This Week’s Roundtable is hosted by:
Thus, here are our thoughts for the week:
1) What is your thought on Eric Berry’s Heisman chances? Should he play on offense in-order to increase his chances? Is Kiffin being to selfish saying Berry will not practice offense?
HSH: I’m not exactly how real Berry’s chances of actually winning the Trophy—which I deemed meaningless after the Manning debacle. Not only does he have the obstacle of being a defensive player, he has to basically beat Colt McCoy from Texas, Sam Bradford from Oklahoma and some guy named Tebow. I don’t think Lane Kiffin »">Lane Kiffin should play Berry on offense just to help his Heisman chances. If our offense is seriously sucking, then sure, desperate times call for desperate measures.
That said, I have absolutely no problem with the University doing the whole campaign thing. Berry is obviously a special, once-in-a-while player with a great attitude. Seeing him in person on and off the field the past two years has been something I’m glad to have been a part of—now if only he might consider staying for his senior year…
Lawvol: I have very mixed (albeit not necessarily negative) feelings on this.
First of all, I personally believe that Eric Berry is more than deserving of a shot at the Heisman Trophy. In two short years he has pretty much become the man-beast of SEC defenses and is, hands down, the best defensive player in the toughest conference in the country. I personally believe that he is the best defensive player in any conference, anywhere. That, however, is just my opinion and I will be the first to admit that I am biased. Still, there is no arguing with the fact that Eric Berry has earned the right to be considered among the top players in the country this season and to be considered for the Heisman. I am unequivocally behind the Tennessee’s campaign to promote Berry’s Heisman candidacy.
That said, I am less that optimistic about his chances…
I say that because, since only one truly defensive player has previously won the Heisman—which I am sure every Tennessee fan remembers all too well—the precedent is somewhat weak. Furthermore, given the national media’s love affair with Tim Tebow, I expect that every possible machination that can occur to ensure Tebow winning the trophy for the second time will be brought to bear, if at all possible.
There is also the fact that exaggerated hype often leads to less-than-stellar performances since, with everyone talking about how great a particular player is, the target on their back gets even bigger when facing opponents. That is not to say that I doubt Berry’s ability to produce in the same way he has in the past, but recognizes that opposing teams will be gunning for him … and staying away from him.
As for whether I think it is selfish for Lane Kiffin to keep Berry from playing on offense, that one is easy to answer. No, not one bit. In fact, I feel the opposite. To me, changing the way you field a player for the sole purpose of advancing that player’s interests is selfish—even if it adds prominence to the team or the program as a whole. As the old saying goes, “there is no ‘I’ in ‘team’.” In my opinion, any coach with a Heisman hopeful should treat that player in exactly the same way he would any other player. To do anything else not only flies in the face of the team concept, but can be woefully dangerous in terms of its effect on team morale—just ask Heath Shuler and the Tennessee offensive line that played in the 1993-94 Citrus Bowl.
Were Kiffin to decide independent of the Heisman race that Berry needed to play on offense, I would have no problem with it, in fact it might be extremely exciting. To do so just for the sake of Heisman balloting, however, is simply not something I think is acceptable.
Furthermore, I question whether suddenly playing a player in a new position would actually help or hinder the chances of winning voters’ eyes. This season is filled with change already—from top to bottom. Berry, just like everyone else on the Vols’ squad, is busy learning new schemes and concepts from the new coaching staff. Furthermore, the sheer size and scope of the playbooks for Tennessee is really quite staggering. I have heard from a reliable source that, up until 1997, no offensive player in the modern era had ever learned the entire offensive playbook until Peyton Manning, and he only accomplished that feat as a senior.
To me, adding a whole new facet—offense—to the game for Berry would likely result in a fall-off in his performance on defense. It adds one more thing that he has to keep track of in his head and doubles the already considerable pressure that being pumped as a superstar brings with it. In then end, I think there is probably more to lose than there is to gain.
2) Do you think Kiffin secretly wishes he would have held onto Taj Boyd?
HSH: Nope, not all, for two reasons. First, as we all know, Kiffin’s a confident fellow. He has his plan, he knows what he wants and how he wants to go about it. And he believes in what he’s doing.
He evaluated Boyd, saw that he might have lacked pure arm strength and that he made have had some issues coming off knee issues. So he told Boyd what he told him. I think Tennessee’s in good shape with Tyler Bray and they might get Memphis’ Barry Brunetti to switch his commitment to West Virginia, and the recent run on WR recruiting, what QB wouldn’t want to come to Tennessee and throw to those guys?
Lawvol: Well, whether he does or doesn’t, is really irrelevant now. What is, is.
That said, I doubt that the Blackjack General, has given more than a few seconds thought to the matter considering his staff and this no-holds-barred approach to recruiting. I am sure that Boyd probably appreciated the honesty from Kiffin in telling him that he simply didn’t feel that Boyd would fit in the Vols’ system. I know I find it refreshing. Either way, like HSH, I feel certain that Kiffin will find the right person and it’s not like the Vols haven’t started to get looks from some good players. After all, though we do not yet know how a Lane Kiffin-coached team will perform on the field, he has made it clear he knows how to recruit. Furthermore, trying to make a player work when they really are not suited to your system just leads to disappointment for everyone involved.
I say get the right player for Tennessee, even if that means waiting a bit. I for one am glad to see that Kiffin is willing to do just that.
3) Is this the most excited you have been for a football season to start EVER?
HSH: In recent memory, yes. Maybe 2006, because I had just started school up here in Knoxville and the big opener with Cal and Florida coming in two weeks following that. Perhaps 2005, because of all the hype and that defense and the “momentum” from the previous season.
But this is different. It seems like it’s been a year since Kiffin was hired and we went through the staff hiring and the coups on National Signing Day, the verbal slap of Urban Meyer and the secondaries.
Now it’s go-time. Everything’s going to be new, so that adds a bit of intrigue to the whole thing, but the energy Lane, Monte and Coach O have brought certainly have had their effects on the players and us as fans. Amidst all the energy though, we have to remember that Tennessee’s not going to win the SEC this year. This isn’t going to be a one-year turnaround and we have to be a little patient, prepare for some of the usual pains and just enjoy the climb. The Vols have 8 home games this year, so hopefully the fans are ready to do their part in helping the team.
Lawvol: That’s a tough question to answer. For me, the most exciting pre-season run-up to kickoff in my lifetime was getting ready for Peyton Manning’s senior year in 1997. The Vols were picked to be stellar and were ranked in the pre-season top-3 in all the polls. It also happened to be my senior year in Knoxville. I suppose I would still say that there was more “excitement”—in the sense of there being a real belief on the part of everyone that the Vols might win the whole thing—in 1997. If we are talking about just sheer anticipation because you simply have no idea what to expect, then I would have to say that this year is on top.
Of course, it is worth noting that in 1998 I had very low expectations of what Tennessee would do prior to the season getting under way. What with Manning graduating and a virtual unknown named Tee Martin starting his first game at quarterback, I figured that the Vols would probably find rough going for at least the first few games of the season. That season, however, turned out pretty well for the Vols.
Either way, I am always stoked before the first kickoff and it seems to increase exponentially as the first game approaches. There is so much to be excited about this year and—no matter what happens—I feel like this will be a good year for the Vols as they progress toward the future.
After all, a lousy football season is better than no football season at all…
4) A quick diversion from football and onto Basketball. Do you think that Bruce’s style of basketball is a deterrent to the one and done type players, due to the fact one and done-rs and top recruits are looking for more minutes and to be the center of attention?
HSH: I don’t think it’s Bruce Pearl’s style as much as it the fact that we’re Tennessee. Just to be brutally honest, if you’re a a high school kid who has obvious NBA talent, wouldn’t you want to showcase that on the biggest stage possible?
I know Bruce has taken our program to heights it’s never been before and I hope he never leaves Knoxville. But we’re still Tennessee. I know Michael Beasley went to play in relative obscurity at Kansas State and still managed to be the second pick in the draft, but the point still remains, at least in my mind.
We’re not near the top of the list of schools a future NBA star and one-year college player is going to go to increase his stock. On top of that, there are all of two ex-Vols in the Association right now—C.J. Watson now in Orlando and Marcus Haislip just signed by the Spurs. Watson wasn’t drafted and Haislip has spent the last few years in Europe after being a bust of a lottery pick.
The bottom line to me is this: our prestige has gone up exponentially the last four years under Pearl, but we’re still Tennessee, and we still aren’t exactly pumping out NBA players a la places like Carolina, Texas, UCLA, Kansas, UConn, Memphis State and so on.
Lawvol: Frankly, I hope it is because I have little tolerance for the one-and-done mentality.
Most of the “in-and-out, thanks-for-the-cred, see ya!” type of players are not the sort that I want to see Tennessee recruiting. The whole “student athlete” thing should still mean something. I am dedicated to Tennessee and have been since the day I decided that I would attend college there. I expect the players we put on the floor to be not only be great athletes, but also good representatives for the university, and good people. I am not naive enough to believe that all the players we recruit are completely free of the ulterior motive of wanting to play professionally and perhaps using the Big Orange as the springboard to making that a reality. I also will freely acknowledge that I can hardly blame a player for leaving early when they are all but guaranteed to instantly become wealthy.
All I ask is that the players wearing the orange be committed to Tennessee while they are here. I have no problem with them dreaming of the future or making decisions based upon that future. What I do have a problem with is when players simply see Tennessee (or any other school for that matter) as little more than a way to get their ticket punched as quickly as possible.
But then again, I am a lawyer and am generally a disagreeable sort…
The Rest of the Roundtable:
Having wasted your time on our largely meaningless and insignificant thoughts for this week, go check out what the other roundtablers (who actually know what they are talking about) have to say (in no particular order):