Archive for the 'Florida' Category

Two-minute drill: Around the web edition

Tuesday, August 15th, 2006

The Florida Gators have lost projected starting guard Ronnie Wilson, at least for the first three games, including the game at Tennessee. Wilson fractured his left ankle at last Saturday’s practice. Not good news for the team with the toughest schedule in college football this year.

ESPN delivers a pretty cool feature: The X&O Men of college football. It’s a Flash presentation of ten “super-heroes” of the upcoming season. No Tennessee connection, but you should check it out anyway.

SI.com has a decent feature describing coach Fulmer’s vow to fix the Volunteers.

Despite The Season of Which We Do Not Speak, Tennessee finishes No. 13 on College Football News’ best programs over the past three years.

And the Valley Shook is a new SB Nation college blog with a really cool name. Discover the etymology.

Alternative cover art for SEC media guides

Monday, July 31st, 2006

GoVolsXtra.com’s John Adams dreams up his own ideas for Media Guide cover art for each SEC school. For instance:

  • Kentucky: A picture of a football as the centerpiece with a small picture of a deflated basketball in the left-hand corner, and the SEC East basketball standings in the right corner: 1, Tennessee; 2, Florida; 3, Kentucky.

    The headline: “We’re Not A Basketball School Anymore.”

  • * * * *

  • Ole Miss: Half the cover is a picture Ole Miss fans partying in the Grove before the game. The other half is a picture of opposing fans partying in the Grove after the game.

    The headline: “It’s Only A Game.”

Nice twist on the old “we’re not an X, Y, Z school anymore,” and the Ole Miss jab is just precious.

Here’s mine for Florida:

A full body image of quarterback Chris Leak being hammered by an oversized Urban Meyer into a round hole at the 50 yard line, with shaved-off slivers of the image curling off to each of the four sides to accommodate the fit. Tim Tebow is warming up in the background.

The headline: “Round peg. Round hole.”

If you could animate the thing, he’d be springing up out of the ground like a greased jackrabbit, sort of like Michael Jackson suddenly appearing out of a cloud of smoke at Superbowl XXVII.

What are your ideas?

Two-minute drill: More SEC Media Days, receivers catching bricks, and behind the scenes with Fulmer’s stinger

Friday, July 28th, 2006

Well, the SEC Media Days has come to an end, I think, and the college sports blogosphere is sorting through the rubble. Here’s a couple of shiny objects that have distinguished themselves from the pile, at least from the VFRT perspective:

Yes, the media placed the Vols third in the SEC East. No big surprise there. Although some are picking the Gators as the team most likely to be this year’s Tennessee, the media likes them first in the East with Georgia close behind. The Volunteers were a distant third at that, garnering just five more votes than South Carolina. Whatever happens in the East, Auburn is the absolute favorite to dominate the West and win the championship game.

There were six Volunteers named to the pre-season media All-SEC team. Offensive lineman Arron Sears and defensive tackle Justin Harrell made the first team, running back Arian Foster, defensive back Jonathan Hefney, and kicker James Wilhoit made second team, and cornerback Jonathan Wade made the third team.

The national media is getting into the action as well. CBS Sportsline’s Dennis Dodd weighs in and says expect a little improvement, but not a lot, after last year’s Rocky Flop.

And the ESPN Insider Blue Ribbon preview of Tennessee is absolutely massive and includes bits of information I had not heard elsewhere, such as the fact that a new wide receiver drill involves catching bricks. That should teach you not to drop the ball and to catch with your hands. There’s also this more detailed description of Fulmer’s animated reaming of the team following Marvin Mitchell’s summer arrest:

Dealing with the law [for Mitchell] was easier than dealing with Fulmer, who had grown accustomed to the peace and tranquility afforded him by months of good behavior among his players. Fulmer went bonkers in a team meeting after Mitchell’s skirmish, screaming, throwing things and threatening to kick the next player who caused trouble off the team. True to his word, Fulmer ran off lineman Raymond Henderson a couple of days later after he made an inappropriate comment to a mother and her young daughter at a restaurant.

I guess he does have his stinger out.

Re-living the Tennessee Volunteers 2005 football season: Part 3, Florida Gators

Wednesday, July 19th, 2006

Pre-game

So the Volunteers had fallen to No. 4 in the Coaches’ Poll after a lackluster performance against Alabama-Birmingham and the Gators had climbed into the top ten. No worries. The UAB game was a fluke, a period of acclimation to the new season, typical of all Tennessee teams, playing down to the competition.

And the Gators were a big, fat question mark. Hot new flavor-of-the-month Urban Meyer had assumed the wheel of the wreckage left in Gainesville by ousted Ron Zook, and he had brought a shiny new toy: the Spread Option Offense.

But what exactly is the Urban Meyer Spread Option Offense?

In a nutshell, the offense most often starts with a set consisting of five offensive linemen, a receiver on each of the sidelines, another receiver and a running back in the slot, and another running back standing next to the QB, who sets up in the shotgun. Pre-snap, the slot receiver motions over and stands next to the QB. On the snap, the QB sticks the ball in the running back’s gut and reads the defensive end. If the end is locked onto the running back, the QB keeps the ball, and the back blocks the end while the QB heads for the outside linebacker and reads him. If the ‘backer commits to the QB, the QB pitches to the receiver who’s running alongside and behind him. If not, the QB keeps it and runs as far as he can.

There are myriad variations of that play, that play’s surely just one part of the spread option package, and the spread option package is probably just a subset of a larger offensive scheme, but you get the idea.

Meyer was hugely successful with this scheme at Utah and at Bowling Green before that. But there was serious doubt about whether it would work in the SEC against fast defenses. In addition, Florida had a square peg, round hole problem. Florida’s QB Chris Leak is a pro-style quarterback and has a reputation for being adverse to hits, and so he might not care so much for the option that requires he keep the ball and run for his life. We could exploit that by taking away his other options.

On the other hand, the Gators were highly motivated to “reclaim the Swamp. They had “haunting memories” of Casey Clausen leading the Pride of the Southland Band in a victory rendition of Rocky Top after victory in Gainesville.

In any event, the game would be huge. In College Football News’ words:

It’s not an overstatement to say this could turn out to be the season’s most important game with ramifications for the national title, as well as the SEC championship. It’s the first real test for Urban Meyer in the big-time spotlight facing the best team has coached against since, well, ever. In his two years at Bowling Green and two years at Utah, Meyer only coached against two teams that were ranked at the time, Oregon in 2003 and Pittsburgh in the 2005 Fiesta Bowl, with neither higher than 19. Tennessee had a shaky start with a tougher-than-expected 17-10 win over UAB, but it had the last two weeks to prepare and focus on nothing but Meyer’s offense. This should be a classic.

The game

Uh, not exactly.

NOTE: Larger version on the Animated Drive Chart page.

Based on his success against UAB, Clausen got the start, and he promptly went 2 for 5 for zero yards before giving way to Erik Ainge. Gerald Riggs was running well, particularly over the left side, but the first drive, as you can see from the drive chart above, resulted in zero yards and a punt, and the second resulted in a punt after about 25 yards.

The Gators got the ball on their 20, and a few whiffed tackles and 80 yards later, Tennessee was down by a touchdown.

Ainge replaced Clausen on the third series and began his turn at the helm by overthrowing an open Jayson Swain deep. The team went three and out on Ainge’s first series, but he directed an excellent drive on his next. Arian Foster and Gerald Riggs were running well, particularly over the left side, and Ainge and the receivers were in sync. This drive is what the media guide was talking about when it said that the QBs would have a “dream corps of acrobatic and skilled” receivers. The drive included completions to Chris Hannon, Josh Briscoe, tight end Chris Brown, Jayson Swain, and Bret Smith. It was what we’d all been envisioning all summer.

On the next drive, though, everything changed. Ainge drove the team down the field to the 11. At that point, the team was penalized for a false start and found themselves looking at a third and 18 from the 19 yard line. Ainge then threw a bullet to Bret Smith on the one yard line, and while the play was ruled a reception on the field, it was correctly overturned on review. Then came the first of several special teams miscues that cost the Vols the game: Wilhoit’s field goal attempt was blocked. There would be no more points for the Vols tonight.

NOTE: Larger version on the Animated Drive Chart page.

Tennessee muffed the first punt of the second half, leading to a Florida field goal. The next offensive series was capped off by a botched fake punt. Just before the snap, freshman punted Britton Colquitt noticed the defensive jammer running toward him, baiting Colquitt into believing that the gunner was open. The ball was snapped while Colquitt was distracted, and he was lucky just to catch it. Instead of punting, he threw for what he thought was an open gunner unaware that the safety had leaked out to cover him. The ball was deflected, and the Gators took over at the 31 and hit another field goal.

The next drive was marred by penalties and miscommunication between Ainge and the receivers. Plus, despite the fact that they were only down by six points, the team got away from running the ball except for one running play to the left that gained eight yards. On third down, however, they ran to the right and were stuffed. A still-shocked Colquitt followed up with an eight-yard punt, eighteen after tacking on ten for a Gator penalty.

The Gators then proceeded to eat up the clock with a 65+ yard drive and another field goal.

Before the game was over, Ainge would give us a preview of the next game against LSU, throwing the ball toward the line of scrimmage while being thrown to the ground for a sack. The play resulted only in an intentional grounding penalty, but planted the seed that that was really the only harm of such an attempt.

In the end, the defense played well enough to win, holding the Gators to only one touchdown and three field goals. The game was lost due to multiple special teams goofs and a decision or failure to capitalize on UT’s best offense strength: running to the left.

Post-game

Vol fans were not happy. The general consensus was that the Gators weren’t very good, but that the Vols were worse. That the Vols’ defense “played well enough to win” would be a recurring theme for the rest of the season.

The team fell to No. 11 in the Coaches’ Poll, and Coach Fulmer now had to recalibrate the team’s expectations.

But the season wasn’t over, and Tennessee would have a chance to redeem themselves in their next game against the LSU Tigers.


Read Part 4 of the series: Re-living the Tennessee Volunteers 2005 football season: Part 4, Rally in the Valley.

Two-minute drill: VQ’s Gator preview, opponent QBs and RBs, freshmen on campus, and . . . not

Wednesday, July 12th, 2006

VolQuest.com previews the Florida Gators and says that offensive linemen Jacques McClendon, Darius Myers, and Ramone Johnson are the freshmen with the best chance of making an impact this year. Johnson, by the way, has been cleared to attend the second summer session of class. Brent Vinson, on the other hand, is headed toward Hargrave Military Academy, having not made the grade on his standardized test.

Looking toward the season, UT faced some marquee quarterbacks last year, , but QB stability is, let’s say, questionable throughout the SEC this year. (HT: Georgia Sports Blog.) No, this year, says Inside Tennessee, UT’s challenge is facing stellar running backs: California’s Marshawn Lynch, Alabama’s Kenneth Darby, Arkansas’ Darren McFadden, Kentucky’s Rafael Little, and Georgia’s Thomas Brown, all of which College Football News has ranked in their national top 20. Not especially good news if your strength is the secondary and there are question marks with the front seven.

Two-minute drill: Offensive line, Bears, 2QB Systems, and . . . pants

Wednesday, July 5th, 2006

I trust everyone had a nice Independence Day. Most of my time was spent trying to get the Animated Drive Chart working simply from ActionScript code. I’m this close.

While I was slaving away, John Pennington propounded Tennessee’s 5 Big Questions going into the 2006 season. No huge surprises here — Ainge, Cutcliffe, what happens if we lose the first game to California, how will fans react if we lose more than three games this year — but Pennington thinks the biggest question is how the offensive line will do. He’s right. Cutcliffe can’t work his magic on Ainge if the o-line doesn’t get it done. I happened across a replay of the 1996 game against Florida, where the Gators shut us out something like 31-0. The line was terrible, and even Peyton Manning couldn’t get anything done as he was running for his life most of the time. If I remember one series correctly, we had something like 1st and one on the goal line, and the drive ended with a missed field goal attempt from something like the 20- or 30-yard line. Must . . . block . . . rushers.

Also, Rivals.com has begun its opponent previews, starting with the California Golden Bears.

I hope to take a look at DawgSports’ take on 2QB systems. If you recall, Burnt Orange Nation allowed Kyle and myself some time at the BON site to give our thoughts on the matter. A condensed version of mine is over at BON, while the whole sordid story is here, and Kyle’s can be found either at DawgSports or at BON.

Finally, a couple of readers emailed with comments and questions. C wants to see two thin orange stripes on the players’ pants and orange bands on the sleeves and collars, and Adam is trying to locate a country-sounding song recapping the 1998 national championship season. It wasn’t Touchdown Tennessee, he says, and it might or might not have been Kenny Chesney. Any ideas, anybody?

Vols-Gators scheduled for 8:00 p.m. on CBS

Friday, June 23rd, 2006

The Tennessee Volunteers’ game against the Florida Gators on September 16 has been set for 8:00 p.m. and will be shown on CBS.

Poll: What team is most likely to be this year’s Tennessee?

Friday, June 23rd, 2006

Well, after 47 votes, most readers (30%) believe that Florida is the team most likely to follow in Tennessee’s footsteps and parlay high expectations into bitter disappointment this year. Notre Dame wasn’t far behind with 23%.

I think it’s Florida, due to a potential quarterback controversy, which I am doing my utmost to inflame,
an overrated offense, and a brutal schedule that includes games at Tennessee, at Auburn, at Florida State, home games against Alabama and LSU, and the annual game against Georgia in Jacksonville. That’s the SEC East schedule, the three best teams in the SEC West, and a closer with FSU.

Two Minute Drill: Diploma mills, watch lists, SEC Previews, and . . . dominoes

Thursday, June 15th, 2006

Well, PowWeb ran into a “quality control” issue when attempting to migrate the site to a new platform, so it’s still in progress, but I’m going to try to sneak some stuff in quickly.

VolQuest.com helps us get to know the mysterious defensive end Chase Nelson, who is skipping the summer all-star games to prepare for the fall. Gerald Williams is back in limbo, due to the extra scrutiny the “diploma mills” are now receiving. He apparently only took one class there, and while at one point they told him he was eligible, they’re now telling him he’s not. On the radio yesterday, Williams said it was all going to work out and that he’d be on campus in July.

Justin Harrell is on the Maxwell Award watch list. And so is Erik Ainge. Really. That’s more a vote of confidence in David Cutcliffe than anything.

Inside Tennessee has some of its early previews of SEC East rivals up, including Georgia and Florida. They say that Bulldogs’ head coach Mark Richt may not call a pass play until midseason (and may not need to). On Florida, they say that last year’s offense wasn’t as good as people seem to think and that a brewing quarterback controversy might mean that it’s not much better this year. Inside Tennessee also has a nice piece on UT’s history of luring fast players onto its football field and track team, and reminds fans of Stanely Morgan, who was “the type of fast you speak of in whispers, if you speak of it at all.” <whisper>4.15</whisper>

And finally, Big Orange Michael has some advice for ESPN2: dominoes tournament? No. Pre-pre-pre-season college football coverage? Yes.

Two Minute Drill: Mini-previews, fantasy match-ups, and Hooker’s multiple personality disorder

Monday, June 12th, 2006

GoVolsXtra’s Dave Hooker displays his split personality and tells us both why the Tennessee Volunteer football team will right the ship in 2006 and why they won’t. And speaking of Dave, he returns to radio, filling the 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon slot on The Sports Animal. Good news, as he brings a bit more fun to the Knoxville airwaves.

John Pennington has some fun of his own and picks the out of conference match-ups he’d most like to see. I’m with John on the Ohio State home-and-home to share our “running through the T” one season and witness their “dotting of the i” the next. UT’s don’t-shoot-me-I’m-not-a-deer orange versus the other UT’s burnt orange would also be . . . orangey.

The season previews are coming in multiples now. College Football News publishes its preview of the Florida Gators, and Inside Tennessee’s Randy Moore draws on the past to predict the future, writing that Spurrier’s Gamecocks could very well hit the hat trick it barely missed last year and beat Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee. Moore also points out that when UT and California meet on September 2, UT will run basically the same offense it failed with last year, while California will run a different offense it won with last year. One of us is making a mistake. Maybe both.