1. It’s early, but thus far, which offseason change or changes in college football are you most excited about?
This would have to be the continued, exponential growth in the number, quality, and recognition of college football bloggers. Behind the Four Horsemen — EDSBS, mgoblog, Blue-Gray Sky, and Burnt Orange Nation — a growing deployment of footsoldier sports bloggers are storming the subscription walls of the mainstream sports media. Call it an Army of Rudys. (FN: What in the world is the plural of Rudy?)
The onslaught continues. Just look at what’s happened in the past several months. Yahoo Sports published an article based on BGS’ statistical analysis of coaches’ voting trends. Colin Cowherd of ESPN Radio squished it into the tread of his sneakers by first ripping off a parody of the Wonderlic Test then berating M Zone Blog, who wrote the thing, for complaining before finally coming around (meaning ESPN lawyers forcing him) and apologizing on air. (The day he gave credit, M Zone Blog received over 40,000 visits.) Our college football blogger brethren rushed to the defense of blogger Warren St. John whose best-selling book Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer has elevated him to the lofty status of Target-for-Frivolous-Lawsuits. College sports bloggers are banding together, grasping tattered copies of the Blog-ifesto in their hot little hands.
Whether the mainstream sports media subscription walls will come crumbling down, whether the challengers will end up banding together (under the banner of SB Nation?) to form another Jericho, or whether the whole thing will self-assemble into something heretofore unseen remains unclear. Whatever happens, a sea change is underway. It will only continue to swell this fall.
2. With spring practice underway, what are the three concerns about your team that are causing you the most anxiety? (USC fans can’t just list the departures of Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart, and LenDale White.)
Offense. Defense. Special Teams. Hey, we had a 5-6 season last year, what do you want?
Offense. It’s the Reanimation of Erik Ainge Project. Is there life after Death Valley? Nobody knows. Plus, our top three tailbacks — Arian Foster, Montario Hardesty, and LaMarcus Coker — are all hurt and will miss most of spring practice. Most of our o-line is gone. And the receivers, ugh. I watched part of the LSU game again the other day and literally cringed every time Bob Davie responded to one of our receivers dropping an easy catch by saying that this group of receivers is one of the most talented in the nation. What he meant was that they were tall, muscular, and fast. Unfortunately, they couldn’t get open or catch a football, which you would think would be an essential function of the job.
Defense. Jesse Mahelona, gone. Parys Haralson, gone. Jason Hall, gone. 3/4 of the defensive line, poof. Linebackers Kevin Simon, Omar Gaither, Jason Mitchell, gone, gone, gone. Jason Allen, gone. The rest of the secondary? Well, they did get some experience last year. That may help. A little.
Special Teams. Place kicker James Wilhoit is back, which is good. I guess. I can’t for the life of me recall any memory of him last year. Nothing since seeing him sprinting around Neyland Stadium yelling his head off after kicking the game winner against Florida. Two years ago. Last year, there was the issue of a bad ankle. Better now. Okay, good. And his holder will be back. Also good. New long-snapper, though. Potentially not good.
BUT, things are looking up. Manning Manufacturer David Cutcliffe is back, and thanks to last year’s season-long heartbreak, the players are listening to the new coach. They’re learning to practice. Fast break football, they’re calling it. A tongue-lashing awaits if you run to the next practice drill station but walk the last two steps. Make that two tongue lashings — one for each step. Receivers are being punished for dropping passes, and they must catch 100 balls before they can go home. Linemen are losing weight. Coach Fulmer, he of the pinched grin and hand-clapping after every mistake, is warming up to insulting his players on a regular basis. Things are looking dire, and that’s exactly why things are looking up.
3. Care to take a stab at a preseason top five?.
1. Definitely not Tennessee.
2. Still not Tennessee.
4. Keep going.
5. Hmmm. Maybe Texas. Or Ohio State. Florida? LSU? Florida State? But not Tennessee.
And now I leave you with a Spring Practice Haiku:
Spring. Hope’s eternal.
Program only mostly dead.