Archive for the 'Coach Cutcliffe' Category

Two-minute drill: Vols’ report card, AP poll out, Dawg Sports’ feasting on the flesh of the enemy

Monday, August 21st, 2006

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.

Heisman Pundit questions David Cutcliffe’s reputation

Thursday, August 17th, 2006

Heisman Pundit is questioning the reputation of David Cutcliffe. An excerpt:

[Is] Cutcliffe’s quarterback pedigree really that special? He gets credit for the Mannings, but both Peyton and Eli were highly-touted recruits and can’t miss prospects who really just needed to be managed properly.

Beyond that, there is Heath Shuler, who was the second pick of the draft based almost solely on his physical skills (he was an NFL bust), and Andy Kelly, who went on to a career in the Arena Football League.

Am I saying Cutcliffe is a bad quarterbacks coach? No. I’m saying that we don’t really know if he is as good as advertised, since even I could probably coach talents like the Mannings to the NFL. He clearly is good at not messing up players who are already on track to be successful. That’s often half the battle. That said, the last quarterback he coached–Ethan Flatt–was flat-out awful.

I don’t think Erik Ainge quite fits the profile of a player with an inevitably bright future.

A couple of thoughts:

  • This analysis conveniently leaves out Tee Martin, who also didn’t exactly “fit[] the profile of a player with an inevitably bright future” and who Cutcliffe coached to a national championship.
  • I don’t know anything about Ethan Flatt, but even if he was “awful,” one failure isn’t necessarily indicative of poor coaching: nobody could teach a lawn chair to play quarterback, for instance.
  • There’s a lot of ground for success or failure between merely not ruining somebody with promise and coaching two No. 1 overall NFL picks and one No. 3 overall NFL pick.
  • If the Mannings were merely “can’t miss prospects who really just needed to be managed properly,” and therefore don’t prove that Cutcliffe is a great coach, then why point out that Heath Shuler was an NFL bust? Essentially, HP is using both the Mannings’ success and Shuler’s failure as evidence against Cutcliffe. And by the way, Shuler couldn’t cut it in the NFL primarily, if not entirely, because of injuries.

Anyway, head on over and give HP the Rocky Top perspective.

Tennessee Volunteer 2006 unit preview: Quarterbacks

Monday, August 14th, 2006

Well, what can be said about the quarterbacks that hasn’t already been said? Very little, but I’m going to mix up the order of the words to make it look brand spanking new.

Erik Ainge drew favorable comparisons to Peyton Manning his freshman year, and for good reason. He completed 109 of 198 passes for 1,452 yards and 17 touchdowns in nine games before a shoulder injury against Notre Dame ended his season. The following year, he got off to a good start, but morphed into a mushroom cloud in the end zone at LSU. The question then became Is There Life After Death Valley for Erik Ainge? By the Notre Dame game, the early returns suggested, well, maybe not.

Enter Ahead-to-the-Past offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe, sensei to the likes of No. 1 NFL draft picks Peyton Manning and Eli Manning, No. 3 NFL draft pick Heath Shuler, and National Championship QB Tee Martin. Job One for Cut is the Reanimation of Erik Ainge Project.

Erik Ainge

The jury is still out after the first all-live scrimmage, during which Ainge went 13 of 26 for 120 yards, with two interceptions and no touchdowns. Worse than the raw numbers, Ainge displayed some of the same pocket panic that we saw last year, even throwing a sure interception (it was actually dropped by the defender) off his back foot from his own end zone. Cut was “surprised,” and said such a play was unacceptable.

He did not, however, water the blooming controversy. “We are not shaking up or changing anything at this stage based on one scrimmage,” said Cutcliffe. “I evaluate every one of them every day. I grade every practice. They are all held accountable to perform.”

Cutcliffe didn’t, however, completely rule out the possibility of a change. “We are going to keep competition at all positions, including quarterback,” said Cutcliffe. “[Ainge] has to play better than he played from a mistake standpoint. I am sure he is disappointed. He is doing many things well.”

The offensive coaching staff is doing its best to both develop 2nd string QB Jonathan Crompton, a Parade All-American, and ignore the fact that he is nipping at Ainge’s heels. Crompton finished Saturday’s scrimmage 7 of 13 for 97 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. According to Cutcliffe, Crompton is “transferring what I’m telling him and verbalizing it in the huddle and not getting frozen.”

Jonathan Crompton

Junior Bo Hardegree is nipping at Ainge’s other heel, and waiting in the wings is true freshman Nick Stephens, who passed for 2,602 yards and 24 touchdowns as a high school senior at Flower Mound, Texas last year.

Bo Hardegree

Best Case Scenario: Erik Ainge improves decision-making under duress and efficiently manages the offense, occasionally hitting big-time, long-distance pass plays, and racking up big early leads that enable Crompton to get healthy portions of game experience.

Worst Case Scenario: Ainge barely holds on to the starting position, hording all of the first string practice reps, through the first game against Cal where he throws an interception from his own end zone for a touchdown while in the arms of a defender and gets yanked for good. Crompton, thrown into the fire without the benefit of any real practice reps struggles and thereafter splits time equally under center with Bo Hardegree, Nick Stephens, Jim Bob Cooter, and defensive tackle Justin Harrell. Tennessee finishes 6-6 or worse, and the University decides to hire Bob Stoops, who brings Rhett Bomar with him.

Best Guess: Cutcliffe will in fact reanimate Ainge and cure him of his poor decision-making under duress by having Ainge take the snap, count to three, and heave the ball into the Tennessee River on thirty consecutive plays (or something like that) to substitute a new panic mechanism for the old one. Ainge will struggle early, fans will holler for Crompton, and Cutcliffe will wisely guide Ainge through the firestorm, molding him into an efficient QB whose game plan consists primarily of handing off to the tailback and throwing short passes.

Catastrophic Change and the Season of Which We Do Not Speak

Sunday, August 13th, 2006

Last week, I capped off two weeks’ worth of discretionary time re-examining the cadaver of the 2005 Tennessee Volunteer football season. Two full weeks of pessimism, criticism, and general negativity.

What was I thinking?

Well, I did it to show why I’m optimistic about the upcoming season. The full explanation is further down the page, but here’s a teaser:

Before I reveal what was going on in the dark recesses of my bothered mind, let’s recap:

A complete and utter flame-out.

What happened? What exactly was the root cause of the disappointing 2005 season? Here’s the lineup of suspects:

Lack of or improper focus

  • Lack of character and/or discipline. From a player using his cell phone during half time of a bowl game several years ago to the rash of arrests and court appearances leading up to the 2005 season, individual and team discipline has declined.
  • Me first. Many UT fans wondered whether running back Jamal Lewis gave the team his all during his last season or whether he was saving himself for the NFL. Receiver Kelley Washington pretty much came right out and said as much by declaring himself “The Future” while still a Tennessee Volunteer.
  • Penalties and errors. Blocked punts, muffed punts, botched fake punts, missed field goals, poor kick and punt coverage, interceptions in end zones, fumbles at critical times, and the list goes on and on.

Conventional wisdom coaching philosophies

  • Tall, fast, and chiseled guys are necessarily good receivers.
  • Rotating eight or nine receivers keeps them fresh, which must be a good thing.
  • Save it for the games. Avoid getting players hurt at all costs by utilizing a plethora of green, no-contact jerseys and by practicing at less than game speed.
  • Bigger is always better on the offensive line.
  • Two QB System? No worries.
  • Special teams, oh yeah, we ought to work on those, too.

Context

  • Embracing the hype. The normally stoic Phillip Fulmer openly embraced the pre-season No. 3 ranking in 2005, wanting to ensure that when they did get through the SEC slate unscathed they would not be denied an opportunity to play for the national championship.
  • The Spotlight Effect. UT, both individually and collectively, generally under perform when expectations are high and over perform when expectations are low.
  • Strength of schedule. Nearly half of Tennessee’s 2005 opponents were ranked in the top five at the time they played them.
  • The demise of home-field advantage.
  • Season-ending injuries to key players.

The Cause: One of the Above

So which of the above factors caused the losing season?

If you said all of the above, you’d be mostly right, but I think there’s an even better answer:

One of the above.

In his book The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, Malcolm Gladwell attempts to explain “social epidemics,” or sudden changes from one state to another. In Gladwell’s own words:

The best way to understand the dramatic transformation of unknown books into bestsellers, or the rise of teenage smoking, or the phenomena of word of mouth or any number of the other mysterious changes that mark everyday life is to think of them as epidemics. Ideas and products and messages and behaviors spread just like viruses do.

Think, for a moment, about an epidemic of measles in a kindergarten class. One child brings in the virus. It spreads to every other child in the class in a matter of days. And then, within a week or so, it completely dies out and none of the children will ever get measles again. That’s typical behavior for epidemics: they can blow up and then die out really quickly, and even the smallest change — like one child with a virus — can get them started. My argument is that it is also the way that change often happens in the rest of the world. Things can happen all at once, and little changes can make a huge difference.

Okay, so boiled down, the basic premise of the Tipping Point is this: (1) ideas can be as contagious as viruses; (2) like viruses, little things can grow in geometric progressions into big things; and (3) all these little things can lead to a tipping point at which one more little thing causes a great, noticeable change.

Application to the 2005 Season

The Tennessee Volunteer 2005 football season was the culmination of a lot of little things thrown into the cauldron until one more little thing tipped the whole blasted thing over, ending in catastrophe and scattering football helmets all over the end zone.

Sure, a player checking his cell phone for messages during half time of a bowl game is a bit troubling, but it’s just a little thing, right? Or was it a symptom of a social epidemic infecting the football team with the idea that there really wasn’t much of a consequence for a lack of focus? Did such an attitude spread exponentially and lead to a rash of arrests, a passel of players more concerned about the NFL than their current college team, and a host of penalties, fumbles, interceptions, and other errors on the field?

Could a catastrophic change come from a notion so mundane that you can’t even identify its origin? Exactly when did we start thinking that big, tall, fast guys necessarily made excellent receivers or that rotating eight or nine of them during a game in order to wear out the defenders was a good idea? Exactly when did we start thinking that two quarterbacks were better than one or that practicing at less than game speed and dressing key players in green, no-contact jerseys sufficiently prepared the team for actual games? Just when did having the heaviest offensive line in the SEC become the goal?

By 2005, those seemingly small ideas were epidemic within the Tennessee Volunteer football program. And it was not a good time to be sick. The plague-ridden 2005 Volunteers embraced their No. 3 ranking, mostly ignoring the daunting schedule, the recent demise of UT’s home-field advantage, and the team’s vulnerability to the Spotlight Effect. Season-ending injuries to players Jason Allen and Gerald Riggs didn’t help, either.

The 2005 team lost one game due to a special teams debacle. They lost another because of a penalty-plagued field position nightmare. They lost two more by a total of 4 points due to three fumbles inside the ten yard line. Another loss was by 4 points due in part to a failure to convert on 4th and inches within three yards of the goal line.

Little things can lead to catastrophic change.

Especially in a game of inches.

Application to the 2006 Season

So what was I thinking when I decided to poke and prod at the corpse of the 2005 season? I was thinking that if the red plastic Don’t-Spill-the-Beans cauldron can tip one way, it can also tip the other.

Coach Fulmer was ridiculed when he characterized the season as the Perfect Storm. Some media and fans interpreted this statement as an excuse, but I took it more as an explanation, and I never got the feeling that Fulmer was denying responsibility for the outcome.

No, I think Fulmer was reading the Tipping Point. Once 2005 had breathed its last, Fulmer and company were talking about the little things. If you’ve been keeping up with fall practice, reading the articles and listening to interviews, you’re hearing coaches and players talk about “the little things” all of the time. Here’s just a sampling of the little things they’re trying to reclaim:

  • Character/Discipline. This off-season was quiet, relatively speaking anyway, when it came to off the field incidents. When two players got into trouble within days of each other for the first time this summer, Fulmer reportedly went ballistic. He dismissed the player who’d used up his second chances and suspended the other who’d gotten in trouble for the first time in five years with the program. Fulmer later kicked promising young freshman tight end Lee Smith off the team after Smith made the non-sports page twice in one week. He suspended another pending investigation of a stupid incident involving a toy gun on the highway. While it appears the team still has some ground to cover on this front, it does appear to have improved. The coaching staff, at least, is responding differently, and that’s a good sign.
  • Good receivers make good receivers. After having rejuvenated an under-achieving stable of running backs, Trooper Taylor has been assigned to repeat the feat with the receiving corps this year. The receivers are catching 100 balls a day. Footballs, tennis balls, and even some bricks. Yes, bricks. They are not wearing green jerseys. The rotation this year will consist of five receivers instead of eight or nine so that they can better develop chemistry with the quarterback. They are digging batteries out of buckets full of rice to develop grip strength. Word is, it’s all beginning to pay off.
  • Practice. The spring story line earlier this year was that the Vols were re-learning how to practice. Essentially, that meant that they were practicing with tempo at game speed. This theme continues in the fall. Players receive a tongue-lashing if they simply walk the last couple of steps to the next practice drill. Even the quarterbacks have gone live without green jerseys in at least one scrimmage so far this fall practice. The offense is dictating tempo, and special teams is getting the attention it deserves.
  • Big is good, but speed is better on the offensive line. The offensive linemen have lost weight. Lots of it. Chris Scott is the poster boy for the Vols’ weight loss campaign, having lost 60 pounds since last season. All of them have lost at least fifteen pounds. The goal is to better prepare them to get out quickly and block on screens, and the reports are that they are indeed quicker this fall.
  • Fear the Two QB System. Erik Ainge is the starting quarterback. He is getting all of the practice reps with the first team. Even with promising QB Jonathon Crompton pushing him, the coaches are downplaying any hint of a controversy.

The 2006 Volunteers, led by coach Fulmer and the rest of the coaching staff are in the process of focusing on and correcting a myriad of little things. Maybe, just maybe, they can re-infect the team and create an epidemic of positive ideas. If successful, perhaps they can reach another tipping point this season, this time in a positive direction.

Packing it up

And now that the corpse of 2005 has been exhumed, dissected, poked, prodded, and otherwise fully examined, we can now officially slide it into the morgue drawer and forget about it.

The 2005 season shall from this point forward be referred to only as The Season of Which We Do Not Speak.

New Poll Question: Who’s to blame for 2005?

Wednesday, July 26th, 2006

John Adams’ Monday column — Sanders: Fall guy still is Vol guy — has generated a lot of discussion on Rocky Top over the last couple of days. The argument provoking excerpt:

Imagine how Sanders felt when he heard UT football coach Phillip Fulmer’s comments about last spring practice. Every time Fulmer praised new offensive coordinator, he buried his former offensive coordinator by implication.

“David has improved the toughness of our team,” Fulmer said in the spring. “We’re fundamentally better. He has been very demanding of tempo and execution.

“The daily practice habits improved. Not that we were practicing poorly, but not the cross-your-t’s-and-dot-your-i’s extent that we are now.”

It’s as though in his departure, Sanders was given power and responsibility he never realized he had as an offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

“I have heard (Fulmer’s comments),” Sanders said. “I’m not going to get into a debate or discussion over that. There were a few things I would have liked to have done differently that we weren’t necessarily allowed to do differently. For this to come out as such does bother me some.”

The talk has centered around whether Fulmer or Sanders is most to blame for the 2005 season. On the one hand, as the offensive coordinator, Sanders was responsible for the offensive woes. Fulmer had delegated this responsibility and Sanders had failed. On the other hand, word is that Fulmer may have delegated the responsibility for the offense to Sanders without actually giving him sufficient authority. In other words, Sanders could only do what Fulmer wanted him to do, and so the onus is on Fulmer.

Me? I think it’s probably a little bit of both and a little bit of neither. A lot of little things were allowed to slide by both Fulmer and Sanders, and by the time they realized the magnitude of the problem, the situation had veered out of control so far that no one could regain traction. Fulmer’s comments about recent practices being better in a multitude of ways has some to do with new OC Cutcliffe, but probably more to do with the attitude adjustment of everyone from the head coach to the water boy resulting from the horribly disappointing season.

What do y’all think?

The glimpse: CFN bullish on Vols, conflicting reports on Major Wingate

Wednesday, May 10th, 2006

Pete Fiutak’s front page feature on College Football News yesterday examined the 2006 Tennessee Volunteer football team.  Loaded with information, the gist of it was that 2005 really wasn’t as bad as it may have seemed.  Fiutak acknowledged the poor results but said that (1) losses to Florida, Georgia, and Notre Dame were nothing to be ashamed of; (2) losses to Alabama and South Carolina came down to a few “fluky” plays, and (3) the loss to Vanderbilt, while inexcusable, was collateral damage of the season-long flame out.

Sounds an awful lot like Fulmer saying “we were only a couple of plays of beating the tar out of the Longhorns for the national championship” or whatever he said at the end of last year.  Funny thing is, Fiutak may actually be right.  Don’t expect a VFRT recap of last season until later this summer, but I have thrown everything into a pot and turned up the heat to let it simmer, and everytime I peek in there, it’s looking like the theme will be that a lot of little things combined into a negative tipping point, a total mess at the conclusion of a high-stakes game of Don’t-Spill-the-Beans.  If the coaches and players and fans can do a lot of little things different this year, and they’re ceretainly trying, a positive tipping point is not inconceivable.

Elsewhere, a fan and poster on VolNation’s message board has some thoughts on offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe’s recent comments at an alumni event in West Palm Beach, Florida.  Also, there are conflicting reports on the reason for Major Wingate’s indefinite suspension from the basketball team.  GoVolsXtra reported that it was for failing to show up for a scheduled drug test, while Scout.com and the Tennessean reported that Wingate actually tested positive for marijuana.  Dope.

Finally, Rivals.com continues its series on getting to know the newcomers to the football team by featuring LaMarcus Thompson and reports on a fictional encounter between Dr. Custom, Mr. Fleeting, and Mr. Middle arguing about their respective expectations for the upcoming football season.

A Glimpse: Basketball awards; graduating prisoners

Saturday, May 6th, 2006

The Volunteer basketball team had its annual pat each other on the back postseason awards banquet last night, and the following awards were presented:

  • JaJuan Smith and Major Wingate were named the most-improved players.  (Okay, I’ll play along with that one.)
  • Dane Bradshaw took home the Team Before Self Award and the John Stucky Lifter of the Year Award.  (Good, good, good.
  • The Burchfield-Moss Most Courageous Award went to Jordan Howell.  (Hmmm.  Not sure what this is about.  Any ideas?)

Basketball head coach Bruce Pearl is still trying to fill his assistant coaching vacancy.

Offensive Coordinator David Cutcliffe took quarterbacks Jonathan Crompton and Bo Hardegree with him to a graduation ceremony at the Morgan County Correctional Facility where coach Cut addressed prisoners who were receiving their GED or a vocational trade certificate.  That ought to give EDSBS something to play with.

On playing “the five best linemen”

Monday, April 17th, 2006

Buried in the middle of a GoVolsXtra recap of football spring practice was this quote from coach Cutcliffe:

It has been a little difficult up front because we’ve played so many combinations trying to test our people and see where they play best. That’s a little difficult for a lineman.

I sure hope that this is yet another thing that will be changing this season. In the past you’d always here that the coaches “wanted to get the best five on the field,” and they’d move these best five around the line in different combinations, usually from game to game, but sometimes even during games. I always wondered how that affected the rhythm and chemistry on the line. Wouldn’t it be hard to get in a groove if you were switching positions every game? Wouldn’t it be best to keep your best left guard at left guard even when the starting right tackle goes out with an injury? If you don’t, you have not one backup — the right tackle — but two — the right tackle and the left guard.

So it sounds like Cutcliffe at least believes this practice is “a little difficult for a lineman.” If that’s the case, here’s to hoping it’s only done in practice and that by the time the first game rolls around the linemen know what position they play.

John Adams: If a 5-6 season were a crime, Phillip Fulmer owes UT $2M

Thursday, April 13th, 2006

GoVolsXtra’s John Adams has once again gotten people talking. Today’s column makes several uncomfortable points about head coach Phillip Fulmer, garnering “amens” from many and several “you’re a jerk, Johns” (I’m paraphrasing here) from others. Go read the whole thing — it’s worth the price of admission. Here’s just one excerpt:

A Memphis Commercial Appeal sportswriter asked Fulmer about the contributions of new offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe.

“David has improved the toughness of our team,” Fulmer said. “We’re fundamentally better. He has been very demanding of tempo and execution.

“The daily practice habits improved. Not that we were practicing poorly, but not the cross-your-t’s-and-dot-your-i’s extent that we are now.”

Those comments came on the heels of his spring-game press conference in which Fulmer said, “I think you could describe the spring as a success probably for one reason — the kids learned how to work again, as hard as they’re supposed to and at the tempo they’re supposed to.”

If a 5-6 season were a crime, that quote would be a confession. And if Fulmer keeps bringing up his team’s recently discovered work ethic, someone is going to charge him with stealing about $2 million from the athletic department last year.

Ouch.

My two cents: As Tennessee Volunteer head basketball coach Bruce Pearl recently said, it’s much more difficult to keep a good thing going than it is to get it going. Sort of contrary to the principle of inertia, but I get what he means: it’s easier to get to the top of the hill when you’re one of many aiming for the king, trying to knock him off. It’s another thing entirely when you’re the king and a multitude of teams are trying to knock you off from every angle. So the team believed the hype last year and got a tad lazier than prior years, thinking it could simply flip on a switch and play up to its talent on game day. There’s a creeping effect at work here, and because there is so little room for error, a lot of little mistakes can add up to a negative tipping point, especially when combined with a king-of-the-hill status and a brutal schedule.

I think that by the time coach Fulmer realized things were getting out of hand last year it was too late to do much about it. He would have said these things — that the team has re-learned how to practice, how to work, how to play with tempo, etc. — this year even if he had made no coaching changes last year. I also think that the humility of a losing season makes the players more coachable. Still, Fulmer had to do something more than just re-doubling his own efforts, and re-hiring ahead-to-the-past offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe was, I think, the right thing to do.

But if we do indeed have a better season this year, we ought to be careful not to chalk it up solely to the efforts of David Cutcliffe. It’s the losing season that has led to a lot of changes, all of which, we hope, will work together to get the thing back on track.

First thoughts on the Volunteers’ Orange and White Game

Sunday, April 9th, 2006

Well, that was refreshing. The early morning rain had cleared the air. The sun was warm and the breeze was cool.

And like the local Bradford Pears and dogwoods awaking from a cold, desolate winter to push out new growth, the Tennessee Volunteer offense was showing signs of life.

Robert Meachem had a banner day, catching a pair of touchdown passes, one of which went for 70 yards. Robert Meachem catches his first of two TDs on the dayTalk about a sight for sore eyes. Bret Smith was, as is his nature, quietly consistent with seven catches for 47 yards and one touchdown. And lo and behold, the tight ends were catching passes, 10 of them to be exact.

Erik Ainge solidified his position as starting quarterback, completing 14 of 22 passes for a total of 210 yards and two touchdowns. Crompton and Hardegree did fine, together completing 24 of 29 passes for 152 yards and one touchdown. Hardegree did throw one interception.

The emphasis on tempo was evident, as Ainge got his team in and out of the huddle quickly. Crompton, on the other hand, got a Jumbotron tongue-lashing from coach Cutcliffe after calling his third timeout early in the first half. Good news, all of it. Still unanswered, however, is Ainge’s decision-making under duress. That really can’t be tested in a green jersey, and he did in fact give up two (I think) sacks due to not getting rid of the ball quick enough.

Jonathan Wade

FUMBLE!!!The defense had its moments as well. Linebackers Rico McCoy and James Turner each had seven tackles.
Uruk-Hai look-alike Jonathan Wade (that’s a compliment; I think it looks cool) had one interception,
and Robert Ayers and Demonte’ Bolden recovered one fumble a piece.


Fulmer on the quarterbacks:

David Cutcliffe has been great for all of those guys. We were in and out of the huddle, especially early. I thought Erik had a really good game except for the two sacks. I’ve been really impressed with Jonathan Crompton, considering he hasn’t played any football since high school. And Bo has had a really good spring.

Fulmer on the receivers:

The receivers were better out there because they are blocking their rears off and catching it more consistently. They are trying to do more things with the football after they catch it.

Fulmer on the offense in general:

If you don’t drop balls, have turnovers and have silly sacks, you have a chance to be successful because we have enough talent to break a tackle or make a play in the passing game that’s going to give us some points. That’s what we did not do offensively last year.

Fulmer on the defense:

We had a really good spring. We closed ground in some areas. We can’t possibly be as experience as we were last year in the linebacker corps but those guys are just really doing well. They are playing with great attitude.

Justin [Harrell] has played well all spring and Matt McGlothlin has pushed himself into position where we’re going to be counting on him. His play since the spring break has been as consistent as anybody on our football team. And the secondary has been a strength all spring.

Fulmer on spring practice overall:

You could describe the spring as a success for probably one reason and that’s that our kids learned how to work again as hard as they are supposed to. If we will stay that course and make the improvements at the positions where we need to improve, we’ll get there.

We’ve just finished phase two of what we’re trying to get done. I think we’ve made some strides. Sometimes before you really appreciate the peaks — and we’ve been on a lot of peaks — you’ve got to go into the valleys. Basically, that’s how I’ve described it to our football team this year. We’re doing everything we can to fight and scratch and take each little step we can to get ourselves back where want to be and that’s at the peak.

The kids have had a good attitude but our summer program will be one of the deciding factors on what kind of football team we will have. We actually moved spring practice ahead by two weeks to give us a longer summer cycle. I’ve seen young people change their bodies during the summer, particularly the young guys and we’re going to be counting on a lot of young guys next season.


My own slideshow is coming soon. If I don’t mow the lawn today, I’m going to need a bush-hog.

UTSports.com has video highlights and audio interviews with coach Fulmer.

For those lucky or early enough to get into Thompson-Boling Arena for Fan Day, it apparently looked like this. I wouldn’t know, because I was number 12,000 or so in line waiting to go through the single door in Thompson-Boling they had opened for the occasion.