Archive for the 'Arian Foster' Category

Rocky top hurry up: Waiting for ends to emerge, Arian Foster, and game captains

Friday, August 25th, 2006
  • 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?

CFR’s preview of the Tennessee-Cal game

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2006

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 Volunteer 2006 unit preview: Running backs

Wednesday, August 16th, 2006

The Upside. In an offense full of question marks, Tennessee coaches have to feel the least uncomfortable with the running back position. After Gerald Riggs went down with a season-ending injury against Alabama last year, most of the carries went to freshman Arian Foster. Foster, who caught former offensive coordinator Randy Sanders’ eye while playing in a high school game despite the fact that Reggie Bush was playing for the opposing team, finished the season as the starter and averaged 148.4 yards per game. He had 223 yards against Vanderbilt, and despite only starting five games, he finished the season with 879 yards.

You might be thinking, well, okay, but the last five games in which Foster started were against South Carolina, Notre Dame, Memphis, Vanderbilt, and Kentucky. Not exactly powerhouse defenses. One need only go back and look at the Alabama game, however, to be convinced that he can do it against teams with a quality defense as well. Foster split time with Gerald Riggs almost the entire game against the Tide and carried the ball 14 times for 56 yards for an average of 3.8 yards.

Competing for the No. 2 running back spot are Montario Hardesty and LaMarcus Coker. Hardesty, a 6-0, 205-pound back from New Bern, North Carolina, appeared to be ahead of Foster early last fall. Coker, a highly-touted recruit is a shifty one with great speed. Also in the mix are Ja’Kouri Williams, David Yancey, and Ricardo Kemp.

Senior Cory Anderson (6-3, 255) is a lock for the starting fullback position and should see some more action as new offensive coordinator adds some wrinkles to the Volunteer offense.

Anderson had an impressive sophomore season, but struggled a bit last year. Anderson’s backup is 6-1, 250-pound David Holbert.

The Downside. The Volunteers almost lost as many running backs to injury last year as they lost games. Hardesty tore an ACL in the fourth game against Ole Miss and was still rehabbing in the spring. He had a less serious injury to his other knee during spring practice. One of his knees then buckled during one this fall’s scrimmages, and although he initially though it was fine, the latest word is that they’re evaluating some unanticipated swelling.

After Riggs’ season-ending injury in October, Williams underwent arthroscopic knee surgery in mid-November. In December, both Foster and Coker went under the knife. Foster had both knee and shoulder surgery in the off season, and Coker had surgery to repair torn ligaments in his shoulder.

Foster, Hardesty, Coker, and Williams all missed all or most of spring practice. Foster did not go home to San Diego this summer, instead electing to stay on campus and focus on rehabbing his two surgeries and getting himself into condition. He is apparently a leaner, quicker, stronger version of the back we saw last year.

Fumbles were a grave concern last year, as the Vols lost two games by a total of four points due to three fumbles inside the ten-yard line. It is still unclear whether this tendency has been fixed, as the first all-live scrimmage this fall featured two fumbles, one by Foster and one by Yancey.

Best-case scenario: Run, Forest Foster, run! Arian Foster averages 150 yards per game on his way to a 2,000+ yard season and fumbles only twice, both times on the right side of the field. He begins to get some Heisman attention mid-season. Coker and/or Hardesty contribute another few hundred yards each. Opposing linebackers wet their pants when they see Anderson coming at them full-speed. The team runs the ball with such efficiency that all pressure on Erik Ainge is relieved, and Ainge regains his confidence.

Worst-case scenario: All three primary backs tear a total of six ACLs in the first game against California, and the team turns to Ainge to bail them out.

Best guess: One of the running backs does not make it back into the mix, probably Hardesty. Foster shoulders the load and averages 120+ yards per game, with Coker adding another 30+ yards per game. When one is nursing injuries, the other is available. Should be the strength of the team this year, provided the offensive line comes around.

Re-living the Tennessee Volunteers 2005 football season: Part 12, Kentucky and the End of an Error

Tuesday, August 8th, 2006

Pre-game

It was the first game I could remember that really didn’t mean anything at all. Thoughts of the Rose Bowl and the National Championship had been chucked out the window long ago, and with the ugly loss to Vanderbilt the prior week, the 2005 Tennessee Volunteers had lost any chance at post-season play.

With one game remaining, the sole remaining goal was to avoid taking up residency in the cold, damp cellar of the SEC East usually reserved for Vanderbilt or Kentucky.

The Vols had lost to the Gators. Lost to the Bulldogs. Lost to South Carolina. Lost to Vanderbilt.

Only Kentucky remained, and horror of horrors, its offense appeared to be twice as efficient as the Vols’.

The game

NOTE: A larger version can be found on the Animated Drive Charts page.

Quarterback Erik Ainge got the start and played the entire game going 17 of 25 for 221 yards and two long touchdown passes. On UT’s first drive, Ainge’s fifth consecutive completion resulted in a 50-yard TD pass to Robert Meachem.

On Tennessee’s first drive of the second quarter, Ainge hit another: a 32-yard pass to receiver Chris Hannon for a touchdown. All in all, Ainge had a decent, but not spectacular, game. He did not throw an interception, but he did lose two fumbles, and he gave up a safety when called for intentional grounding while attempting a pass from the end zone to avoid a sack.

Arian Foster also had a good game, better even than his 114 net yards on 26 carries would indicate. On UT’s second possession, Foster’s 55-yard dash to the end zone was nullified by a motion penalty. Later, a screen pass to Foster, which he took 78 yards to the end zone was reduced to a net gain of 39 yards due to a holding penalty.

The defense contributed three interceptions, one for a touchdown by Justin Harrell.

Post-game

And that was it. It was all over but the shouting by Thanksgiving weekend. All that was left to do was to further sift the coaching staff, send an apology letter to fans, and say “wait until next year.”

As the Knoxville News-Sentinel put it, it was the End of an Error.

Re-living the Tennessee Volunteers 2005 football season: Part 11, Vanderbilt and The End of the World as We Know It

Monday, August 7th, 2006

Pre-game

Okay, I know this hurts, but we’re almost done. Trust me.

Tennessee’s 2005 victory over Memphis did little to quiet the stirrings on Rocky Top. Sure the special teams and wide receivers had begun to show some improvement, but the quarterback controversy was still alive and well even ten games into the season.

Fortunately, or so we all thought, the Vols were closing out the regular season against Vanderbilt and Kentucky. During prior painful seasons, Tennessee players and fans could always count on self-medication with Gold and Blue salve, and this season would surely be no different.

Or would it? The Rocky Top perspective had changed dramatically. Pre-season fantasies of whether the team could win out and make it to the Rose Bowl and the National Championship had given way to questions of strategy for next season. Should the team put the rest of this season at risk by playing quarterback Erik Ainge and getting him all of the game reps or should Clausen start so the team could win one more game and get to a bowl game thereby affording the new offensive coordinator another month of practice?

Such questions evidenced a wicked, nagging thought that fans were attempting to suppress: a win against Vanderbilt was not a given. After all, the Uh-Oh stat was alarming: the Commodores had scored 85 points in their last two games, and the Vols had scored a whopping total of 73 points in their last five games.

Still, the outlook was not completely dire, and Vol fans — those that remained faithful anyway — gathered for the last home game of the season to honor their seniors, including Jason Allen, whose season-ending injury against Georgia had dealt a blow to his NFL prospects, Gerald Riggs, who had suffered a season-ending injury against Alabama, and Jason Mitchell, who risked a shot at the NFL by playing the entire season with both a torn ACL and a torn MCL.

Vol fans were looking to put the bad news behind us. It was not meant to be.

The game

NOTE: A larger version can be found on the Animated Drive Charts page.

The game was all Arian Foster, whose 223 yards were the most for a UT tailback since Travis Stephens’ 226 against Florida in 2001.

Unfortunately, it was also Foster (and the o-line) who failed to convert on 4th down and inches on the third drive of the second half within three yards of the goal line, squandering excellent field position resulting from a 43-yard punt return by Jonathan Hefney.

Foster did get a TD on the next drive, but the failed conversion on the prior drive was the difference in the game. When faced with 4th and one on their own 24 with under five minutes to play and the team leading 24-21, Fulmer elected to punt rather than risk coming up short again.

The defense initially did its job and got the ball back for the offense, which should have meant that they could run out the clock with a first down or two. The offense sputtered again, however, gaining only five yards in three tries before having to punt again.

This time, the defense collapsed. Three plays and 63 yards later, Jay Cutler and the Vanderbilt Commodores had scored a touchdown and taken a 28-24 lead over the Volunteers with only 1:11 left to play.

Rick Clausen was out of magic, and although he drove the team 64 yards on nine plays, his pass on 4th and nine into the end zone was intercepted.

Post-game

It was the End of the World as We Knew It.

First loss to Vandy in 22 years. First losing season in 17 years. First year without a bowl game in 16 years. Tennessee wasn’t going to the Rose Bowl. Or a BCS Bowl. Or the Citrus, Outback, Music City, or Independence Bowls.

The Tennessee Volunteers were not going to the Alamo.

Reaction in the Tennessee blogosphere was not pretty:

The Vol Abroad is wondering how to spell the “whimpering sounds I’m making.”

Big Orange Michael is embarking on an off-season-long grief counseling session.

Dave from Opinari.net has a Christmas list for Volunteer fans everywhere and eloquently captures the frustration of the Vandy game and the 2005 season:

We’re stopped on 4th and less than a yard inside the 5. We drop a sure TD pass on the sideline. We have two guys going for an interception, and they let the receiver outbattle them for the ball. We take bad penalties, and we make the least of every opportunity the other team gives us. To go from a preseason #3 ranking to this is just painful to watch as a fan. Fortunately, we only have one more game to watch before we can utter that mantra usually reserved for mediocre football programs: “There’s always next season.”

* * * *

Big Stupid Tommy picks a good time to post the email that’s been circulating about the custody of the abused kid in Knoxville.

Great Smoky says we can’t even get a seat on the Toilet Bowl:

I have not been so humiliated since the University of Chattanooga beat us back in 1958. We were so shamed by that we merged them in with us rather than risk another loss. Wonder if Vandy is in an acquisition mood?

Shots Across the Bow has some words about the 2005 team and Coach Fulmer:

Embarrassing.
Overrated.
Poorly Coached.
Underachieving.

He’s got some other words, too.

* * * *

Meanwhile, Vandy fan Salem’s Lots is gloating, sort of, and the other another Vandy fan, Scott Rushing, is remembering what he was doing — learning cursive, waiting to see whether Darth Vader was really Luke Skywalker’s father — the last time the Commodores beat the Vols. Rushing has this to say:

So the Commodores won’t be going to a bowl game this year. However, I can guarantee that winning in Neyland Stadium must be the next best thing for this team. Beating Tennessee in Knoxville is the Holy Grail of Vanderbilt football. A bowl victory could not surpass that. And to think…for the next year I get bragging rights over all of my Tennessee friends. Sweet!

Word came quickly that the players themselves were not happy either, and some were behaving quite badly:

From GoVolsXtra:

In the frustration after the Vols’ failed last play – an end-zone interception by Vanderbilt – several UT players appeared to throw their helmets on the ground. A number of players went to the locker room leaving their helmets on the field.

Offensive lineman Albert Toeaina reportedly spit on a Jumbotron cameraman as he left the field. The cameraman, Scott Liston, told WBIR-TV’s Steve Phillips on Sunday that Fulmer had called him to apologize for the incident.

John Pennington has more:

Nearly as bad as Helmet-gate was the amount of jawing, talking and showboating that UT’s 4-6 players did during the Vandy game. Several times, UT defenders ran their mouths to Vandy’s Cutler following defensive stops. But for the day, Cutler was 27 of 39 for 315 yards and 3 touchdowns and he recorded the first signature win of his career. Guess who laughed last.

Two UT defensive players also popped off to Vandy (and former Knox Central) running back Cassen Jackson-Garrison as the teams made their way to the lockerrooms at halftime. Jackson-Garrison responded by pointing to the 21-14 lead on the Neyland Stadium scoreboard.

My guess? This was the first time that a Vandy player had been able to say “scoreboard” to a Tennessee player since the game clocks went from analog to digital.

Prior to the 4th and a foot at Vandy’s 4, several of UT’s offensive linemen were seen bobbing their heads and gesturing for the Vols to go for the first down. It was more than energy and enthusiasm… it was cocky. And as I noted earlier, it was misplaced cockiness since the O-Line could [sic] blow Vandy off the line of scrimmage.

Lastly, after the disappointing loss, the popping off, the mid-season “we’re not a .500 football team” promises, the numerous Clausen quotes… in the end, only 5 people associated with the Vol team came out to speak to the media after the game: Phillip Fulmer (who gets paid to do it), John Chavis (good for him), and players Foster, Mahelona and Jason Mitchell (who had played all season on a torn ACL and a torn MCL).

It turned out that Toeaina actually spit on the ground, not on the cameraman. He was suspended for the next game, though, for inappropriate conduct, which apparently consisted of throwing his helmet after the loss, leaving it on the field, and yelling an expletive at the cameraman. He did apologize, saying that it was done out of anger and frustration.

Losing to Vanderbilt will do that to you.

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.

Two-Minute Drill: Orson has way, Erik Ainge on Heisman watch list

Monday, May 29th, 2006

Pretty quiet over the last several days.  On the blogging front, don’t miss EDSBS’ excellent piece on why we love football.  Orson has way.  Also, have a look at DawgSportslink-rich, exhaustive post on the matter of blogger disclosure.

College Football News completed its series on the Top 100 Heisman contenders.  Not only is UT tailback Arian Foster on the list, so is Reanimation Project Erik Ainge (at No. 36), who in the words of Inside Tennessee’s Randy Moore “had the mother of all sophomore jinxes in 2005.”  Uh, yeah.  Like he said.

VolQuest.com takes a closer look at incoming safety Justin Garrett. Unlike most junior college transfers, Garrett wasn’t on campus for spring practice, and he won’t arrive until this fall.  Fortunately, the Vols’ secondary is supposedly one of the strongest on the team, so Garrett will have time to acclimate.  An interesting bit in one of his answers to the interview question is this: <blockquote> “I was already expecting to like [his visit to Tennessee] a lot because of the way the coaches at the other schools were acting about me going up there.  None of them wanted me to take that visit, they were all kind of badmouthing the trip or whatever.  They were all so worried about me going up there that really, they got my expectations up and made my decision for me almost.”</blockquote>  It’s nice to know (1) that opposing coaches are still worried about Tennessee’s ability to recruit, and (2) that badmouthing UT sometimes has the opposite effect of that intended.

SportsAnimal99.com interviewed UT receivers coach Trooper Taylor.  Taylor’s a great interview.  You almost want to chest bump him after some of his responses.

Finally, Sports Illustrated compiled a list of the Top 15 Plays in College Football History.  Prothro’s catch is my favorite.  Hope to see him back in full form this season.  Hat Tip to Heisman Pundit.

The Glimpse: Pearl’s system and former, current [and future?] Heisman candidates

Wednesday, May 24th, 2006

Inside Tennessee’s Jeffery Stewart has a must-read analysis of coach Bruce Pearl’s system and what makes it tick.  You really need to read the whole thing, but here’s an excerpt: 

Think atypical where players are concerned. Pearl proved at UMW that he likes to put personnel on the floor that creates match-up issues on both ends of the court for opponents. This strategy is an all out assault on an opponent’s comfort zone and, combined with stifling full-court pressure, disrupts continuity. In NCAA wins over Alabama and Boston College in the 2005, Pearl used 6-5 strongman, Joah Tucker on the wing to overpower smaller defenders. . . . . Pearl could use four-star signee Duke Crews in the same manner next season, playing him at power forward against slower opponents and at the wing against smaller.

On that note, Turn Up The Heat, a DVD cashing in on the surprising success of the 2005-06 Volunteer basketball season, hit JCPenney stores on Tuesday.  You can also get it at www.volnetwork.tv.

On the football front, Arian Foster is No. 44 on College Football News’ Heisman watch list.  Former Vol quarterback Brent Schaeffer, who started as a true freshman, traded series with Erik Ainge until he broke his collarbone, and eventually transferred after being suspended for the 2005 spring practice due to a violation of team rules, is No. 67.  Schaeffer apparently had an excellent season this past year at some junior college somewhere and has resurfaced at Ole Miss.

Lastly, VolQuest.com continues its “Up Close” series with a look at newcomer Stephaun Raines.

A glimpse: 8-4 knee injury expunged on schedule due to overachievement in the NIT

Friday, May 12th, 2006

Football

I’m a Realist breaks down the 2006 Tennessee Volunteer football team and predicts we’ll go 8-4.  Running back Montario Hardesty, who missed most of last season after tearing the ACL in his right knee, will undergo another surgery for a less serious injury to his left knee suffered during spring practice.  He’s expected to be available this fall.  At least projected starting running back Arian Foster’s recovery is on schedule.

Senior linebacker Marvin Mitchell received diversion on his May 1 disorderly conduct charge. The misdemeanor will be expunged from his record as long as he stays out of trouble for the next 30 days and pays court costs.  Coach Fulmer said that he’ll be allowed to return to the team if he remains incident-free and faces the team’s internal punishment.

Basketball

Scout.com observes that the fact that 6-4 forward Dane Bradshaw played his power forward position so well even though he was undersized made an impression on recruits, who reasoned that the coaches must know what they’re doing if they can get their players to over-achieve like Bradshaw did.

The Volunteer basketball team was chosen along with North Carolina, Gonzaga, and Indiana as one of the top four seeds in the pre-season NIT.  We’ll open the pre-season against Fordham in Nashville.

McDaniel Sued, Foster Recovering, Clausen Hired

Friday, January 13th, 2006

GoVolsXtra.com (subscription required) is reporting this morning that: