The 2008 Tennessee Volunteers went through one of the most memorable seasons ever! But that was not a good thing. The Vols finished the season at 5-7 also ending Phillip Fulmer's tenure with the team. From the start of the season it looked like Tennessee was doomed for failure.
The opening loss at UCLA spelled disaster in the making. Coach Fulmer never had a chance to save his job. From the start of the season there were rumors of his ultimate demise, however, like a true champion Fulmer dispelled any such rumor. I wonder if he knew deep down inside that this would be his last year. I believe he did.
The obvious problems with Tennessee came down to three things: offense, special teams, and heart. Tennessee lacked in these categories, and when it came down to the end, even Phil's record and championships couldn't save his job.
Where did it go wrong? I believe that his first mistake was hiring Dave Clawson as David Cutcliffe's replacement. I don't know the entire list of coaches out there that was available at the time, but I believe that Phil was just grasping for straws on this one. Dave's offensive scheme didn't fit Phil's philosophy on football. It showed when Tennessee's offense failed to produce touchdowns, heck even first downs.
As far as the offense goes, I think the biggest let down was not the quarterback issue or running backs. It came down to blocking. We were touted before the 2008 season as having the best offensive line in the country. Well-proven from 2007, the offensive line gave up very few sacks and also opened giant holes for the running backs to break through.
People blame Johnathan Crompton for mistakes that he made. They said he was too inaccurate, made bad decisions, and was easy to crack. Well, my friends, if your line doesn't give you three seconds to throw the football, then how may I ask, are you going to pad your stats?
How many times did we see Arian Foster and Monterio Hardesty tackled behind the line of scrimmage last year? I don't have an exact number but just look at their stats last year and compare them to 2007. They speak for themselves. Enough about the poor offense of 2008. Now let's talk defense.
No problems from the defensive side. Wow that was easy.
So, Vol fans, how do we fix the problem? Let's make a list:
1. Hire a new coach who can fix an offense. Check- Lane Kiffin is an offensive guru.
2. Fire everybody else. Check- I stand behind Lane Kiffin's decision to let the rest of the staff go because let's face it, "if it ain't broke don't fix it". But what if you have a train wreck? Dig through the mess, clean up the rubble, and start all over again. That's exactly what Lane did.
3. Motivate your team. Check- I have been keeping up with this year's spring practices so far, and from what I see, these boys are fired up. I believe it was Gerald Jones that said that Kiffen is not there to be a friend.
He is going to play those based on play-making ability and attitude, not based on if so and so is a good kid. Coach Orgeron has also made it known that there are no sure starters. Every job is open.
Now tell me, if you were a three-year starter that has played fairly well over the years, and your coach tells you that your job is on the line, would that motivate you?
4. Get in the news. Check-make that BIG CHECK- Lane Kiffin is doing exactly what he wants to do. He knows what he is doing. There are some orange faithful out there that think that Lane is a little nuts taking on the Florida program so early in his tenure.
I think it's brilliant. You know why? What better way to get in the spotlight and make sure that your game will be watched by every living soul in the country. All he did was take a swing at a bully.
That's right, I said it. Bully. I think that Lane has come down to Knoxville and in a nut shell said, "You know what? We don't have to be Florida's whipping post anymore." Good move Coach.
5. Bring in a dream team coaching staff. Check- Lane promised on the official announcement of his hiring that he was assembling a staff that would make the Vol Nation crazy about Tennessee football again. Well Lane, I think I can speak for the Vol Nation when I say, "Well done my man, well done!".
6. FIX THE OFFENSE. To be continued- Lane said that the system that he was bringing to the Volunteer program was one designed to score points. He said that he was well pleased with Johnathan Crompton and B.J. Coleman in their spring practice on days one and two.
I think that Crompton will be able to adapt well in this new system. So many people tend to forget that Crompton was a five-star recruit and No. 3 rated quarterback out of high school only behind Mark Sanchez and Ryan Perriloux in 2005.
7. Last but not least. Heart. Another to be continued- As stated above, Lane is going to play the best players on the team. Not the coolest or the three-year starters.
He is going to play the ones who show the most heart and guts on the field. Let's face it Vol Nation, it's gut check time. Who is in and who is out? Judging by last years farce, the heart of the team was left in the locker room on game day.
Only a select few from the 2008 Vols played with fire, intensity, and heart. Unfortunately, that select few was not on the offensive side of the ball. You know they say that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link? What if you have 18 weak links? Not a very strong chain is it? OK, enough beating on the Vols.
It's time to look at the strength of the team.
This year Tennessee will rely heavily on their defense to keep the games close until we can figure out the offensive scheme. It may or may not happen this year. The good news is that all we have is time.
We waited a little over 30 years for the National Championship to return to Tennessee, so what is the big rush? Give Lane a chance to fix this team, and the wins will come.
Fortunately for us, we are stacked on defense with some of the most talented individuals in the country. But can those talented individuals play as a unit? I think so, yes. Can the offense? Last year, no. This year? To be continued. GO BIG ORANGE!
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