Big Orange Roundtable: Week 1

lawvol gate21.netSenior Analyst IJuly 9, 2008

Vol for One! One for Vol!

Ah yes, the age-old cry of the roundtable … well … something like that. Not to be shown-up by the folks from Bama, or elsewhere, we happy few, we band of brothers making up the Vol Blogosphere have united under the “Seal of the T” and declared ourselves in one accord (and, no, not the car made by Honda). We have pledged our loyalty and publicly professed our oath of allegiance to the “Order of the Orange” at any cost. Simply awe inspiring isn’t it?

It’s a shame that it really didn’t happen like that, because that would be really cool — I bet I’d get a sword, a helmet, a horse, or something…

Anyway, as you may have noticed, Ghost of Neyland over at 3SIB gathered all of us together and talked us into starting our own roundtable for the Vol fans of the blogosphere. Since I am all about the group mentality — probably due to all the time I have spent in Neyland Stadium — I said that sounded like a great idea.

The way this works is that each week one of the blogs in the roundtable posts a series of questions which each of the others answer. The weekly “hosting” blog then links all the responses and gives a nice and tidy little re-cap at the end of the week. This includes looks at the comments from those of you that actually read what we have to say. Furthermore, if there are any questions you’d like to see discussed, feel free to add them in the comments section on any of the roundtable blogs or via email to any of us blowhards writers.

At present the roundtable includes: Fulmer’s Belly, Gate 21, Rocky Top Talk, , MoonDog Sports, The Power T, Your Mother Slept With Wilt Chamberlain, and the UT Vols Football Blog. If you’d like to join, feel free to let us know. If you want more information on how the roundtable works, you can check out Ghost of Neyland’s wonderful introduction over at 3SIB

Predictably, this is the first week and I am already running behind (sigh). I was supposed to post my answers yesterday, but — alas — here I am a day late and a dollar short. Be that as it may, I am always willing to pontificate, so here we go!

Week 1 (Questions in Sort-o-Teal-like color)

1) How good/bad do you think Jonathan Crompton will be in his first year as a Tennessee starting quarterback and what makes you think that?

I’m not quite sure what to think as we prepare to usher in the “Straight Outta Crompton” era. Based upon his performance when filling in for Erik Ainge in 2006, it is obvious that Crompton has some real skills, and is probably the most athletic starting quarterback we have had since Tee Martin. I have a feeling that new offensive coordinator Dave Clawson will find a way to help make Crompton productive. When you’re reassessing the entire offense, it’s no biggie to massage the system to meet the needs of the horses you have in the stable. It is possible, under Clawson’s more aggressive offensive system, that Crompton could come out of the gates blazing, and really put on a show for the Orange-clad faithful. He clearly has the ability to be the “guns and guts” sort of quarterback who can kill you both in the air with his passing ability, as well as by dropping his head and giving you a helmet in the solarplexus.

My real question when it comes to Crompton is not what he can do from a physical perspective, but rather what he can do from the mental side of the game. I realize that he came in under less-than ideal circumstances in 2006. He was a true freshman, and barely knew the offense. He was operating — more or less — on little more than pure instinct and ability. That said, I do worry a bit about whether he will try to be the maverick style player who has the ability to do amazing things on the field, and refuses to let the stuff between his ears get in the way — thereby making colossal mistakes from a decision-making perspective. Again, I am not presuming this about Crompton, but it is a concern given his 2006 performance.

All that fretting aside, I am really excited about Crompton. He has serious talent, some real-game experience, and has to be chomping at the bit to have his day as the lead dog. Most importantly for me, however, I just like the fact that he represents something new for Tennessee Football — a completely new offensive model. If he can get the mindgame down, I have a feeling that he is going to be one we will talk about for many years.

2) This question was posed on our site a few weeks ago by the Bama boys, and it brought some good discussion, so given UT’s rich history of scheduling home-and-homes with top-shelf BCS programs, what school would you most like for the Vols to play in the future and why?

Well, I have always been glad that the Vols avoid scheduling patsy’s like Tyrone’s North-Central Florida University of Animal Husbandry and Interior Design like some schools do (ahem … Florida Gators … cough, cough … the entire ACC). Still there is one school which I so wish would make the jump to Division 1 - Bowl Series (formerly Div 1), and that is Appalachian State. Given App State’s proximity to Knoxville, I would think that would be a great series to begin — I mean they have won three Division 1 - Championship Series (formerly Div 1-A) National Championships in a row, and knocked Meee-che-gun off in the Big House last year. That’s my atypical suggestion.

In terms of more traditional powers, I am a fan of keeping the West Coast schools on our schedule for recruiting purposes and national standing. Thus, I would favor having a regular series with any of UCLA, Cal, USC, and maybe even Washington. The other schools which immediately come to mind are some of the Big 10 schools. While I know we have heard the “SEC Speed kills Big 10 Strength” argument till we are blue in the face, I still believe that the Big 10 is the other “real” football conference in the country. I would try to set up a regular Big 10 opponent in most years — my favorites in that regard would be Ohio State, Penn State, and maybe even a team like Purdue.

Under no circumstances should we ever waste our time on teams from the ACC, especially — and I know there are those who disagree with me — Virginia Tech. I would say the same for the Big East … unless you just want some easy wins.

3) A lot has been made of our lack of depth at defensive tackle. With Demonte Bolden, Dan Williams and Walter Fisher pretty solid, what other player do you think makes a big move toward becoming dependable?

I’m probably not the best person to analyze this question, but I agree with the other round-tablers that Donald Langley looks awfully promising, but he is untested. There are a few others who have shown some promise (such as Chase Nelson as MoonDog pointed out). So I guess I am hopefully optimistic that Coach Chavis will find ways to effectively fill the defensive tackle slots. That is probably a lot of faith to put into the defensive staff, but Chief has always impressed me with his ability to be flexible and make something out of nothing.

4) Neyland Stadium has undergone some wholesale external and internal renovations during the offseason, updating and improving the overall appearance. If you could change one thing about Neyland, what would it be?

There have been some major improvements at Neyland in just the last few years under Mike Hamilton which are as welcome as they are overdue. Apparently, the Big Dickey didn’t really care whether fans actually enjoyed themselves at the game — just whether they paid for tickets.

The main things I would like to see are, another Jumbotron at the opposite end, better parking (and parking allocation) for games, and a continued re-development of the concourses. I would also like to see a statue of General Neyland outside the stadium.

In terms of the seating, I would like to see more seating, but also better seating. This would mean not so much that the bleachers be replaced with chairback seats, but that the seats be widened so your butt can fit between the lines. All that said, I will mirror the sentiments of others that I would like to see the total seat-count exceed 109,000.

Other ideas I think could be cool would include:

  • I would can the fireworks after a touchdown, and would instead light up the sky by setting off an atomic bomb over at the old Department of Energy Proving Grounds in Oak Ridge — trust me, you’ll see it;
  • In the interest of adding seats maybe the athletic department could consider doming the stadium and adding seats on chains hanging from the ceiling, or use EDSBS’s suggestion that they allow treestands in the lighting support structures;
  • In line with the old Mercedes Benz symbol at Legion Field, I suppose we could put a great big Saturn sign over the Jumbotron, but since General Motors is thinking of re-tasking that line, maybe we should wait;

Oh yeah, I also think the renovation of the real Gate 21 plaza outside the stadium should include paving the plaza with gold, platinum, and diamonds, and that the “21” sign should be approximately 100 feet across and illuminated 24 hours a day … but that’s just me.

5) Different UT fans have different opinions on last season. Was it a success? Was it a failure? Why do you think so?

I would call the 2007 Season a successful failure. I say that because the Vols were not expected to be all that great last year. Based upon Tennessee’s performance versus both the Florida Gators and the Alabama Crimson Tide the Vols were not very good — in fact they were lousy. That said, somehow the Vols managed to make it to the SEC Championship Game, and were one botched throw away from potentially defeating the LSU Tigers — who won that whole National Championship thing.

The end result is that the 2007 Vols probably accomplished more than they should have. The question is whether the expectations should have been higher? From my perspective — year-in-year-out — I care less about winning championships than being consistent. In that regard the 2007 Vols fell far short.

Of course, hope springs eternal, and 2008 is a new year. As the addition of Dave Clawson makes clear, “times they are a changin’ ” so at least I’m hopeful for the future.

So, those are my thoughts for this week, be sure to check out what the other roundtablers as well (in no particular order):

Oh yeah, next week I’ll try to be on time…

– Go Figure …Email lawvol

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