Big Orange Roundtable: Week 6

lawvol gate21.netSenior Analyst IAugust 13, 2008

This Week’s Roundtable is hosted by: MoonDog Sports

Rolling Along We Go!

This week’s Big Orange Roundtable is hosted by the MoonDog, who has served up some great questions for the roundtable.

Here are my laughable thoughts for the week:

Week 6

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

1) Let’s assume the worst for a moment and say the Vols finish the season 6-6. Does Fulmer survive? If not, whom do you believe would be the best person to fill the head coaching vacancy? Even if you believe Fulmer survives, feel free to offer your thoughts on the Vols next coach.

As I previously discussed in Week 2 (Question 3), I believe that Coach Fulmer’s new contract (which includes an automatic extension when he wins 8 games or more), while giving the Great Punkin more job-security on one hand, also sets a quantifiable standard of 8 wins which, if not met, could lead to his firing.  It seems to me that it would be next to impossible for Mike Hamilton to keep Fulmer on as head coach if he failed to meet the 8-win mark in a given season.  That said, I think Hamilton would do everything in his power to keep Fulmer in his current position at the helm of the Vols’ football program.  For the record, at present, I would agree with Hamilton’s desire to retain Fulmer.

Independent of Fulmer’s own merits and accomplishments (which are considerable) — one of the reasons I have always questioned the “Fire-Fulmerites’” cries is that I have never heard any meaningful suggestion as to who would replace him.  As I also said in Week 2, I think Fulmer is likely trying to groom Dave Clawson as his replacement down the road, which — depending on how things pan out — may be a great move.  All that said, if Fulmer were to either be fired or retire, my short-list of candidates would include the following (in no particular order):

  • Bob Stoops: I agree with MoonDog that Stoops has an impressive record, despite his habit of losing in the bowl games.  My only concern with Stoops is one of persona and style — a little too Spurrier-esque for me, but I could get over that I suppose.
  • Jim Grobe: I like what Grobe has done at Wake Forest, which is a tough place to win.  I would somewhat prefer someone who is likely to stay a little longer — since Grobe appears to be roughly the same age as Fulmer, and probably won’t want to coach into his 60s and 70s.
  • Brian Kelly: I agree with 3SIB that Kelly could be another good choice in much the same way that Urban Meyer appealed to Florida — an up-and-coming coach on the rise.  Of course, the same would be true for Clawson.
  • Brett Favre: I figure he’s been so dying to get back into someone’s game, why not Tennessee’s?  Actually, I think that would be a horrible idea…

This overly short list only goes to show that I am really not sure who Tennessee would tap to take the head job, and only emphasizes why I continue to think that Fulmer is the best coach for Tennessee at present.

2) With the off-field troubles many college football programs have encountered over the past five years, including Tennessee, what actions would you take to prevent players from getting into undesirable situations?

There are a lot of college students that have done some things that are probably prosecutable if the law caught them.  This is true regardless of whether they are athletes or not.  So, on one hand I generally think that miscellaneous bad behavior shouldn’t automatically lead to dismissal from the team.  Being given the opportunity to play at the college level, however, gives great rewards to the players.  Along with those rewards comes increased responsibility — due to the fact that those athletes are on the front-porch of the university.  Finally, I believe that true “criminal” behavior should be dealt with swiftly and strongly.

Bearing all of this in mind, my thoughts are that there should only be three rules of increasing severity — built on the concept that a team lives and dies as a group — for any team, which should be enforced without exception:

  • Rule 1:  Never do anything that will embarrass yourself. — In this case I would lump things like not going to class, bad discipline in practices, being late to practices, and potentially recklessness in a game (such as unwarranted personal fouls), etc.  The penalty for infractions would be that the player is publicly reprimanded in very plain and unfiltered terms before his teammates, and the entire team runs or does some other unpleasant drill as a result of the infraction by one of its members.
  • Rule 2:  Never do anything that will embarrass your team. –  This would include general bad behavior that falls under Rule 1, if it is repeated.  In other words, repeat offenses of a Rule 1 violation calls into question the cohesiveness of the team, and thus reflects on the team.  This would also include any “minor” entanglements with the local constabulary such as: drunk and disorderly, speeding, underage consumption, misdemeanor possession of marijuana, etc. — essentially anything which doesn’t involve fundamental dishonesty and/or risk to the physical well-being of others.  The penalty for infractions would be a mandatory one-game suspension, being reprimanded openly in front of teammates, all members of the player’s squad losing privileges, the entire team doing twice as many laps or drills as for a Rule 1 violation, and the team captains being required to do an even greater penance — along with the offender.  The offender would also be required to make some sort of public apology or public sign of remorse along with some goodwill public service (i.e. visiting the children’s ward at the hospital, raking leaves for the infirm, etc.).
  • Rule 3:  Never do anything that will embarrass your university, its staff, students, and alumni. –  This would be the most serious violation.  This would include any real criminal behavior such as a felony.  The immediate response would be an investigation by the coaching staff.  If it appeared that the offender was not guilty of the charges, then the player would be suspended for the remainder of the season until cleared by law enforcement officials or the Courts, with the assumption that the player will be dismissed if not cleared.  During that time, the offender would essentially serve as the lowest-level trainer and would be given the worst jobs associated with a football team.  If the staff determined that the player was likely guilty, then the player would be immediately dismissed from the team, and a public statement issued explaining why.  Regardless of the guilt or innocence of the offender, the entire team would have a major privilege suspended for at least half of the season.  The members of the offender’s squad and the team captains would be treated as if each of them had violated Rule 1 by not taking adequate steps to prevent the offense or hold their teammate accountable.  Again, the whole team would also be required to perform additional drills.

The goal of this system would be to instill mutual responsibility among team members and to emphasize that when one falls short, all fall short.  I am responsible for my brother and my brother is responsible for me. No coaching staff can ever police or monitor players at all times — no matter how vigilant.  When properly channeled, peer pressure can be a beautiful thing, and is the sort of thing which goes with a player everywhere he goes.  This system is also meant to emphasize that, when you are in a position of honor (being a member of the team) then sometimes guilt by association is all that is required to warrant a penalty — it simply comes with the territory.

3) The Vols have rolled through UCLA, UAB, Florida, Auburn, Northern Illinois and Georgia. We’re No. 3 in the polls and up next is Alabama. With 3:16 left in the 4th quarter the Vols are down 20-17 and it’s 4th and one from the Bama 29-yard line. Do you kick the field goal or go for it?

Barring some sort of absolutely deplorable abysmal collapse by our kicking team leading up to the game, or the development of an absolutely hellacious running game which mows down defenses like the grim reaper with a caffeine buzz, I kick the ball.

The reasons for this are several:

  • Three doesn’t play for the win, but it also prevents the loss with time expiring, and I’d just as soon not have to live through another episode of the 1998 win over Arkansas.
  • You look like a genius if you convert, but boy do you look like a moron if you turn the ball over on downs.
  • Tennessee has been very successful in overtime games, especially in Neyland Stadium, and I’ll take those odds with Orange Nation fired-up.
  • If you are looking at the possibility of an undefeated season, you coach with your head, not your balls.
  • It’s smart football.

So, ultimately, I take the conservative approach.  Of course, Coach Fulmer rarely seems to care what I think is best, so this is somewhat academic.  After all, I haven’t yet seen the film…

4) What impact, if any, do you believe Stan Drayton will have as the Vols prepare to play Florida?

I think the biggest effect that Stan Drayton may have will not be on the players he is tapped to coach.  I think the biggest thing Tennessee gains from Drayton in this year’s battle with the reptiles is his experience coaching the running game in Gainesville — for the benefit of the Tennessee defense.  The message will probably be that — with the exception of Tebow — there really isn’t much of a run game at Florida.  Good little piece of information to have.  Of course, this is a new season, and you really don’t have to be a genius to figure out that Florida was one-directional last year.

On the flip side, I am desperately hoping that Drayton is able to invigorate our running game which — by my mind — is one of the keys to beating Florida this year, or any year.  I have high hopes for him, and generally think he was a very good hire by Fulmer.

5) We’ve discussed the Vols offense and defense, but what about special teams? Give us your thoughts on Tennessee’s kicking game and special teams in general?

The key to success this season is keeping Britton Colquitt off the sauce…

Actually, that really has nothing to do with our kicking game — or at least it shouldn’t.  Nonetheless, all of the distractions stemming from Colquitt’s off-the-field hijinxs have got to be a concern — especially given his early season suspension.  This unit needs to be sure it understands what it is about before strapping on their helmets.  They need to come prepared to play.

On a more substantive note, I am hopeful that the kick returns will improve this year and that Dennis Rogan will get the chance to really wow the Vol faithful a few times this year.  The key on kick-returns (aside from actually catching the ball without fumbling it) is discipline.  If they can be disciplined, learn to stay in their lanes, learn when to take a knee, and when to block, I believe that the kick-return squad could really be impressive this year.

In terms of the field-goal unit — I’ll take Daniel Lincoln over just about anybody.  Absent him derailing in the near future, I feel pretty good about where we sit when it comes to the uprights.

The Rest of the Roundtable:

Having wasted your time on my largely meaningless and insignificant thoughts for this week, go check out what the other roundtablers (who actually know what they are talking about) have to say (in no particular order):

And that’s the way it is….

– Go Figure …Email lawvol

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