CFR’s preview of the Tennessee-Cal game

August 22nd, 2006 at 6:30 am

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: Wide receivers

August 22nd, 2006 at 6:16 am

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.


Robert Meachem

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.


Quintin Hancock

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.

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

August 21st, 2006 at 6:50 am

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.

The Case of BlogPoll v. Mr. Bold, 2006 WL 123456 (Tenn. Ct. App. Eastern Section)

August 20th, 2006 at 7:57 pm
Mr. Numb Existence presiding

As I said earlier, I was dubbed Mr. Numb Existence in the pre-season BlogPoll for having the “rightest” ballot, meaning merely that I was closest of all voters to what the final results were.

As Mr. Numb Existence, I have a responsibility to my BlogPoll brethren:

Each week the top blog on each list will be given a fancy title–”Mr. Bold” and “Mr. Numb Existence,” respectively–and politely requested to comment on their ballot. Mr. Bold is asked to convince poll voters that he is right on a team or two he has ranked strangely. Mr. Numb Existence is asked to evaluate Mr. Bold’s argument, decide whether he buys it, and declare if he will adjust his rankings accordingly next week (pending the games, of course). Should either Mr. Bold or Mr. Numb Existence be unable to participate in this exercise, the next blog on the list shall step forth into the void.


All rise. The BlogPoll Court is now is session, the not-so-honorable Mr. Numb Existence presiding.

This is the pre-season, folks, and so I’m going with the standard of proof accorded criminal defendants. Frank McGrath, the pre-season Mr. Bold, must be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt to be convicted.

The prosecution offers Exhibit 1 into evidence:

Ballot of Frank McGrath, Week 1
Rank Team Delta
1 Notre Dame
25
2 Ohio State
24
3 Florida
23
4 Auburn
22
5 Southern Cal
21
6 Miami (Florida)
20
7 Florida State
19
8 Georgia
18
9 Tennessee
17
10 Nebraska
16
11 Texas
15
12 Penn State
14
13 Virginia Tech
13
14 Clemson
12
15 Iowa
11
16 West Virginia
10
17 Tulsa
9
18 Alabama
8
19 TCU
7
20 Louisiana State
6
21 Oregon
5
22 UTEP
4
23 Oklahoma
3
24 UCLA
2
25 Michigan
1

Dropped Out:

The counts:

  1. One count of Malicious Intent: LSU at No. 20.
  2. One count of Cattle Rustling: Texas at No. 11.
  3. Two counts of SEC Fraud: four SEC teams in the top 10, including Tennessee and Georgia.
  4. Three counts of Conspiracy: Florida, Miami, and Florida State all in the top 10.
  5. Two counts of False Advertising: Tulsa at No. 17 and UTEP at No. 22
  6. One Cardinal Sin: Louisville unranked.

The accused now offers his defense.

1. On the first count of Malicious Intent against rival school LSU, ranking them at No. 20:

[Y]es, I will be ****** if I give LSU a free pass to the Top 10. But at least I included them.

Response of the Court: The Court reminds the accused that this is a court of law and obscenity-laden outbursts will not be tolerated. LSU is clearly one of the two best teams in the SEC, which defendant himself uses as the benchmark for all other leagues. Ranking them at No. 20 is clearly nothing more than pre-meditated, unadulterated malice.

Verdict: Guilty.

2. On the count of Cattle Rustling: Texas at No. 11.

. . . .

Response of the Court: . . . .

Verdict: Guilty.

3. On the two counts of SEC Fraud: four SEC teams in the top 10, including Tennessee and Georgia:

And yes, I have a bias toward the SEC. Absolutely I do. Now that might be because as a Tulane fan, I’ve been beat about the head by these factories since the day I enrolled. But very few BCS conference teams could navigate a full SEC slate without at least two, probably three losses- and the ones I think could do two losses or better are the dozen or so that join my Top 25.

Response of the Court: The Court finds this defense compelling, and it has absolute nothing at all, whatsoever, in any manner, to do with the fact that venue for this action lies in East Tennessee.

Verdict: Not guilty.

4. On the three counts of Conspiracy: Florida, Miami, and Florida State all in the top 10:

Yes, I rank the Florida triumvirate highly- but USA today’s got the same three at 8, 10, and 11. If that is bold, then I suppose I’m shamelessly audacious.

Response of the Court: The Court notes that there is a vast difference between 3, 6, and 7 and 8, 10, and 11. Still, the expert testimony in favor of the defendant is compelling.

Verdict: Not guilty.

5. On the two counts of False Advertising: Tulsa at No. 17 and UTEP at No. 22:

As one of a few mid-major voters in this poll- which like everything college football is skewed toward the heavies- I probably threw a little too much love the mid-major’s way- including both TCU and UTEP. Fair.

* * * *

[T]here is no vote for a “Rice” or a “Temple”.

Response of the Court: The Court appreciates the defendant’s candor and loyalty. Still . . .

Verdict: Guilty, but no sentence imposed.

6. On the Cardinal Sin: Louisville unranked:

[As I said before,] very few BCS conference teams could navigate a full SEC slate without at least two, probably three losses- and the ones I think could do two losses or better are the dozen or so that join my Top 25. USC is one of those teams. Notre Dame is another. Louisville is categorically not one. Have a look at, say Vandy’s 2006 slate. Frankly, I am not sure Louisville can win at Oxford regularly- let alone Rocky Top.

So, I have West Virginia- who I think is the best team in the Big East- at 16. Accordingly, I don’t the think Louisville is better than WV- which candidly isn’t all that outrageous. And I don’t believe, yes, that the Cardinals are better than the teams at the bottom of my poll. I doubt they can beat a .500+ Big Ten team, or a depleted Oklahoma, or middling SEC team (LSU, Alabama). Hell, didn’t the Green Wave beat them this last decade? A powerful strike against my confidence in any program.

Response of the Court: Right on, brother! Wait, strike that from the record. Okay, so the SEC is tough, but Louisville not even ranked? Phil Steele has them at like, No. 3 or something. Still, there’s that pesky beyond-a-reasonable-doubt thing.

Verdict: Not guilty.

NOTE: On appeal, defendant argued a violation of his constitutional right to a jury trial. So the case has been remanded, and the Court has been instructed to conduct a jury trial instead of a bench trial.

You’re the jury — you decide. Here again are the alleged crimes against society:

  1. One count of Malicious Intent: LSU at No. 20.
  2. One count of Cattle Rustling: Texas at No. 11.
  3. Two counts of SEC Fraud: four SEC teams in the top 10, including Tennessee and Georgia.
  4. Three counts of Conspiracy: Florida, Miami, and Florida State all in the top 10.
  5. Two counts of False Advertising: Tulsa at No. 17 and UTEP at No. 22
  6. One Cardinal Sin: Louisville unranked.

Tennessee Volunteer quarterbacks improve, attention shifts to offensive line

August 20th, 2006 at 6:06 pm

The Volunteers’ second scrimmage was apparently better than the first.

Erik Ainge went 17 of 26 for 196 yards and one touchdown, Jonathan Crompton 9 of 14 for 99 yards, and Bo Hardegree 8 of 9 for 115 yards and two scores. There were gains of 37, 30, 37, 39, 65 and 24 yards, and no QB threw an interception. Ainge apparently did much better under duress, often dumping passes off to backs when the play broke down rather than forcing a throw into coverage. There were still too many false starts and sacks, however, and the offensive line has overtaken the quarterback position as the biggest concern.

Robert Meachem, Lucas Taylor, and Quintin Hancock all had TD catches. Montario Hardesty scrimmaged and carried nine times for 24 yards and a TD.

Antwan Stewart led the defense with seven tackles and returned a blocked punt for a touchdown.

Lucas Taylor returned a kickoff 85 yards and Austin Rogers had a 59-yard punt return. Both came against the scout team, though, and Taylor’s returned was nullified by a block in the back penalty.

James Wilhoit missed six of 10 field goal attempts.

If the starting lineup for the scrimmage is any indication, the depth chart is shaping up as follows:

Offense: Erik Ainge, Arian Foster, Bret Smith, Robert Meachem, Jayson Swain, Chris Brown, Eric Young, Anthony Parker, Josh McNeil, David Ligon, and Arron Sears.

Defense: Turk McBride, Justin Harrell, Matt McGlothlin, Jerod Mayo, Ryan Karl, Marvin Mitchell, Antonio Reynolds, Jonathan Wade, Inquoris Johnson, Antwan Stewart, and Jonathan Hefney.

Flashback: Billy Ratliff forced Clint Stoerner’s fumble in 1998

August 19th, 2006 at 11:16 pm

GoVolsXtra.com has a nice trip down memory lane, interviewing former Vol Billy Ratliff about former Arkansas quarterback Clint Stoerner’s fumble, the play that saved the 1998 national championship season.

Folks, it wasn’t a fluke. Ratliff, after receiving a short pep talk from injured lineback Al Wilson, beat the offensive lineman who’d been beating him all night when it mattered most, knocking him backwards into Stoerner, who tripped and fumbled the ball. Ratliff recovered, and the Vol offense drove the field to take the lead and win the game.

Pre-season BlogPoll Roundtable: the Poll Position Edition

August 19th, 2006 at 2:09 pm

It’s the Pre-Season BlogPoll Roundtable, hosted by The House Rock Built! Call it the Poll Position Edition. Green flag!!!

1. What’s the biggest ripoff in this preseason poll? Either pick a team that’s offensively over or underrated, or you can rag on a particular voter’s bad pick (hey, we’re all adults here, we can handle it).

As Mr. Numb Existence, I’ve been charged with evaluating Mr. Bold’s defense of his “wrongest ballot,” so I’m to answer the second question with another post. As far as a team that’s offensively over or underrated, I thought that because Mr. Numb Existence’s ballot best approximated the BlogPoller consensus, I’d stick with that theme and see what everybody else was saying. Keep in mind that this is, after all, the pre-season, and the hedges were high. Most bloggers qualified their answers, acknowledging that there was a lot of room for error. (NOTE: Peter at Burnt Orange Nation is apparently averse to hedges, as he tore into Virginia Tech and any blogger that voted them in the top ten without reservation. Okay, that’s a bit strong, but it was a gutsy, but pretty fair critique, I thought. Braves and Birds responded with what I thought was a decent defense. As you can see, I, unlike Peter, like hedges.)

Anyway, and this is sure to trigger a stiff rebuke from Peter aimed at the CFB blogosphere in general, a plurality of early returns (Off Tackle, TAMU and Baseball, Statistically Speaking, and CrossCyed) are saying that Texas is the most overrated team right now, although none are saying that they are “offensively overrated.” Go ahead and add me to the list, but note the ten-foot hedges on all sides. Vince Young is gone. Yes, I know that the team was good at just about every position, and that they could realistically be expecting to be as good or better at most every position this year. I’d bet, though, that they expect to be as good or better at QB. Having a legitimate dual-threat quarterback is like having an extra offensive player on the field. If the play worked, it worked. If it broke down, the QB could run and make something out of nothing. Having Young was like having two extra players on the field. If the called play worked, it worked. If it didn’t, Young ran. But Young did more than made something out of nothing. He made something great out of nothing. Young wasn’t your typical scrambling quarterback, he was more like a shifty, strong running back with wide receiver speed, so when he ran into a defense that had broken down, he was practically impossible to stop. Bottom line, the Horns will be playing with 11 really good football players on offense. But they no longer have 13.

So No. 2 might be a bit optimistic for Texas. Then again (here comes the hedge), Ohio State has a similar problem on defense, and I’m not sure that Auburn, Southern Cal, or Notre Dame are any better. Heck, I had them at No. 3, so what exactly am I trying to say? Um . . . more data in the form of games, please! Any objections?

My wild guess as to which team is closest to “offensively overrated?” Uh, let’s go with . . . Iowa.

2. What shold [sic] a preseason poll measure? Specifically, should it be a predictor of end-of-season standing (meaning that a team’s schedule should be taken into account when determining a ranking), or should it merely be a barometer of talent/hype/expectations?

Well, the BlogPoll, of course, should be whatever the Lawgiver says it should be:

Teams should be ranked without regard to future schedules. Please don’t rank Purdue high because they miss Michigan and Ohio State this year. Teams should also not be ranked on their performance in previous years. At all times it should be an approximate ranking who would beat who on a neutral field this year.

I have to admit, though, that it was difficult for me to ignore the schedule. I mean, we really don’t know much about the teams to begin with beyond what they did last year and what they have returning, so why not add one more factor to the mix?

3. What is your biggest stretch in your preseason ballot? That is to say, which team has the best chance of making you look like an idiot for overrating them?

Again, the early returns suggest that the teams getting the most buyer’s remorse among BlogPollers are California (Off Tackle, Dawg Sports, and The Card Report), Iowa (Burnt Orange Nation, Black Shoe Diaries, and Statistically Speaking), and Clemson (The College Game, The Cover Two, and Illini Report). I don’t really see any stretches in either the composite poll or my own, but I think there’s a danger of being really, really wrong on Tennessee. They could finish anywhere between 4-8 and 12-2. No. 20 was the safest middle ground.

4. What do you see as the biggest flaw in the polling system (both wire service and blogpolling)? Is polling an integral part of the great game of college football, or is it an outdated system that needs to be replaced? If you say the latter, enlighten us with your new plan.

The two best lines I’ve seen so far on this topic come courtesy of Mountain Lair, who observed that “Humans hold grudges, and computers have no soul,” and Kyle at Dawg Sports, who, in a preemptive rebuttal to those who believe they have “the answer” to the currently “flawed” system, said, “As Dudley Moore found out in 10, fantasies are unblemished precisely because they are fantasies.”

True and true. It is precisely these “flaws,” however, that make college football so much fun. Everything is up for debate. It’s one game on one day followed by six days of discussion analyzing the last game and anticipating the next. Still, despite the enjoyment spawned by the “flaws,” there should be some degree of objectivity and some expectation that the best team will be crowned the champion when all is said and done. The answer is in diversifying your portfolio, so to speak. Put the decision into the hands of both the vengeful humans and the soul-less computers and enjoy every minute of discussing the flaws of such a system.

On the question of whether human pollsters should vote for who they think is best or on more objective criteria like wins and losses, I think it must necessarily change as the season progresses. In the pre-season, before there are any wins or losses, you have to just go on what you think. Early on in the season, subjectivity counts more, but as the more objective hard data comes in in the form of wins and losses, you can’t place what you think should have happened over what in fact did happen. If your team is beat in the national championship, your team is second best, regardless of what you think. Subjectivity can only gain sovereignty over actual results if those results end in a rock, paper, scissors scenario, such as Florida beating Tennessee, who beat Georgia, who beat Florida.

5. You’re Scott Bakula, and you have the opportunity to “Quantum Leap” back in time and change any single moment in your team’s history. It can be a play on the field, a hiring decision, or your school’s founders deciding to build the campus in Northern Indiana, of all godforsaken places. What do you do?

November 6, 2004. With the clock winding down late in the first half and the team backed up in its own territory, the offensive coaching staff opted to call a pass play instead of simply running out the clock. Quarterback Erik Ainge, who was enjoying a fine freshman season, had to chase down an errant snap. Instead of simply falling on the ball for a loss, Ainge opted to pick it up and try to make something happen. What happened was that he was sacked and awkwardly landed on his throwing shoulder. Upperclassman Rick Clausen did well leading the team through the rest of the season while Ainge healed. The play resulted in that particular malady known as the Two QB System the following year, a tendency of Ainge to panic in the pocket (of which he does not yet appear to be healed), and The Season of Which We Do Not Speak.

Rocky Top round up: Coker more and less elusive, Fellows out for season, Ainge’s decision-making improved

August 18th, 2006 at 6:59 am

Defensive back Roshaun Fellows is scheduling surgery today for a torn pectoral muscle and will miss the entire season.

Running back LaMarcus Coker, whose off-season workout regimen in high school consisted of running track, is all about the weight room now. He’s apparently much stronger, tougher, and more mature now than in the past, and still just as fast. GoVolsXtra.com’s Dave Hooker observes that in prior seasons, Coker was as elusive in the weight room as he was on the field. Nice hook, Hook.

Scout.com sort of turns the tables on the Erik Ainge question, offering the flip side to all of the criticism aimed at Ainge after he threw two interceptions during last Saturday’s all-live scrimmage. They pointed out that he actually made quite a few good decisions as well, often dumping the ball off for short gains to running backs or tight ends rather then forcing a pass downfield. Decent point.

Rivals.com has a nice feature entitled McNeil dialed in on little things. Little things. I think I’ve heard that somewhere before.

All for now.

Coach Fulmer is “kind of excited”

August 18th, 2006 at 6:22 am

The Vols finished up the last of two-a-days yesterday with some scrimmage work in preparation of another full scrimmage Saturday. UTSports.com has practice pics and video.

Don’t miss the video interview with coach Fulmer, during which he fails, for one very brief moment, to contain his entusiasm. “Blah, blah, blah . . . blah, blah,” and then, out of nowhere, a bounce, a smile, and a “I’m . . . kind of excited.” At least that’s what I think he said. Then it was back to blah.

Heisman Pundit questions David Cutcliffe’s reputation

August 17th, 2006 at 7:19 am

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.