Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Big Orange Roundtable

The folks over at TSIB have created the next best tool for the offseason. That is The Big Orange Roundtable. It takes the best Tennessee Volunteers blogs out there and connects them through a series of questions. My and others answers can be seen below. 1.) How good/bad do you think Jonathan Crompton will be in his first year as a Tennessee starting quarterback and what makes you think that?
I think Crompton will have a bit of a rollercoaster season. I think you'll see flashes of brilliance from him, and some things happen that will leave you scratching your head. It's going to be part of not only learning a new offense, but getting the chance to run it. He obviously has talent, check LSU '06. The man's a risk taker, which will help and hurt the offense. He will have more interceptions that Ainge, but he will also have more longballs/break out plays. As long as he keeps a healthy balance and stays within himself, I think he'll have a pretty productive and winning season.

2.) This question was posed on our site a few weeks ago by the Bama boys, and it brought some good discussion, so given UT’s rich history of scheduling home-and-homes with top-shelf BCS programs, what school would you most like for the Vols to play in the future and why?
I'd like to see our Vols take on the Virginia Tech Hokies. If you were to hold an open discussion with Vols fans and Hokies fans, as I have in the past, both say the same things about eachother and neither are very positive. There's a bit of a clash between the two programs that kind of sits beneath all of this SEC hype. I'd like to put them on the schedule and see the two teams go at it. I think it draw great crowds and have the feel of an Saturday in the SEC. I would love to see it happen.

3.) A lot has been made of our lack of depth at defensive tackle. With Demonte Bolden, Dan Williams and Walter Fisher pretty solid, what other player do you think makes a big move toward becoming dependable?
I'm going to go ahead and take the easy choice in Donald Langley. I don't think you'll see that dependability early from him but as the season goes on, I expect him to get his nose in there. I think he'll have a season much like Gerald Jones had on the offensive end last year. He'll work his way in and come on strong down the stretch. Chavis needs to get some DT's in here!

4.) Neyland Stadium has undergone some wholesale external and internal renovations during the offseason, updating and improving the overall appearance. If you could change one thing about Neyland, what would it be?
I don't know that I would really change anything of Neyland, but I may add on to it. I think adding a jumbotron above the other endzone is the next best thing we could do there. It may take away from the ole college look but there's just too many people who can't be looking at the replay or game on the big screen.

5.) Different UT fans have different opinions on last season. Was it a success? Was it a failure? Why do you think so?
I definitely wouldn't call it a success. But a failure doesn't cut it for me either. We obviously took home an SEC East championship but when you lose to Alabama and Florida as bad as we did, I'll never think of that as success. I'd describe it more as a highlights type of season. There are certain plays from every game that really stick out. The Cal game is Desean Jackson's punt return for six, while the Florida game is E. Berry's owning of Tebow. You've got to remember the Taylor to Coker pass when thinking of UGA, etc., etc., down to the Kentucky game which had some fantastic plays. King of the East and winner of the Outback Bowl is good, but the lows are just too low for me to call it a true success.

The other blogs:
Third Saturday in Blogtober--Big Orange Roundtable
Moondog Sports--The Big Orange Round Table
Fulmer's Belly--Big Orange Roundtable: Week One
The Power T--Big Orange Roundtable, Volume 1

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Offensive Preview

One might describe the outlook for the upcoming season in Knoxville as “fresh.”

The Tennessee Vols bring in new members on the coaching staff, a new quarterback, and an overall new mindset. Coach Dave Clawson, newly-hired offensive coordinator, has been quoted more than once in saying that he wants to ‘get the ball to the playmakers’—something that Cutcliffe and staff were mildly criticized for not doing enough of.

However, in the end, it will take more than just the words of a coach to get this done, so let’s look at who will help to make this happen for the Vols.

The freshness begins under center with Jonathan Crompton, a junior coming off minor surgery. Crompton has seen time before at the college level, including minimal time last year, and—most notably—his two starts during Ainge’s injury in 2006. He has a career five touchdowns and four interceptions.

The positives for Crompton include things such as speed, arm strength, and ability to make a play. He runs fairly well for a quarterback, which is something we couldn’t say about Erik Ainge, and can find his way out of the pocket. You could see his arm strength at work in the Spring Orange and White game (which occurred before the surgery), when he threw a 75-yard touchdown on the first play.

A negative that has popped up the past two seasons and even this spring is his decision making. He has almost as many career interceptions as touchdowns, and threw three in one scrimmage. But overall, I expect him to fill his role well, and help the Vols' offense.

The Vols are deep at running back with the likes of Arian Foster, Montario Hardesty, Lennon Creer, and Tauren Poole. Foster is expected to become the all-time leading rusher in Tennessee history, which tells you something about the way the kid can run.

Hardesty can be a real threat if he can find a way to stay injury-free. Creer’s shown flashes, and had a spring that may suggest good things for the future. Poole has been a positive surprise for the Vols' offense—and I believe, although he’s just a freshman, he will get the chance to get some reasonable playing time this year.

All in all, the Vols will be set in the backfield and Clawson is more than ready to get them the ball.

Tennessee returns receivers Lucas Taylor, Gerald Jones, Austin Rogers, Denarius Moore, and Quintin Hancock. Taylor was a pleasant surprise last year, when he was able to hit 1,000 receiving yards and five touchdowns.

Jones is just a stockpile of talent that can really play more than one position offensively. You may be familiar with the G-Gun he ran last year, which was very successful including two touchdowns. He also had a huge catch against the wild Kentucky game last year that helped propel the Vols into overtime.

The offense will certainly be different this year for Tennessee, and should be fun to watch. Clawson has found ways to get the fans in Knoxville fired up for next year with his fresh ideas and sets.

A defensive breakdown of the Vols may come later in the off-season.

4 VOLS on Preseason Watch Lists

Berry, McCoy, Foster, Crompton on watch lists

Jonathan Crompton hasn't started a game since Nov. 11, 2006 but he's still one of 75 players on the watch list for the Maxwell Award, given annually to the NCAA's outstanding player. Vol tailback Arian Foster also is among the preliminary-list candidates announced today by the Maxwell Football Club.
Although he has very limited college experience, Crompton has a decent shot at the Maxwell Award. That's because it has gone to a quarterback seven times in the past eight years Recent winners include QBs Drew Brees (Purdue) in 2000, Ken Dorsey (Miami) in 2001, Eli Manning (Ole Miss) in 2003, Jason White (Oklahoma) in 2004, Vince Young (Texas) in 2005, Brady Quinn (Notre Dame) in 2006 and Tim Tebow (Florida) in 2007.
Crompton, a 6-4, 230-pounder from Waynesville, N.C., completed 7 of 12 passes for 97 yards as a sophomore last fall. As a redshirt freshman in 2006 he completed 31 of 66 passes for 401 yards. He made his only college start that season, directing the Vols in a loss at Arkansas.
Foster, a 6-1, 225-pound senior from San Diego, rushed for 1,193 yards as a junior last season. He averaged 4.9 yards per carry and scored 12 touchdowns. An excellent receiver out of the backfield, he also caught 39 passes for 340 yards and two more TDs.
The Maxwell Football Club also announced the 75-man watch list for the Chuck Bednarik Award, given annually to college football's premier defensive player. Two Vols are on this list, as well – safety Eric Berry and linebacker Rico McCoy.
Berry, a 5-11, 200-pounder from Fairburn, Ga., started all 14 games as a Vol freshman last fall, registering 86 tackles and 5 interceptions. He racked up 222 return yards on his picks and added another 55 return yards on two fumble recoveries. He shared the team lead in big plays for '07 with 14.
McCoy, a 6-1, 215-pounder from Washington D.C., ranked second on the team with 106 tackles last season. He also recorded 5 pass breakups, 4.5 tackles for loss, a sack, a quarterback hurry, an interception and a fumble forced.
Like Crompton, McCoy is at a distinct advantage because of the position he plays. Linebackers have won the Bednarik Award 10 times in its 13-year history. Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald doubled in 1995 and '96, Texas A&M's Dat Nguyen won in '98 and Penn State's LaVar Arrington prevailed in '99. Other 'backers to take home the prize were Miami's Dan Morgan in 2000, Maryland's E.J. Henderson in 2002, Oklahoma's Teddy Lehman in 2003, Penn State's Paul Posluszny in 2005 and 2006 and Penn State's Dan Conner in '07.
The Maxwell and Bednarik Awards are voted on by college head coaches, members of the Maxwell Football Club and assorted sportswriters and sportscasters.
The list of candidates for the 2008 awards will be trimmed to the semifinalists in early November, then to three finalists on Nov. 25. The formal presentation of the awards will be made March 6, 2009 at the Maxwell Football Club Awards Gala at Harrah's in Atlantic City.

Getting to the Game

Whenever I need Tennessee Volunteers football tickets, I find myself at Front Row King, a great place for cheap college football tickets!