Arkansas.  In 2012, a similar span  beginning Sept. 29th and ending on November 10th will include- Georgia, Miss State, Alabama, South Carolina, Troy, and Missouri.

It's hard to imagine any Vols fan feeling confident in a 9 win season right now, but it is attainable.  It seems very likely that Coach Dooley opened that gift and was immediately happy.  Still, he may have had that moment of, "But, what happened to the genuine leather football I asked for?  This one is rubber, and it doesn't have the NCAA logo on it."  That brief moment of raw disappointment had to be there- Alabama is still on the schedule.  "Oh well, this is better than nothing!  And it sure was a grand surprise!  Thanks Santa!" 

And, as the fat man in the red suit flew out of site, he could be heard exclaiming, "HO! HO! HO! Merry Christmas! Go Vols!!"

I'm OoooooouuuuuuUT!
M

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

What Are You Thankful For?

I, like most, had an opportunity last week to reflect on all that I am thankful for, and the list is quite lengthy.  For me Thanksgiving is time to consider how fortunate and blessed I am, eat some turkey, and to watch a lot of football too.  So, Saturday as I watched the UT game, I really needed to stop and consider, yet again, what I am thankful for, and the conclusion I came to is I am actually thankful the 2011 season is over for the Vols.  What a dreadfully embarrassing performance that was Thanksgiving weekend.

Saturday was like torture.  I seriously doubt there has been a less inspired performance by a Tennessee football team.  To say they "didn't show up" would be generous.  To lose is one thing, to roll over is inexcusable.  And, the first place to lay the blame is at the feet of the coaching staff.  The easy target is Derek Dooley, and he certainly deserves much of the blame.  But, his coaching staff should be ashamed of themselves.  Specifically, the offensive coaching was particularly, well, offensive.  In fact, outside of the first drive, the defense actually adjusted to the Kentucky offense and played pretty well.  There's been a lot written this week about how Tennessee was beaten by a WR who was forced to play QB.  It's true.  But, while we're bashing coaches, how in the world did Kentucky not use that guy at QB prior to Saturday?  He was strong, fast, and determined.  There's a tight end winning NFL games at QB right now, and he has been the story of the NFL season.  His name is Tim Tebow.  He can't throw, and yet he's beating just about everyone he faces because of his athleticism and true grit determination.  That's the current football world we live in.  If a guy is strong and fast and understands how to read the defense he can run the option, and he can win.

I'm not going to belabor the point, because there was no excuse for the Vols to lose to Kentucky last weekend, period.  But, if the option is run well, it is very difficult to stop.  And, it's especially hard to stop when a defense hasn't really prepared for it.  And, even when prepared it requires a tremendous amount of discipline to stop, and discipline is something young players rarely exhibit.  And, if you don't think the Vols are young, you are not paying attention.  Youth is no excuse either, but perspective is very important for evaluating that game.

By the way, I fired the entire coaching staff Saturday several times.  I cussed, barked, groaned, pouted, and damn near got violent a couple of times.  But, in the end, I would much rather lose to Kentucky while we are down than to lose to them when we are up, and we've come very close to doing just that several times, including a couple of times with Peyton at QB.  But, I digress...

It is very disappointing that Dooley has been unable to turn things around, very disappointing.  But, he shouldn't be tossed completely under the bus either.  The Vols were painfully short on leadership on the field this season.  It was disappointing to hear seniors reporting after the game that some of the younger guys didn't care, and were uninterested in winning and going to a lower level bowl.  It was more disappointing that the seniors were willing to publicly voice that.  The fact that Tauren Poole was willing to voice that in interviews is irresponsible.  It's finger pointing, it's blaming others, it's refusing to take responsibility for his own short comings.  In fact, I would argue that while much of the writing this season has focused on the youth of the offensive line, Tauren Poole may be the least talented starting running back the Vols have had in decades.  Think about it.  Without transfers he would possibly be buried in the depth chart.  Freshman Marlon Lane showed more speed and explosiveness most of the season, and for a period of time, a walk on redshirt freshman got carries ahead of Poole.  Tauren Poole was dealt a very bad hand by the University of Tennessee.  He was one of only a handful of recruits left over from the Fulmer regime.  He's been through a lot, but he showed little if any leadership as a senior and then did the unthinkable, pointed his finger at everyone but himself. 

Dooley should get a full 4 years, or at least he should be allowed to coach well into the fourth season before UT decides to change directions yet again.  He inherited a total mess, and we Vols fans have been a bit spoiled over the past couple of decades.  The Vols have won a lot of games dating back to 1989.  But, I remind everyone wearing orange colored glasses that even in our most successful years, we've managed to blow opportunities and regularly have come up short.  And, for just a little further perspective consider these numbers---

Johnny Majors replaced Bill Battle in 1977.  Majors was fresh off of a National Championship at Pittsburgh.  Why in the world would a coach jump from a National Championship to rebuilding the University of Tennessee?  Two reasons- one he was returning home and two he no longer had Heisman winner Tony Dorsett at Pitt.  Pitt hasn't won anything since the 1976 championship.  He got the hell out of Dodge.  And, what did that National Championship winning coach do when he got to Knoxville?  In his first four seasons at Tennessee he went 4-7, 5-5-1, 7-5, and 5-6.  He was hardly "lighting up" the SEC.  What happened after that?  He won the SEC championship in 1985 with a 9-1-2 record and beat Miami in the Sugar Bowl which most certainly changed the perception of his coaching ability dramatically.  Majors led the Vols to the SEC championship in 1989 and 1990.  But, by the end of the 1992 season, the season in which he left due to a heart problems, the administration decided that Phillip Fulmer's interim coaching success was enough to move on from Majors. 

The point?  With the exception of the 1998 season, neither Johnny Majors or Phillip Fulmer did enough to keep their jobs.  Maybe the Tennessee job is harder than we are willing to admit?  Dooley deserves a genuine chance to build a winner.  If he can't do it, he can't do it, but making a change now is not what the program needs.  The program desperately needs some leadership on the field and changes at Offensive Coordinator and Special Teams coaching.  Speaking of special teams, the kicking game is more than an embarrassment.  It's so bad, there's no need to dissect the details.  The Special Teams are so inept the name should simply be changed to Train Wreck.  What a disaster.

So, the season is thankfully over.  The losing is done for now.  The embarrassment of losing to Kentucky will fade, just like the embarrassment faded from losing to Wyoming and Vandy.  Let's hope that Dooley, in year three will have enough veterans that youth is no longer an excuse.  Let's hope that some of the guys who have been around for a while will stand up and lead the way on the field.  Let's hope Justin Hunter fully recovers and he and Da'Rick Rogers make Tyler Bray a Heisman candidate.  Let's hope Dooley can bring in a junior college transfer or two who are big contributors, and let's hope he brings in a freshman or two who are big time players. 

If those things happen, the 2012 season should be much more enjoyable.  If those things don't happen, Dooley will get a long vacation, and we'll have Mike Hamilton to thank for yet another disaster.  Speaking of which, did you see the basketball team lose to Oakland University for the second season in a row?  Thanks Mike, you successfully destroyed the athletic department on Rocky Top.  But, we'll be back!!

Go Vols.  I'm OoooooouuuuuUT!
M

Monday, November 21, 2011

Apples to Oranges?

Hat's off to Eric Gordon.  I was wrong.  The Vols do have someone who can make a play when it counts.  This week he had a slam dunk pick 6 and he delivered.  And, while we're saluting folks, yet again Da'Rick Rogers amazes.  I hope Vols fans realize how close Saturday night was to ending differently.  If Rogers doesn't make a one handed, incredible catch in the end zone, it may have ended in a loss.  It was 4th down.  Someone made a play.  Maybe that's what happens when young guys get real experience and an opportunity.

This has been a tough season, and no one would deny that, Vols fans or otherwise.  Even fans who historically haven't liked the Vols know the league needs us.  We're taking our lumps to say the least.  A few weeks ago, I posted an entry here about how the 1988 team was worse than this team.  I haven't changed my mind about that, and I do want to draw a couple of comparisons that are important.

The '88 team had 3 QBs who saw action.  Jeff Francis, Randy Sanders, and Andy Kelly.  Francis and Sanders were Seniors.  Francis played for the Oakland Raiders, Sanders is the offensive coordinator for Kentucky and former OC for the Vols, and Andy Kelly made a career in the arena league, a long career.  Not suggesting that's something to write home about, but Kelly set records at Tennessee as a QB, and until Peyton took over, it looked like those records would stand for a while.  Frankly, I would argue that Andy Kelly more than set the wheels in motion for what happened in the '90s.  Besides, he orchestrated the miracle in South Bend, and for that alone he will forever be a Vols favorite.

I would equate Matt Simms with Randy Sanders talent wise.  I would equate Bray with Kelly at this point.  But, Jeff Francis was significantly better than Justin Worley in '88, compared to this season.  That's not completely fair to Worley as a person, but as a player, it is what it is.  I think Worley has a bright future.  He did some things very well, he just needs experience and time.  And, granted the circumstances were different for those teams, but I insist on making my point.

Running Backs- 1988- Reggie Cobb and Keith Davis (Davis was a senior recovering from injuries and a contributing part of the success during the second biggest season for the Vols in modern history, the 1985 Sugar Bowl season). Then, there's Tony Thompson, who took over when the other guys weren't available and managed to help save the season and made a short career for himself in the NFL.  Oh, and Greg Amsler was a back on that team, a personal favorite.

Finally, who were other big names on that team?  Daryl Hardy, Shazzon Bradley, Antone Davis, Tom Myzlinski, Keith Delong, Terrence Cleveland, Thomas Woods, Earnest Fields, Darryl Hardy, Alvin Harper, Tracy Haworth, Marion Hobby, Charles McRae, Anthony Morgan, and Kacy Rodgers.  Many of those guys spent time in the NFL, some spent a long time in the NFL. 

On the surface, there was more talent on the '88 team, but when you consider that this team is in large part made up of True and Redshirt freshmen and sophomores, who knows what things look like in a couple of years.  Remember, one season after the Vols went 0-6 to start the '88 season, they lost one game and won the Cotton Bowl.

Okay, I will make my final point.  Even if the Vols fall to Kentucky on Saturday- and I would be shocked because Kentucky is horrible- this is still the better of the teams being compared in '88 and '11.  Why?  Because, of the six losses the Vols have experienced, here are the BCS rankings of the teams that beat them, as of tonight--  1- LSU 2- Alabama 3- Arkansas 12- South Carolina 13- Georgia.  Florida is not in the BCS rankings, but we all know you can throw out records when the Vols meet the Gators so early in the season. Granted those rankings will not hold up due to natural head to head games, but it doesn't matter.  I would argue no UT team has ever played that many top teams in one season, and I know for a fact they have never played numbers 1,2, and 3 in one season.  The SEC rocks and we just can't hang with that right now.  But, we will.  We have before and we will again.

Or maybe this is comparing apples to oranges.  Maybe the two teams have nothing in common.  Maybe it's pointless to figure who the worst is of all time, just like it's pointless to figure out who the best is of all time. That's sports.  The only time that matters is now.  Is Tom Brady better than Joe Montana? Of course not, but that's the point, it doesn't matter, there is no answer. Is John Elway better than Dan Marino?  Is Michael Jordan better than Bill Russell?  Is Albert Pujols better than Mickey Mantel.  Who cares.  What matters is who wins the next game, who has the next biggest performance.  And, that's why all that matters for the Vols this season is winning on Saturday on the cold Kentucky Blue Grass against a team that can't decide what their uniform should look like.

In closing, I would like to say that Coach Dooley deserved Saturday Night's win.  He's been through a lot, and he's been a class act in the middle of a very painful process.  I suspect we'll get to see him be a class act when the Vols start kicking the living daylights out of some of those teams ranked in the current BCS.  Some would call the BCS- BS and I would agree.  Go Vols!! Beat the stuffing out of the turkeys from Lexington.

I'm OOOuuuuuuuuuuuuUT!
M

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Bring on Vandy!

I never thought I would utter those words, but that's what it has come to in Knoxville.  Looking forward to the Vanderbilt game as a "big game" makes no sense to any true Vols fan, but that's exactly what it is, a big game.  No offense intended Vandy fans, this just isn't the norm.  Vols fans just are not accustom to Vandy standing in the way of a bowl.  In fact, it has become the most important game of the season.  A loss will knock the Vols out of Bowl contention.  A win will keep them alive for one more week, and with Kentucky waiting in that final game, if the Vols have 5 wins when that game kicks off, their chances of going bowlin' are very good.  Lose to Vandy, and the Kentucky game may as well be Bowling.  Because it will mean nothing to anyone.

So, can the Big Orange rebound after a humiliating run through 6 SEC losses?  Honestly, I have no idea.  After watching the debacle in Fayetteville Saturday night, I was honestly convinced that the Vols need to start over yet again.  After some sleep and reminding myself of the reality of the situation, I really still believe Dooley is the right guy, but I have to admit I didn't feel that way in the second half of Saturday's game.  I haven't yelled at the television that much since, well...  1988.

I was discouraged by the decisions that were made by the coaching staff. Faking a field goal to allow a kicker to throw a ball over the middle made no sense whatsoever.  Especially considering how young this team is, and that it was a road game.  The offense moved the ball down the field with ease before stalling, and then faked a kick.  Why not just go for it.  I would not have agreed with that decision either, but it would have been better than the call that played out.  Okay, a bad break, we can rebound.  But, again questionable decisions hurt the Vols. All the talk is of how young this team is, and it's true.  But, if that's the case, don't you protect their youth?  Do you really allow a freshman QB to, yet again, throw the ball inside the 10 when points were vital?

Obviously, the argument can be made that the coaches took chances because there is no other way to win with such a young team.  That may be true, but I don't agree with the approach.  And, at this point in the season, no matter how young the team is, I would expect more passion.  There are no leaders on the field.  None.  No one motivates the guys around them to be better, or do that something extra, to make a play, a big hit, or get a turnover.  We had a pick 6 slam dunk, but for some reason Eric Gordon just doesn't catch it. Someone has to make a play, but then again, maybe there are no "playmakers" on the field besides Da'Rick Rogers.

One play exemplified the entire season on Saturday night, the punt return.  Never, in all my years have I seen less determination to make a tackle.  Even those who were in position and and some who got a hand or more on the returner, did not appear to have any energy whatsoever.  And so, the announcers went on and on about Joe Adams, and they may have encouraged scouts to consider drafting him higher than previously considered.  He's good, very good, but the Vols made him look like DeSean Jackson. You remember him right?  The Philadelphia Eagles receiver ran all over the Vols punt coverage a few years ago in Berkley as a member of the Cal team.  Back to the point- that play sums it up.  The Vols are just bad.  Really bad, and when they need a play most, there is no one there to make that play.  Doesn't matter which side of the ball, no one is there. Diversion- all "props" to Austin Johnson and Malik Jackson.  The seniors play every play and do make some plays, no disrespect intended to either. 

How about the acrobatic catch?  You know, the one where the Vols defender never attempted to disrupt the play? The one where the defender completely stopped and watched a catch that never should have happened.  I guess it was youth, I don't know, but somewhere, somehow the Vols have to decide they are good enough to be on the field and then prove it.  Frankly, I think the young guys have bought into the idea they are too young, and it has become a self fulfilling prophecy. 

For a large portion of the second half, we had a true freshman quarterback handing the ball to a true freshman- walkon- running back.  That alone should be an explanation for our inability to pose a threat to any genuinely good team in 2011.

For the record!  Our Record from 2005 through 2011 against the top SEC teams- Florida, Georgia, LSU, South Carolina, Alabama, Auburn, and Arkansas is-----  9-28!!  And.... 6 of the 9 wins have come against Georgia and South Carolina.  Neither of those teams would rank at the top of the SEC records over that span of time.  Wow, we have lost 28 games to the best of the SEC in the past 7 seasons.  We also lost to Vanderbilt in 2005 and to Wyoming in 2008 on Homecoming.  But, those last two are not a part of the point.

The point is, this team has been pretty bad for quite some time now, and I think, like many Vols fans, I have been in denial.  The Vols program has not been relevant for a long time.  Want another dose of stark reality?  That record between '05 and '11 does not include the loss to LSU in the SEC championship game in 2007.  We got to that game with two losses in conference.  You guessed it, we lost that season to Alabama and Florida.  Florida finished that season 9-4 and lost the Citrus Bowl to Michigan, but beat Tennessee 59-20.  Alabama's final record that season was 6-6 and then won the Independence Bowl over Colorado to finish 7-6, but beat Tennessee 41-17.  And, to add a little more perspective, Bama (Mighty Bama) lost at home to Louisiana Monroe that season.  But, they figured out a way to beat Tennessee.

Yes, it is probably time to accept the fact that Phillip Fulmer had lost control of the program well before he was forced to leave, and of course Lane Kiffin's influence is well documented.  But, neither of those things matter now.  The big question is- can the Vols get by Vandy and Kentucky and make it another bowl?  Getting to a bowl will be very important for developing these young players.  Making a bowl gives the team more practice time, much needed practice time, and a chance to save a season. 

Go VOLS!  I'm OoooooouuuuuuuUT!!
M