Saturday, July 26, 2014

Vols 2014 Early Schedule Report

Tennessee has posted three consecutive 5-7 seasons and has lost at least seven games in five of the last six years. In the standings, few things have changed in Knoxville despite the hiring of a fourth coach in six years.
However, things could not be more different now that Butch Jones is in charge. Entering his second spring practice, Jones has already accomplished more than his predecessor. He has a win over a top-15 opponent, produced more rushing yards in a season than any Tennessee team since 2004, signed a top-10 recruiting class, moved Tennessee from adidas to Nike apparel and has retained his entire coaching staff.
He also has converted a culture of losing into one with lofty expectations and championship aspirations. Jones talks of “building our identity,” improving “football intelligence,” creating “team brotherhood” and using a “consistent approach each and every day.”
All of that coach speak is important and relevant, especially for a team with 41 losses in the last six years. But behind closed doors, fans can bet his goals for his second spring camp are more specific. Tennessee must find pass rushers, rebuild the offensive line, work in more than a dozen early enrollees and, most importantly, settle on a quarterback.
These objectives are more concrete than “taking pride in the fundamentals” and will go a long way in setting up the Vols for their first bowl game since 2010.
2014 Schedule
DateOpponent
Aug. 30
Sept. 6
Sept. 13at 
Sept. 20Bye Week
Sept. 27at 
Oct. 4
Oct. 11Chattanooga
Oct. 18at 
Oct. 25
Nov. 1at 
Nov. 8Bye Week
Nov. 15
Nov. 22
Nov. 29at 
Tennessee Volunteers 2014 Spring Preview
2013 Record: 5-7 (2-6 SEC)
Spring Practice Opens: March 7
Spring Game: April 12
Returning Starters
Offense: 5
Defense: 5
Three Things to Watch in Tennessee's 2014 Spring Practice
Settle on a signal-caller
No one expects this battle to be over when spring camp ends, however, Jones and coordinator Mike Bajakian would feel a lot better about the future of their offense should they break camp with a clear(-er) pecking order under center. Justin Worley has the most experience. Joshua Dobbs has the most athletic ability. And Riley Ferguson, a redshirt freshman who didn’t play last year, might be the most gifted passer of the bunch. Nathan Peterman also is in the mix but appears like a distant fourth in the race for the starting job. Worley isn’t overly talented but has lots of snaps under his belt while Dobbs acquitted himself fairly well as just a true freshman a year ago with his ability to make plays with his legs. Ferguson is the wild card and many believe he might have the inside track on the starting job if he can prove to the coaches that he is ready to step into an SEC huddle. This battle should rage on into the fall but Jones and his staff would sleep better if they can establish at least the framework for a quarterback depth chart this spring.

Find answers in the trenches
All five offensive lineman are gone on offense and essentially the entire defensive line is gone as well. Restocking the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball is imperative for success in the SEC. There is a host of young players on defense who will step into bigger roles (Jordan Williams, Corey Vereen) and a few who will eventually return from injury (Jaylen Miller, Trevarris Saulsberry) along the defensive front. And there are probably more than a few fans who would like to see what linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin would look like flying off the edge in blitz packages. So finding pass rushers on defense (ideally) shouldn’t be as difficult as replacing multiple All-SEC blockers up front on offense. Very little starting experience returns at this position for the Vols with Mack Crowder — and his one start — the only player with any starting experience. Crowder, Marcus Jackson and Kyler Kerbyson should get first crack at earning spots but other names will need to develop quickly if Tennessee wants to improve the 102nd-ranked total offense in college football. Going the junior college route is a slippery slope and can be extremely volatile but can also pay off in a big way (SEE: Cordarrelle Patterson). So keep an eye on JUCO early enrollees Dontavius Blair (OL) and Owen Williams (DL). It won’t matter who is under center if Jones and Bajakian can’t stabilize the front line... on either side of the ball.

Find playmakers and work in the youth
With 14 early enrollees, Jones has what amounts to an entirely new roster heading into his second spring camp. And he has repeatedly talked about finding playmakers on both sides of the ball. With Curt Maggitt and A.J. Johnson returning to the linebacking corps, that shouldn’t be a huge undertaking on defense. However, on offense, Tennessee is in much worse shape and will likely turn to more than one freshman to help create big plays with Pig Howard, Drae Bowles and Brendan Downs not participating in spring camp. Five-star wideout Josh Malone and five-star athlete Jalen Hurd, be it at running back or elsewhere, have elite upside but need to get acclimated quickly to college life if they want to contribute in the fall. The same can be said about junior college wideout Von Pearson and early enrollee freshmen tight ends Daniel Helm and Ethan Wolf. Jones and Bajakian have a lot of new toys to play with and figuring out how all of those pieces fit together is much easier in the spring than en route to Norman, Okla.

2014 Early Projected Win Range: 5-7
Things are finally pointed in the right direction for Big Orange Nation. While the results on the field are yet to come, Jones has established a winning culture within the halls of the luxurious Anderson Training Center. He has overhauled his roster, improved team speed, gotten stronger and now has a young roster he can mold into a winner. There is a lot of work left to be done before the Vols are competing for SEC titles again — in particular, with a schedule that includes road trips to Oklahoma, Georgia, Ole Miss, South Carolina and Vanderbilt — but the overall trajectory of the program appears to be very positive for the first time in nearly a decade.

www.athlonsports.com

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

BasketVols. Tennessee VS. LSU In SEC Road Opener.


On Jarnell Stokes's 20th birthday, the Vols traveled to Louisiana for the SEC opener against the Tigers. These two teams were both expected to finish 3rd and 4th in the SEC and go dancing in March. The Tigers were coming of an embarrassing defeat against a small but talented Rhode Island school. The Vols were riding on a 3 game winning streak against weaker opponents in Moorehead State, Tuscalum, and a blowout win against a really good Virginia squad.

Tennessee broke open a back-and-forth game late in the first half with a flurry of 3-pointers on the way to its biggest halftime lead in nearly two years and never eased up against LSU in a 68-50 triumph.

Tennessee used smothering defense and red-hot 3-point shooting to take a 38-24 halftime lead. LSU made just 34 percent (11-of-32) of its first half shots. Meanwhile, the Volunteers made seven first-half shots from behind the arc -- four by Barton.

Tennessee took the lead for good at 15-12 on a D'Montre Edwards 3-pointer with 11:58 remaining in the first half. The Vols (10-4, 1-0 SEC) got 19 points from Jordan McRae, 14 from Antonio Barton (12 in the opening half on four 3-pointers) and a ho-hum double-double from human rebounding machine Jarnell Stokes (15 points, 15 rebounds), his seventh this seaosn and the 25th of his three-year career.

The Volunteers protected their double-digit lead throughout the second half. In the first eight minutes after halftime, LSU cut its deficit to a dozen points on three occasions. Each time, Tennessee answered with a basket -- twice by birthday boy Stokes. The Vols pounded the backboards to the tune of 40-28, led by Stokes' 7 on offense and 8 on defense.


Jordan Mickey was again the best offensive weapon for LSU (9-4, 0-1) with 14 points and he also rejected 5 shots. Johnny O'Bryant bounced back from a second-half benching three nights earlier to contribute 11 points, 7 rebounds and 3 blocks.

The Tigers lost back-to-back games for the first time this season and this one was as thorough as any they have absorbed by a long stretch. The same problems that plagued the Tigers in an unexpected 74-70 loss to Rhode Island last Saturday in their final non-conference game reared up again, this time against a much more talented and veteran Tennessee team that may be playing as well as it has all season.


The first half was competitive until the closing minutes despite the Tigers' shooting woes. The Vols eviscerated LSU's defense with the same slow-paced approach. With the Tigers honed in on not allowing McRae to erupt after he scored a career-best 34 points against them last season, he became a distributor early on.  He recorded four of his five assists in the first half, three to Barton who peppered LSU with four 3s -- three in the last 6:23 before halftime, which started the unclimbable mountain for LSU in the 2nd half.

Now the Tigers head out on the road, with a game at South Carolina (12:30 p.m. | SECTV) in Columbia, Mo. The Vols (10-4) will face off against The Texas A&M Aggies (9-4) back home in Knoxville, Saturday, January 11, 2014 - 6:00 PM ET airing on ESPN3

The Vols are starting to look like the top 25 team they were projected to be preseason. With balanced scoring, a smothering defense, an insane duo in Stokes and Maymon under the goal, arguably the best player in the SEC in Jordan Mcrea, and surprise contributions from players like Antonio Barton, the Vols are poised to compete toe to toe against the rest of the SEC and come out on top. Coach Martin needs a NCAA tourney trip this year after disappointing NIT departures the last two seasons, and this team is capable of playing deep into the tournament.

The problem is no one ever knows what team we will see take the floor on any given night, extreme highs and disappointing lows. If the Vols keep playing games like they did against Virginia and LSU, expect a very interesting season and a good bid going into the NCAA Tourney.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Tennessee Volunteers Midseason Revisit

The Vols have made it through 7 games and have been almost as predicted except for a great effort and overtime loss to Georgia and upset against the then #11 South Carolina Gamecocks.

Coach Butch Jones has kept a great recruiting effort going and the team seems to have fully bought into the philosophy of the new coaching staff and also seem to be getting better every game so far this year. The Vols have made it through the gauntlet of Oregon, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina with a 1-3 finish and almost beat Georgia, only losing by a literal inch. They are setting at 4-3 because of a 23-21 victory over the Gamecocks, while most predictions preseason had them setting at 3-4. Coach Jones has the team riding on the emotions of the upset going into Tuscaloosa this weekend against the #1 Crimson Tide. Nobody is giving the Vols much of a chance to win, and an upset would be unlikely, so lets go ahead and say we end up 4-4 after the game and finishing up one of the toughest stretches in college football this season by any team.

Now the bad news.

At the beginning of the season most people, be it fans, experts, etc. had the Vols winning against Austin Peay, Western Kentucky, South Alabama, Kentucky, and going 2-3 against mediocre teams in Mizzou, Auburn, and Vandy. Since we have pulled an upset against USCjr, we should theoretically be sitting pretty for a bowl game in the new coaching staffs first year. The problem now is that Auburn and Mizzou are highly ranked and playing lights out. Mizzou is undefeated and ranked #5 in the nation, Auburn comes in with only 1 loss and scoring a lot of points on offense. Kentucky looks terrible, and while Vandy has played well and did beat Georgia, the Bulldogs were missing many of their starting players.

 Lets take a closer look at the rest of the way for the Vols.

Alabama
There isn't much to say here. The Vols are playing well and Alabama looks vulnerable at times, but the talent level is so far apart it would take a miracle for the Vols to pull this off. I will say that if you are a betting person the Tide is favored by 26.5, smart money would take the points, I don't think the Vols can win but no way they lose by 26 points. Alabama is good but they are no Oregon or FSU on offense.






Mizzou
This is such an unfortunate turn of events for a rebuilding program. Many people, myself included, had this as a win this year for Tennessee. Now enter the likely undefeated Tigers and the game to be played in Columbia. This is gonna be a tough one and I'm not very optimistic after watching the Tigers destroy other SEC competition. Looks like we are 4-5 after this one.


Auburn

Right now Auburn is a 1 loss team and plays with a high octane offense. This is Tennessee's homecoming game and the crowd at Neyland will be in full force. Tennessee's defense is much improved this year and it won't be as easy to score as Auburn is used to. Tennessee can and will stop the Tigers with the defense and crowd. I think we end up 5-5 after this close homecoming victory.





Vanderbilt

Vandy has new-found success and a very outspoken coach in James Franklin. Vandy smoked UT last year when the team gave up on Derek Dooley. That won't happen this year, I am biased and I am happy Vandy thinks they are accomplishing great things. Trust me on this, The Vols will decimate and embarrass the Commadores, it will be hard for a Vandy fan to watch. Coach Jones will do it for the fans, the upperclassman will do it for revenge, the Vols will roll in this one. I would go as far to say that they will run up the score to a point, and do everything they can to pitch a shutout. I'm not saying it will be 70-0, only because I think Jones will let off the gas and get younger people playing time. 45-0 is well within the realm of possibility and this will be our 6-5 bowl invite.

Kentucky

Oh boy, UK. Dooley let a wide receiver play quarterback 2 years ago and beat us for the first time in decades. Kentucky is bad this year, they have a new coach with good experience and a bright future in Lexington. Stoops inherited a mess with the Wildcats, and I truly believe he will do well there. This isn't the year they do well though, Tennessee will win this game big.


This puts the Vols at 7-5 and still a huge improvement over the last 3 years. Coach Jones is bringing in a huge recruiting class in 2014 and with a real coach and players buying into the program, the Vols will be competing for the East in the next 2 years. The Vols are a team on the rise and the nation is already starting to take notice.     

Friday, September 13, 2013

Tennessee At Oregon

On September 14th, the Tennessee Volunteers travel to Oregon to meet the Ducks in a big game for both teams. Tennessee is looking to make a name for itself once again on the national stage while Oregon is looking to go 3-0 and keep pace with Alabama in the race for the national title. 



It's Hard To Determine What Either Team Is Really Capable Of

The beginning of the college football season is not the best time to separate the good teams from the bad. This is because most college teams in major conferences play cupcake opponents to get themselves ready for league play. Oregon has played FCS school Nicholls State and ACC weakling Virginia while Tennessee has defeated Western Kentucky and FCS school Austin Peay. However, if you are looking at the betting odds for the game, don't be shocked if Oregon is a huge favorite simply because they are ranked second in the nation.


Marcus Mariota Deserves Respect

Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota deserves respect as one of the finest dual-threat quarterbacks in the game today. He has thrown for three touchdowns and rushed for three touchdowns in under two games of total work this season. His 235 rushing yards put him second on the team to running back De'Anthony Thomas. It would not be surprising at all to see his name mentioned in the Heisman race this season or next. In fact, it wouldn't be surprising to see him being mentioned as a high NFL draft pick in the next year or two.


Tennessee Will Look To Run The Ball As Often As Possible

How do you keep a prolific offense off of the field? The answer is to run the ball to keep your own offense on the field. The Volunteers have run the ball 96 times in two games. If they run the ball 40 or more times this week, it will keep the Tennessee defense well rested while keeping Mariota and the Ducks from getting into a groove.


The Team That Has The Ball At The End Will Most Likely Win The Game

Tennessee has scored almost 100 points this season while Oregon has 120. That means that the winning team could be the team that has the ball last. Although the two teams have combined for over 10 takeaways on defense, the sheer power of the offenses will render that a moot point.


Anyone who wants the best betting odds this Saturday should go with the Ducks. They are playing at home and have one of the best offenses in football. While the Volunteers may be a team headed for a bowl game at the end of the year, they will have to do something out of the ordinary to gain an advantage.


Thursday, September 12, 2013

Tennessee Vs. Oregon: A Delusional Fan's Perspective

Saturday the Oregon Ducks welcome the Tennessee Volunteers to Autzen Stadium. The line on the game is currently 27.5 points in Oregon's favor. This Tennessee fan is about to tell you why Oregon will, in fact, lose the game. I will do this with facts that cannot be denied by any Duck fan, and will set the stage for this so called "upset".

SEC,SEC,SEC!!!
Look, Tennessee plays in the SEC. Last year we were in games down to the wire with Georgia, South Carolina, and had Gameday in Knoxville for the Florida game. We lost them all, but that's not the point. The point is this, Oregon could not go undefeated with Tennessee's schedule. This does not need to be debated because it's true. I'm sorry kids, but the SEC plays big-boy football not the glorified flag games the PAC 12 plays. This should be enough to convince you of a UT victory, but just in case, I have several more.

Coaching Staff.
Oregon lost Chip Kelly to the NFL last year, and promoted OC Mark Helfrich to replace him. While all this was going on, The Vols were looking for a suitable replacement for Derek Dooley (aka. the worst football coach of all time). We went and assembled the greatest coaching staff ever with Butch Jones at the helm. Turning away the likes of Jon Gruden and other high profile coaches in the process. So the Ducks bring an unproven head coach in their toughest game so far, and Tennessee brings an all-star staff against a team that isn't even in the SEC? It will be a long day for the Ducks.

Experience.
Tennessee has achieved its 800th win and is #8 for all-time wins in college football history. They have 6 National Championships and 16 SEC titles. This is in contrast to the Ducks, who only transitioned from two hand touch to tackle football four years ago. Don't get me wrong, they have done well in the last four years. They have really dominated the PAC 12 conference (which I assume stands for something like Pee-wee All Children), but again, SEC. 

Mascots.
   
 I will assume there will be no discussion about mascots.

Verdict.
I'm sure this is a hard and jagged pill to swallow for Oregon fans who have been fed ESPN propaganda.  I don't know why ESPN is so jealous and hates the Vols, but I do know they are the greatest team to ever grace a college stadium. The Ducks will be so overwhelmed by the pure awesomeness that is the Vols, the game could be over before halftime. I respect Oregon for agreeing to play us in such a one-sided game and hope that the Ducks will one day be on the level with programs like UT. I'm very sorry to have to be the one to drop a reality bomb on the Oregon fans, but it had to be cleared up before Saturday. 

Good luck Ducks!! After this game, you have a realistic chance to win out. 




  

Sunday, August 18, 2013

College Football Uniforms: Tradition VS. Change

The Tennessee Vols have unveiled a new uniform dubbed "Smokey", which is a play on the mascot, The Smokey Mountains, ETC.

I'm in my 30's and have been a Vol fan my whole life. I grew through my teenage years in the 90's, so I have saw The Big Orange at their highest moments. The Volunteers are able to boast one of the richest football traditions in the nation, and the new uniforms have created quite a debate among fans.

We are the Orange and White and have been for years. There was a period long ago that the Vols wore black uniforms, but Orange 151 is our color.

No offense to the Oregon Ducks, but I'm not sure how much football tradition they actually have, so school colors and uniforms don't carry the meaning and following that traditional football schools have. I'm sure having all new Nike gear and having recent success has helped the Duck's recruiting, but kids don't come to Knoxville for Adidas and Orange, they come for playing time and getting to play in the SEC. We have never recruited on our uniforms on any level, a little or a lot, it's never been used at all.

I like the new uniforms, for one game. I can't see the harm in doing something a little different against a rival like Georgia or even South Carolina. Last time we changed the uniform for a game we won, and wins will be hard to come by this year. So I say go for it, if you win it doesn't matter if the colors are pink and purple.

The Vols are not starting some new tradition or changing the schools colors, they are mixing it up for 1 or 2 games a season. This excites the team and the fans. If there is excitement about it, especially from the team, this translates to more excitement on the field and a small edge during the game.

Don't get me wrong, I am opposed to changing the orange and white colors permanently.  I don't think Coach Jones would ever let that cross his mind. Giving the fans and the players something exciting occasionally is a great thing. People need to calm down and realize that change is inevitable, and this "Smokey" uniform is a whole lot more subtle than many programs have already implemented.

We will need all the help we can get this season, and if this uniform gives us the slightest edge in a home game we can use it. The Orange and White isn't going anywhere, we will always be The Big Orange.




Monday, August 12, 2013

Paying College Athletes.

A huge debate has been going on about whether or not college athletes should be paid for their contributions to the respected university.I had a different view of this until recently I found out that student athletes we not allowed to have jobs during their time at a university.



Sport enthusiasts favoring the idea of paying student-athletes argue that student-athletes should be paid, in light of the huge revenues they have generated for the colleges and universities. They also believe that paying student-athletes would alleviate problems related to illegal payments and point shaving. Paying student-athletes would provide athletes an incentive to stay in school and complete their degree programs, instead of leaving early for the professional leagues.

On the other hand:
Student-athletes already are richly compensated. When athletes accept scholarships, they are provided tuition, books, meals, housing, and sometimes graduate assistantships. At some colleges and universities, such support may reach a value of $200,000 or more over a four-year period. Student-athletes may also receive special treatment when it comes to academic issues, for example priority scheduling, tutoring assistance, and excused absences.

Both are reasonable points, the thing that sways my opinion to allow compensation is the fact that college athletes are putting their bodies on the line for the university. The colleges are getting rich off of young adults who are in the same amount of danger as their professional counterparts. Video games, jerseys, any college products that include players are exploiting them for their own monetary gain.

There is also the subject of importance to the university. The University of Tennessee makes most of its sports money from football and basketball, so if a sweeping student athlete compensation package came, where would that leave women's softball or track and field? There isn't going to be an easy and probably not a fair way to do it. This doesn't change the fact that it needs to be done.

I don't have a solution, and I am glad I'm not tasked with coming up with one. The things college athletes do for their university cannot be ignored. With so many college sports being played, and so much revenue being generated, this issue will not be resolved quickly or easily.