Each season somebody comes up with off-the-wall football predictions that hovers on the border of insane. The first that usually surfaces is how an underdog team will make it big and win it all. The next is soothsaying about how a down-and-out player will rise to the top, and become a superstar of epic proportions. Everything after that is legendary showdowns that will be etched in blood into the encyclopedias of football history; then there are individual achievements that leave the heroic athletes being risen above their team-mates for martyrdom like holy warriors of biblical comparison. This season I thought I would take a break from the ludicrous and write something more logical, but hey, who am I to disappoint and why on earth would I start now?
Daniel Hood hasn't played defense since high-school which makes this prediction even more insane, but he is getting increasingly stronger beyond what anyone ever expected. He wasn't able to make a lot of penetration in the spring game although he was routinely double teamed, which opened penetration for everyone else that hurried the pass all day.
This will work just the opposite come game day. The OL will be so worried about keeping DT Malik Jackson out of the back-field that NT Daniel Hood will get be extremely overlooked and underestimated. The 300lb monster will average five tackles and two sacks a game going into November, and start being looked at as an All-American.
Ohhhh my, it is a very large jump from last year.
The sad thing is that Neal didn't even break 200 yards last season with 46 att. and Poole didn't even meet his true expectations with 1034 yards on 204 att. Even Williams looked pitiful on 5 carries and accumulating only 11 yards.
So how do these guys pull off the miraculous? Okay hold on, Madame Volsmoke is looking. It's getting clearer, and clearer. Okay, Poole finally reaches his potential with 1650 yards, Williams finishes with 850 all-purpose yards, and Neal falls short with 500 yards, but becomes an end-zone specialist.
Note of interest: Auburn finished last season with 3987 combined rushing yards.
I know, you can't wait.
This is how. Tennessee has lost games in the past just by being less than defensive on the kick-off allowing returners to cover a lot of turf, and if it isn't run in for a TD then they at the very least set up the offense to score in plenty of time.
What's different now you ask? Matt Darr.
Tennessee hasn't had a Punter/LB since Jeff Hall, who quickly assumed FG duties when he injured his kicking ankle, tackling a Florida returner in a 1999 home game. The cool thing about Darr is his high-school stats. He averaged 9.3 tackles per game and 1 sack as linebacker.
Summary: he knows how to tackle and is fast enough to cover the field with a 4.85 40. In a close game Darr will cover the field and save a return for TD's or close field position three times.
To be honest Bray has been chastised over and over, and over for his behavior at the Music City Bowl, and excluding his brash words before the Orange and White game he has been relatively quiet.
I'm assuming Derek Dooley has sat down with Bray and voiced some displeasure about his behavior since then so let's give him clean slate shall we?
However, this season he will return to that bravado as he gains confidence. All Bray has to do is win against Florida and he will cement an arrogance to the level of Casey Clausen. He will compile crazy stats win, or lose. He is competent and talented, but he will have a bullseye on him after the Cincinnati game, and by the time Tennessee reaches the Swamp, Gators will be calling for blood.
This was the record that we all thought Eric Berry would break back in 2009, but Monte Kiffin had a defensive scheme in mind that pushed Berry into the rushing lanes and away from errant passes.
The good thing was true freshman Janzen Jackson was there to shadow Berry and in return Jackson was mentored by an exceptional player.
Now that time has passed and situations have turned to dismay this prediction may not even have a chance. What's even more detrimental is that Jackson only netted five interceptions last season. My thinking he comes back, opposing OC's look at him as a minimal threat and play keep-away from Prentiss Waggner. By season end he will have attained Eric Berry status.
Oh come on you know you want to laugh.
For the last eleven seasons there has not been a year that passed without a Vol player getting into trouble with the authorities for one reason or another. This season Head Coach Derek Dooley has hit the ground running with his Vol For Life program. It will mentor the young Vols about life lessons and general citizenship. Even if the program doesn't work he gave the Knoxville PD a chance to meet all the players at a training day exercise where the players could experience first hand some of the skills that police officers have to hone on a regular basis. Worst case scenario is the PD remembers their mugs and they get escorted back to campus after a night of broken curfews instead of ending up on a police blotter.
Yes this may be a bit of a tough pill to swallow, but factor in that in his senior year he finished with 42 receptions for 782 yards and eight TD's. And he managed another six TD's returning kicks and on the rush.
Consider this; Justin Hunter finished his senior year in high school with 46 receptions for 714 yards and nine TD's, and he finished fourth in receiving on Tennessee's roster. At 6-0 170lb, Arnett is a little smaller than what you want at receiver and the most logical thing as coach is to redshirt him. But since when did the Vols get logical?
Justin Hunter will have a tremendous year as first down ambassador, and Da'Rick Rogers will be utilized on special teams and long yardage plays. Arnett will surface this summer as a workhorse and Dooley will use him for his speed and catching ability.
Personally I would love to see a little dance, not much but a little. You know a little "Look what I did!" but Tennessee is routinely called for not keeping their emotions in check.
Last season it cost the Vols 90 yards. It is an unnecessary display that could be the difference between first or second place. Save it for the sidelines, because this year a celebration call could nullify a TD. Is that what you want to remember your senior with, a loss because you beat your chest at the opponent?
In a close game against a high-profile opponent like Alabama or LSU, Tennessee will let their emotions get the better of them, and Dooley will get to explain why somebody made a bad judgement call.
Stop panicking, it hasn't happened, nor has it been announced but don't be too surprised if it does happen.
Bray is the essential west coast kid with his rocket arm and stretched out frame, and Worley is the prototypical pro-style gunslinger looking to win any way he can. Both are great so what do you do?
This is the equivalent of putting Peyton behind Eli. Who is Peyton and who is Eli you ask? That's for you to decide. I won't foster the debate over who is who and who is better, but you guys already have some inkling of who I would rather see at the helm.
The dichotomy is Tennessee has three good QB's. I'm thinking this year Worley remembers what that 10 dollar word means.
Stranger things have happened.
Nobody expected Auburn to walk away with it but look at them. And we all know this isn't the same team because of the youth. But, I will say this. Dooley at the very least looks and acts bound and determined to win ball games. I saw his reaction to the loss at LSU, I saw his embarrassment in Georgia. The team is just as willing as he is and all they really need is momentum.
Now here are the conditions, Tennessee must beat Florida in order for this to transpire. They could lose to Georgia or even Alabama, but they must have the confidence to get past Florida. If they can't beat the Gators in their present condition they won't have the steam to get by any of the other SEC teams, save for Vanderbilt and Kentucky. It is a monkey that the Vols will have to get off their back.
If they beat Florida, Tennessee will win the SEC championship.