Hey, y’all. This weekend, I officially joined up with SportsBlog Nation, and I’ll be blogging from now on at Rocky Top Talk. The new site will be very similar to View from Rocky Top except with more reader participation. Head on over and join the fun!
Archive for the 'Tennessee Volunteer Football' Category
- Coaches are still waiting for a star to emerge at defensive end. Candidates include juniors Xavier Mitchell and Antonio Wardlow, sophomore Robert Ayers, junior-college transfer Walter Fisher, and redshirt freshman Wes Brown. Among them they have a total of zero starts for UT. It’s looking like Ayers and defensive tackle Turk McBride will start at the ends against California.
- More stuff you never knew, this time about the Florida Gators, courtesy of Fulmer’s Belly.
- If you haven’t visited in awhile, go check out the SportsAnimal’s interview page. Lots of good stuff there, including an interview with Arian Foster. One excerpt:
Q: You averaged almost 150 yards in your five starts, would that be pretty unrealistic to try to do that for an entire season?
A: [Pregnant pause.] Shhhh . . . um . . . I don’t . . . I don’t . . . I really don’t think so. Well, depending on the amount of carries that coach Cutcliffe and the staff allow me to get, I believe I can go out and play this game the way it’s supposed to be played.
Excellent answer with just the right mixture of confidence and humility.
- GoVolsXtra.com’s John Adams analyzes the impact of various scenarios of the 2006 season on coach Fulmer’s job security.
- The Vols are apparently going with game captains this season instead of naming them now for an entire season. I like the let’s-change-all-the-little-things attitude the coaches are using to distinguish this season from last season, but I don’t know about this one. Any thoughts?
From the UT Sports Information department:
The Vol Network officially kicks off “Football Time in Tennessee” this weekend with its annual “Inside the Orange” preseason football special across the state of Tennessee and the Southeast. This one-hour show, hosted by Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer and the Vol Network’s Bob Kesling, Tim Priest and Jeff Francis, takes an in-depth and inside look at the 2006 Tennessee Volunteers. In addition to entertaining interviews and features with UT assistant coaches and members of the team, fans get a sneak peak at some of the renovations taking place at Neyland Stadium. “Inside the Orange: Tennessee Football 2006″ is presented by the University of Tennessee Medical Center. “Inside the Orange: Tennessee Football 2006″ airs in the following markets across the state of Tennessee: Knoxville — Saturday on WBIR-TV at 7 p.m.; Chattanooga — Sunday on WTVC-TV at 1 p.m.; Nashville — Sunday on WUXP-TV at 8 p.m.; Tri-Cities — Sunday on WKPT-TV at 11:30 a.m. and WAPK-TV at 7 p.m. All times are local. The show also airs regionally on CSS (Monday at 7 p.m. Eastern) and FOX Sports Net-South (Aug. 31 at 7 p.m. Eastern).
CBS Sportsline’s Dennis Dodd says the “canniabalistic” SEC is the best conference in college football and that it has “absolutely no shot at winning the national championship.
Here’s the Rocky Top hurry up for this morning:
The bad news from last night’s scrimmage? Four more interceptions.
The good news? Bo Hardegree threw all of them.
According to UTSports.com, the offense looked “much sharper” that it did in the first two scrimmages. Erik Ainge, who played about 25 snaps, went 3 for 7 for 41 yards and a TD (to Robert Meachem) in limited action, and Jonathan Crompton went 11 of 17 for 129 yards and two scores. It should be noted that all three QBs were in green, no-contact jerseys.
Crompton played with the first-teamers a bit before playing with the second-stringers. Freshman receiver Quintin Hancock caught both touchdowns from Crompton, and Hancock led all receivers in fall practice with four scores. He’s apparently a natural, as he was covered by multiple defenders in the end zone when he caught his first touchdown.
Okay, so that’s what the official site’s take. The Tennessean’s headline is Scrimmage Lacks Energy. “I thought our general demeanor, our presence and our tempo — and that starts with me — wasn’t where it needed to be,” said Ainge. “You could make excuses all day, saying guys are tired and hurt. But everybody in the country is tired and hurting right now. We’ve got to push through it, and we’ve got a big week of practice ahead of us. We’re gearing up for Cal. That’s the number-one thing on our minds right now.” Ainge was apparently limited due to sore ribs resulting from a hit in an earlier scrimmage.
The scrimmage got off to a rocky start, as freshman center Josh McNeil snapped a ball high and Ainge bobbled it. Meachem, who was in motion on the play, recovered it, but the play resulted in a 17-yard loss. “That really kind of ruined my day,” Fulmer said. “Those things will get you beat. We hadn’t had one. We’d done a good job with a bunch of snaps in the spring and everything.”
The Vols plan to use its top three running backs — Arian Foster, Montario Hardesty, and LaMarcus Coker — this season.
The current starters appear to be as follows:
Offense — Eric Young; Anthony Parker; Josh McNeil; David Ligon; Arron Sears; Jayson Swain; Erik Ainge; Arian Foster; Cory Anderson; Chris Brown; Robert Meachem.
Defense — Turk McBride; Justin Harrell; Matt McGlothlin; Antonio Reynolds; Rico McCoy; Ryan Karl; Marvin Mitchell; Jonathan Wade; Inquoris Johnson; Antwan Stewart; Jonathan Hefney.
I’ve done two other posts already this morning, so this will have to be a true hurry up:
- Message to the two readers that have voted in the current poll by saying that the Vols will go 12-0 over the regular season this year: I want some of what you’re having.
- Scout.com has a nice article on Bo Hardegree, who’s been tearing it up. He’s gone 15 of 17 over the past two scrimmages with four touchdowns and one interception. More TDs than incompletions is pretty good, even if it is against third-stringers.
- Stanley Asumnu finally got his scholarship. I’d pay a semester’s worth of tuition for a couple of blocked field goals, wouldn’t you?
- Finally, receiver Quintin Hancock is making some noise. Hancock’s posted six receptions for 113 yards and two touchdowns over the past two scrimmages. Again, pretty good, even if it is against third-teamers.
All for now. Don’t miss the two posts immediately below, one on College Football Resource’s take on the Tennessee-Cal game and a preview of the Volunteer wide receiver unit.
College Football Resource has posted a preview of the Tennessee-Cal game that has some Vol fans up in arms. CFR touches a nerve by describing UT’s 1998 national championship as “ill-gotten” and directly attributable to Clint Stoerner and Marcus Outzen. As I reminded everyone again a couple of days ago, Billy Ratliff actually forced Stoerner’s fumble — it was not an accident. As for Marcus Outzen, well it certainly helped that the Seminoles were starting a third string quarterback, but remember that before the game, everyone was still picking FSU.
CFR points out that Arian Foster’s five 100-yard games came against South Carolina, Notre Dame, Memphis, Vanderbilt, and Kentucky. True, but take a look at the Alabama tape and get back to me.
All in all, CFR appears to simply know more about Cal than he does about Tennessee, and for that we can give him a break. But we shouldn’t give him a pass.
Tennessee fans have been expecting great things from the receiving corps, and a return to the status of the school as “Wide Receiver U,” since at least 2003, when the Vols landed a trio of highly touted receivers. Robert Meachem brought his lofty 5-star status to campus, and Bret Smith and Jayson Swain were hauling four stars a piece.
Each was the prototypical receiver: tall (6-3, 6-3, and 6-1, respectively), fast (4.4, 4.5, and 4.5, respectively), and chiseled. I, like most fans I’m sure, am haunted by the whispery voice of Bob Davie, who during the 2005 LSU game made the same exclamation every time a receiver would touch the ball, regardless of whether they caught it or not: “This group of receivers for Tennessee is one of the most talented in the country!”
Well, maybe, if talent was measured in inches, body fat percentages, and 40 times. But when it came to actually getting open, catching the ball, and making big plays, most Vol fans will tell you that the receivers have not yet lived up to their potential. Take, for instance, The Season of Which We Do Not Speak: In 2005, Meachem led all receivers with 29 catches for 383 yards and two touchdowns. Smith had 21 receptions for 223 yards and three TDs. Swain caught the ball 27 times for 380 yards and no scores. The trio have combined for a total of 15 touchdowns over the past three years. Contrast that with, say, South Carolina’s Sydney Rice, who caught 58 passes for 952 yards and 12 touchdowns as a freshman just last year.
Okay, so the numbers are not exactly what we’d hoped for. So what’s the problem?
Was it the dreaded quarterback rotation? Receiver C.J. Fayton said as much after graduating last year. Or was it the too-deep receiver rotation? The idea was that if they rotated eight or nine guys throughout the games, they’d tire out the defensive backs. Didn’t happen. Maybe it was the position coach, who was canned after the last nail in the coffin of the 2005 season was hammered flush to the wood.
Those three potential factors have been eliminated. Gone (hopefully!) is the indecision about the starting QB. Ainge is our guy. Gone is the 85-deep receiver rotation, which has been replaced with a five-deep unit. Gone is former position coach Pat Washington. Coach Trooper Taylor, who had coached up an under-achieving stable of running backs over the past couple of seasons, has been reassigned to the receiving unit, and he aims to repeat the feat with his new group of guys.
|Coach Trooper Taylor|
Taylor went to work right away, whittling the rotation down to just a handful of guys who will get the bulk of the snaps. Up-downs followed all dropped passes. Receivers had to catch 100 projectiles per day over the summer, whether they were footballs, tennis balls, or . . . bricks. They were actually catching bricks, which, I guess, would teach you to catch with your hands and not drop what was thrown to you.
|If you can catch a brick, you can catch anything.|
Anyway, they’ve also been digging batteries and coins out of buckets full of rice to improve grip strength, and they’re focusing on being aggressive on downfield blocks.
Taylor’s got them hopping, and word is that they’re starting to make plays in the scrimmages. The last scrimmage featured several big plays – 37, 30, 37, 39, 65 and 24 yards – an almost astounding feet considering the unit only had two plays of 40 or more yards during the Season of Which We Do Not Speak. Meachem apparently caught a bullet (I believe that’s an analogy, but you can’t really be sure, now can you?) from Ainge for a touchdown at last Saturday’s scrimmage. Swain reportedly looks leaner and quicker and is making strong play after strong play.
Meachem, Smith, and Swain appear to have the starting spots locked down. Behind them are sophomores Lucas Taylor, Josh Briscoe, and Austin Rogers. Lucas Taylor appears to be a real playmaker, and Rogers and Briscoe got some playing time last year and appear solid, except that Briscoe had a tough scrimmage last weekend. Don’t count out true freshman Quintin Hancock, who apparently is making some noise at practices and scrimmages.
Tight ends Chris Brown and brothers Brad and Jeff Cottam figure to be utilized a bit more in David Cutcliffe’s offense as receivers than tight ends have been over the last couple of years.
Best-case scenario: One of Meachem, Smith, and Swain goes on a tear and begins to dominate any single person who tries to cover him, which requires defenses to adjust to that receiver’s side thereby softening up the coverage on the other two. Ainge spreads the wealth, and the three starters each finish the season with 1,000 yards, beating the total of their last three seasons combined. The reserves chip in another 100 yards each.
Worst-case scenario: Coach Cutcliffe, in a bold attempt to stretch the field, calls six consecutive deep outs to begin the season, all of which are either dropped, overthrown, or intercepted. On the third offensive series, the corners and safeties realize that they no longer need to cover receivers, and the team puts 11 in the box to stop Arian Foster.
Best guess: Two of the three starters will improve significantly but not dramatically, increasing their output over last year by 50%. The third, probably Smith, will lose his starting position to one of the three reserves, probably Lucas Taylor. 2,800 yards passing for the season among the unit.
Here’s the hurry up offense for this morning:
- Mr. Numb Existence presides over a bench trial in the case of BlogPoll v. Mr. Bold and finds him guilty of one count of Malicious Intent, one count of Cattle Rustling, and two counts of False Advertising, but acquits him of two counts of SEC Fraud, three counts of Conspiracy, and one Cardinal Sin.
- GoVolsXtra.com’s Mike Griffith grades the Vols on this weekend’s scrimmage. The QBs get a B this time, and Griffith notes that while Ainge made better decisions, he “needs to develop a better pocket presence or he’s going to get hurt.” Crompton apparently has a better knack for feeling the pressure. Griffith gives the running backs an A- and says Foster “looks poetic gliding and changing speeds in the open field,” that Montario Hardesty “hits holes quicker,” and that “LeMarcus Coker is electrifying . . . .” Overall, the team received a B.
- The AP Poll just came out, and the Volunteers are No. 23.
- Kyle at DawgSports has a comprehensive Florida preview up. Don’t miss the “feasting on the flesh of the enemy” portion of the piece.
- College Football News says that the extent of David Cutcliffe’s impact on the Volunteers is No. 12 on the list of questions that will impact the 2006 season. The top question, according to CFN, is whether Texas can repeat with a freshman quarterback. By the way, in its quick picks piece, CFN likes Cal over Tennessee (23-14) and Florida over Tennessee by three, but likes the Vols over both LSU (24-20) and Georgia (16-13). They’re figuring that Tennessee will find itself, but not until mid-season.
- SI.com sends a postcard from Tennessee’s fall camp.
- If you missed it last week, CBS Sportsline says the SEC East is the toughest division on the nation. No kidding.