Well, as the holidays have been coming closer, I've been thinking about what I could ask for this Christmas. I had a lot of trouble thinking of something I needed to make 2009 much better than 2008.
Then I figured out what it was: an improved Tennessee football team.
So I decided to name everything Tennessee needed for next year to finish with a record better than 5-7.
One solid Quarterback for the Whole Season
Last season, as most of you know, the Volunteers started out with Jonathen Crompton at quarterback. After Crompton led Tennessee to a 1-3 record in his first four starts, Phillip Fulmer elected to try out the backup, Nick Stephens.
Stephens was all but impressive in his first game against Northern Illinois, in which he led the Vols to a surprisingly close 13-9 win. In the next three games he performed weakly and Tennessee gave Crompton another try in a drive against South Carolina.
Statistically, Crompton played decently, but couldn't lead the Vols offense to any scoring. From there on, Tennessee just threw in random quarterbacks, and by the end of the season the Volunteers finished with five players having made pass attempts.
This year, I really hope that Lane Kiffin can find one good quarterback and stick with him. I got really sick of watching our quarterbacks pass for a completion percentage below 50 throughout the year.
The offense was given hope when two talented quarterback recruits—Tahj Boyd and Josh Nunes—committed to Tennessee earlier in the year, but both quarterbacks decommitted later on in the year for different reasons.
In my opinion, Crompton should be the top quarterback for next year, but that will be figured out this spring in practice. Whoever it is, I sure do hope he can perform much better than the quarterbacks did last year.
Eric Berry to Get His Much Deserved Thorpe Award
"The winner of this year's Thorpe Award is Malcom Jenkins!" I was completely shocked when I saw Jenkins receiving the 2008 Jim Thorpe Award, given to the best defensive back in college football.
Eric Berry, in my opinion, was obviously the best defensive back in the country, hauling in seven interceptions while returning them for 265 yards and two touchdowns. How could you give this award to anybody but Berry?
I really hope that Berry can match his stats from this past season, and I know he'll do at least that if not more.
The Defense and Secondary to Be as Dominant as They Were in 2008
Tennessee had one of the best secondaries in the nation in 2008. The defense had 17 interceptions while returning four of them for touchdowns. Sadly enough, I enjoyed watching the defense more than I enjoyed watching the offense.
If you look at the scores from some of Tennessee's games you may not realize the strength of its defense, but that was because the offense always left them in such bad field position.
Countless turnovers and three-and-outs by the offense put the defense in bad situations, but the defense did a great job holding opposing offenses to field goals or less.
Daniel Lincoln to Kick Field Goals Like He Did His Freshman Year
Daniel Lincoln looked like the next James Wilhoit III after his freshman year while making 75 percent of his field goals, but struggled greatly in 2008, going 10 for 18 and missing four field goals from less than 40 yards away.
I'm not sure what happened; maybe the pressure of the bad season got to him. But he missed a very short field goal in overtime against UCLA which lost the Volunteers their season opener.
Don't get me wrong, I know that there's no way I could kick a field goal and I know that it's not easy, but how can you get worse? All you do is kick field goals! Lincoln doesn't cover kickoffs or anything.
I really hope that Lincoln can go back to being the All-SEC kicker that he was in his freshman year.
Lane Kiffin to Be Half as Good a Coach as Philip Fulmer Was During His Career
To finish off my Christmas wish list, I'm asking that Lane Kiffin can do nearly as good as Phillip Fulmer did throughout his great career at Tennessee.
Fulmer was one of the greatest coaches not only in Volunteers history, but in the long history of the SEC, and it was a mistake to let him go.
Kiffin is facing high expectations from the Vol Nation, and he had better live up to them. It's something I believe he can do though.
Tennessee has a long winning tradition, and that helps recruiting a lot. Kiffin has already started his recruiting, and has a top-20 recruiting class so far. Even though Fulmer brought in most of those recruits, I'll still give Kiffin props for holding onto most of them.
I wish a lot of luck and a Merry Christmas to all of the Tennessee football program.