First of all, I had the exact same look on my face as she did while watching the Orange and White Game from my computer in Fort Carson, Colo., yesterday. Dooley ball is in full effect and me likey. Below are my observations and predictions following an extremely surprisingly entertaining ball game.
35,891 people were on site for the game. It was a very good showing considering what this fanbase has been through. I'm not going through the timeline because everyone knows it.
Fulmer "the legend" gone. Kiffin "the weasel" gone. Dooley "the who in the world" insert. Fans still showed up and seemed very energetic watching their football Vols give them everything they had for 40 minutes.
Dooley is a pretty secretive guy, but showed he is about the fans, and is getting local media involved how he sees fit. John Adams and Jimmy Hyams, two writers who have covered Tennessee football for quite sometime, were invited as guest head coaches for both teams.
That's great Press Coverage.
The fans were very entertained at halftime, watching former Vol legends in a fun filled flag football game. It was nice seeing Al Wilson, Joey Kent, Peerless Price, and other former Tennessee legends getting together to entertain the fans.
Keep former alumni involved, check. Build family atmosphere, check.
Prediction: I see a lot more fan and alumni involvement in the future.
After seeing the game to me it is a no-brainer. Understood, Matt Simms is the veteran. It doesn't matter however. Tyler Bray looked outstanding at times, and showed the poise and leadership under pressure you look for in big time college football quarterback.
Matt Simms held on to the ball way too long which in a real game would have resulted in sacks or interceptions. Sometimes he is so centered in on one receiver, mainly Gerald Jones, the defense already knows where he is going with the ball.
His throwing motion is terrible. At least three balls were batted down from behind when Simms had the ball pulled back getting ready to come forward with it.
He forces the ball where he wants it allowing opportunities for turnovers. I didnt see him complete one pass over the middle. That being said, his out patterns were on point. Especially his lone touchdown pass to Gerald Jones.
This isn't JUCO ball, where he and Kembrell Thompkins dominated. The quarterback has to be able to check down when needed. Marsalous Teague, Channing Fugate, and the running backs were available plenty times and he would still try to force the ball to Jones.
If things are going well, he is a very confident quarterback. One thing goes bad and he mentally takes himself out of the game. It was easy to see, that the more the game progressed, the more frustrated he got.
Matt Simms is actually mobile. He needs to use his legs and find his other options when he is under pressure. This would have helped him tremendously yesterday and most mistakes could have been avoided.
Tyler Bray "was as cool as the other side of the pillow", thanks Stewart Scott,all day. The only thing uncool about him was his passing, which was smoking. Sometimes they were too hot as he needed more touch on some timing patterns, and other times the reciever couldn't handle the heat that just smashed him in the chest.
Think young Peyton Manning but more mobile. People forget Bray was a three-sport athlete in high school. He has sure feet and a quick throwing motion.
Around the third quarter, when all seemed to be going well, Bray reminded me he was a freshman. For about two series he was trying to do too much while almost throwing two interceptions. Unlike Simms, he was able to mentally recover and looked good the rest of the game.
He showed the ability to distribute the football. If option number one was not there, he would check down field and find his second option. One almost ended up as a touchdown with a beautiful five yard dump off to Taureen Poole that turned into a huge play. He should have been sacked more times than he was, but he knew his hot read everytime.
Prediction: Bray will start once he gains around 15 pounds this summer. Simms is actually a valuble backup providing he can keep his head.
Defenses in the SEC are going fear Taureen Poole. He never goes down on the first hit, he can stop and go without losing any speed. He can also catch while sending defenses into frenzies, trying to bring him down in the open field.
Poole, passed over for prized recruit Bryce Brown last season, has come out proving last Spring was no fluke. If Brown was still on campus, the coaches would be foolish to put him ahead of Poole on the depth chart.
Another unmeasurable trait that a running back can have is to always fall forward. This is something that could be the difference in having to gain ten yards or seven. Poole landed forward all day, except on one play in the first quarter, where defensive back Eric Gordon blasted him after a good carry.
Poole basically said he was glad he got that hit, because that set his mind right for the rest of the day. Trust me, Poole was the one doing the blasting for the remainder of the game.
David Oku could possibly start somewhere else, but instead he will settle for not giving opposing defenses any rest when he enters the ball game. Not as powerful as Poole, he showed he has probably gained 15 pounds or more as he displayed no tentativeness, blasting into linebackers all day.
He is lightning quick and will be very valuable in the passing game. Oku will prove to be a mismatch against any linebacker in the flats. Also his sure hands are going to be a great asset.
Toney Williams and Sam Edgmon will be help round out a good stable of backs. Williams, a pounder, needs to show more trust in his rehabilitated knee before he moves to the forefront, while Edgmon shows good heart while not being as talented as the others.
Prediction: Poole will be an All-SEC running back garnering about 70 percent of the carries, while Oku will get most of the remaining carries and many of receptions out of the backfield.
Not much was seen from the tight ends yesterday, considering Luke Stocker was held out of the game. Hybrids, Channing Fugate and Ben Bartholemew showed good dependable hands over the middle and in the flats.
Gerald Jones was great when he wasn't blanketed by three defenders. He had a couple of circus catches that should have never been completions. He made defensive backs look silly at times. Lacking superior speed, Jones shows his intelligence and agility with his play. I look for him to have a big senior season.
Wes Welker, oops I mean Zach Rogers has the ability to sneak into open spaces on the defense. Maybe not a superior athlete, Rogers has sure hands and will help out tremendously on third downs. Look for him to be a big possession-type receiver.
Matt Milton is going be a superstar before all is said and done. He is extremely tall, 6'6" and agile. He has good speed and shows the ability to shake off tackles. His hands are my only concern, but I believe that can be helped during this offseason as he builds more cohesiveness with his quarterback. Good luck to any defensive back in the end zone on jump balls.
Denarius Moore could be the most valuable receiver if he would quit taking plays off. Moore is extremely fast and shows the ability to get past any defensive back that challenges him. He will drop sure receptions, which is attributed more to his lack of concentration than his hands.
Marsalous Teague will be another good possession receiver over the middle. Unlike Rogers he is a superior athlete but lack the size of elite receivers. His hands and speed are great and he really seems to know how to get to the football. Teague a high school quarterback could be seen in the "Wildcat" if it is utilized how Dooley says it will be.
Prediction: Something is going to have to give as the other all-star freshman receivers are coming in the fall. Get ready to hear Da'Rick Rodgers and Justin Hunter's names once the season begins. The Vols will have seven to eight receivers that could start anywhere. With the help they need at tight end, it might be a good idea to move one of the bigger ones down there on double tights.
In the end, Jones, Moore, Milton, and D. Rodgers will probably be the biggest threats with the others contributing here and there.
A sensitive subject to most people who keep up with the team, my advice is to relax. Dooley seems to always have a safety outlet for the quarterback to throw to, thus, the lineman will just need to hold a block for around 3-5 seconds. Also, with these running backs, three yards and a cloud of dust could be guaranteed.
3 freshman will be coming in the fall to help this small but feisty group of big uglies.
Dallas Thomas, Cody Pope, JerQuari Schofield, Victor Thomas, Juwaun James are my picks so far. It was very hard to judge the line yesterday considering they were so split up. Look for Zach Fulton and James Stone to be ready to start come fall. Its a crap shoot, but I believe it will eventually be a well groomed unit.
Predictiion: OTs-Juwaun James and James Stone. OGs- Zach Fulton and Cody Pope. and C-Victor Thomas. These are really more of guess than concrete.
WILCOX'S WRECKING CREW
I could break this down to separate areas but this defense operates as one single unit. Gang tackles were rampant as moving to the football was executed very well.
On the defensive line Jacques Smith, Marlon Walls, Montori Hughes, and Corey Miller seemed to be in the backfield all day. Matt Simms should have hit Hughes with his helmet as he harassed him into making hurried throws and numerous other bad decisions throughout the evening.
Linebackers were flying to the ball in swarms. Austin Johnson was very consistent. Gerald Williams stayed in the running lanes and provided plenty of big hits. Herman Lathers just swarms to the ball, while Greg King seemed to be in on every tackle. LaMarcus Thompson was just, "wow".
The defensive backs can be described in pretty much one word, SCARY. Janzen Jackson is Eric Berry on steroids as he punished any ball carrier that crossed his path. Darren Myles was Robin if Jackson is Batman. These two together at safety are a terror.
Eric Gordon delivered some good hits and was good against the pass. Anthony Anderson showed the ability to read the quarterback as he looked like he was the intentional receiver on an interception. Also, Prentiss Wagner showed good cover skills, but could be more aggressive going after interceptions.
Prediction: If the defense doesn't have to spend all day on the field, they will be top 5 in the nation. They will provide sacks and plenty of interceptions. Imagine Boise State's defense with SEC athletes. Wow I just got chills.
Kickoffs and punt distances left a lot to be desired, but have no fear Vol fans. A big leg by the name of Michael Palardy is coming in the fall.
Kickoff and punt coverage was very much improved as Dooley seems to really emphasize special teams.
We may have found a reliable field goal kicker in the name of Chip Rhome. He made a 28-yarder and two from beyond 40. I don't remember anytime last year that this happened.
Returning kicks should go to Janzen Jackson and David Oku. If the coverage teams were not so improved at least one return could have been a touchdown. These two are explosive and extremely dangerous with the ball in their hands.
Prediction: Well no Mount Cody type disasters like last year for one. Makable kicks will be made. Expect a lot of touchbacks with Palardey. Good field position from the return crew, and just maybe a season without a touchdown returned on the coverage team