No, no, no! It is too early to be talking, er...writing about such nonsense.
Nobody has played a game yet and here I am to start the Vol rumor mill. Well, the speculation is there for the priming, but I have several reasons for you that may hold more merit than you think. As for the naysayers, there is always room for argument.
They're still far too young. The depth is still shallow. The quality of talent isn't on the same level. They're not even ranked.
Yes, all are valid arguments. And, if you aren't a Vol fan, that should be enough for you not to read any further.
But just for giggles, read on and see if I can sway your opinion to the orange side.
Everybody and I mean everybody is so worried about the depth, well don't.
Regardless of what the barber tells you, they are still building depth. You know all that down time they're supposed to have between spring and summer camp? Well don't get fooled.
As we speak, the entire Vol roster is undoubtedly sore or can't even crawl out of bed. That neat, pretty orange white and black weight room probably smells of disinfectant and puke.
Those guys are still busy getting stronger, they just can't have a whole lot of help...wink wink.
Well what about the recruits coming in? They won't be ready. Maybe and maybe not. You know that to-do list your wife gave you Saturday morning? Those recruits have one of those too, and it doesn't have anything to do with mowing lawns.
Remember how young everybody was last year? Well the Vols managed an even season and should have added two more wins.
All of those same youngsters come back. It is only natural for them to have gotten better. At least consider this the Vols only lost four real starters this season.
After summer camp, all positions, save for special teams, will be three deep and separated by marginal talent specifications.
This will officially be my last time defending Wilcox for things he has not yet performed or accomplished.
That being said, in his four years at Boise, his defense outperformed nearly every opponent (save for Louisville in a bowl game) 3-1 in almost every category of defense.
Interceptions, interception return yards, tackles, TFL, sacks, QB hurries, broken pass plays, etc. etc. etc.
I'm not saying anything bad about Chuck Smith, he is a great Vol, but you can't have two cooks in the kitchen. I think the defense could have performed better last year if Smith hadn't been messing with Wilcox's recipe.
Wilcox has his apron and he's ready to cook. There are many detractors, many who would say "John, can ya just let it be?" No, I can't, that wouldn't be any fun, now would it?
By the numbers, Tennessee will have the No. 1 defense in the SEC.
There was a saying I heard often during my Army days. If you ain't killed nothing, you ain't eating.
Basically that correlates to having a winning offense. There were times last year that the offense was just awful.
We had 182 yards rushing against Oregon, but only managed 151 yards in the air. Even if you reverse the numbers it still looks like they were playing against William and Mary. That was eight rushing and six passing first downs.
The losing formula last season was exactly what Phillip Fulmer preached about his entire career. They didn't spilt the rush and the pass. One or the other was outweighed due to individual performance. If Poole ran well, the pass suffered, and vice versa.
Nothing tricky here, Poole has to perform and so does Bray. They will both have to keep their job because a younger man wants it. Competition breeds performance, coaching and playing.
This is rather easy to understand. Last season, there was so much uncertainty that players and coaches alike went through the whole season trying to figure out if they were playing rugby or football.
The coaches know their jobs now; the players know what is expected of them. The spread offense is in place and the playbook is getting thicker. The same can be said for the alter ego on defense.
The worst part of it all was that no one had a clue as to their own abilities, that is finally coming to light.
Believe it or don't, it doesn't matter. If either two gets knocked out you still have Justin Worley who could start now as a true freshman.
Matt Simms, who is capable of doing the job but isn't as popular because he might have gotten one concussion too many. And finally, Tyler Bray the phenom who stood up last season and said okay, let's see who's got the juice.
Personally, I would like Matt Simms to get the start because he earned it, and you could argue that Bray did as well. The point is, the QB position finally has depth.
Since 2005, Tennessee has undergone three losing seasons finishing with a final percentage of .375.
Two of those came under Fulmer and the third came last season under Dooley.
It happened first in 1962-1964 and again when Tennessee went through three coaching changes then, Bowden Wyatt, Jim McDonald, and Doug Dickey, and from 1974-1977 through Bill Battle and Johnny Majors.
After each of those changes there was a resurgence in winning seasons, with an SEC championship following in 1969.
Nobody gave Derek Dooley any kind of chance last season.
Despite being written off the SEC books, he still managed to break even on the regular season, and he took Tennessee to a bowl. And trust me, by now I'm tired of hearing it also, but facts are facts.
And when you get right down to it, it's just a matter of logistics. The hardest part is the waiting. This is of course year two for Vol fans, and year one for Dooley. But, who can hardly blame him for claiming year one.
Kiffin was at least given the courtesy of knowing in advance what he was inheriting from Fulmer. He then brought into the mix a former head coach in Ed Orgeron, with his father who happens to be one of if not the greatest defensive minds to coach in modern football. And he only managed to win one more game than Dooley.
Dooley has a few opportunities to breathe since taking over in the last few minutes of Kiffin's short-lived tenure. This season, there are no blinders.
I can promise you this won't happen again.
Why? Because immediately after that game Derek Dooley (the lawyer that he is) sat down with his coaching staff and made detailed plans of how to avoid this again. The whole season could have ended differently had the Vols won this game.
The momentum of winning going into Georgia could have set Tennessee up to at least have been competitive. But, the game was won, and poor preparation lost it. Poor clock management, and no one knew where the panic button was.
At the end of summer drills, when it's 90 degrees and the guys are dragging their Vol butts off the field, Dooley will call down from his elevated platform and yell "TWO SECOND SUBSTITUTION!"
They will scramble and get the crap ran out of them. The puke buckets will be full, but a gimme game for the Mad Hatter won't happen again.
P.S. Somewhere there is a little 19-year-old student watching old game film, with empty Red Bulls lying around on the floor, a pen in one hand and a stopwatch in the other. He is making notations for every possible clock scenario.
Damn it, this is Tennessee not Appalachian State!
Alabama and Florida represent Tennessee's white buffalo. To be fair, they represent the best of the SEC East and West. For more than a decade, Florida has run away with wins that left the Vols scratching their heads.
And just when Tennessee thought they could even things up with Alabama, they run out and land Nick Saban and Phillip Fulmer is sent packing.
Since that time, the Alabama program has done a complete 360 and even though Auburn is the defending National Champions, the Tide still holds sway as the dominant leader in the SEC West.
But, in order to be the best you have to beat the best, on both sides. But as bad as Tennessee has performed the last five years they could have won every game if the right chess pieces had been in place.
After all, all these kids came from the same pot; it's not like it's a group of college hockey players going up against the Russians.
After everything is said and done, you don't just play for a BCS berth...you play for all the marbles and then if you don't make it, you have to settle for less because a computer said so.
Fans will stop leaving at halftime. It's shameful actually. I have always been disappointed to see fans leave early, win or lose. There is a reason Neyland stadium is so big. It's so everyone can witness these kids beating the crap out of each other for our state pride. If the chips are down, quit worrying about the traffic on I-40 and I-81 and start cheering for a team that could use your support. You know it's the right thing to do.
Okay I'll get off my soapbox. Vol fans are really awesome when the Vols are winning. So for now Dooley will have to keep winning to bring in the brood. But if the fans are in full Rocky Top force singing so loud the Vol Navy needs ear-plugs then you can expect some of that intimidation factor to return to Neyland.
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