Friday, July 29, 2011

Tennessee Football: Things Looking Up

Tennessee natives know that when someone says Tennessee football they don’t mean the Titans. University of Tennessee football has claimed six national titles and 16 SEC titles over the years, but now they’re better known as an underdog team who can beat the best or the SEC’s biggest pushover on any given day.

Right now most major fans are clinging to tradition and of course, Peyton Manning and their post-Manning championship season. With Lane Kiffins’s terrible contribution to the Vols in his less than one year coaching, it’s hard to imagine them being restored to their former glory.

The University of Tennessee has placed a two-year probation on both its football and basketball programs in an attempt to offset any advantages the programs may have gained through their illegal actions, and punish the coaches without hurting players. Half of new head coach Derek Cooley’s coaching staff will not be allowed to make recruiting phone calls during the 2011 recruitment season, and their 2011 spring recruiting says have been reduced from 168 to 162. Despite everything that the program will be going through, things are looking up.

Sophomore quarterback Tyler Bray stepped up at the end of his freshman season and was an instant success in Tennessee’s lackluster passing game. While there’s no one in the game now who could fill Peyton Manning’s shoes, Tyler Bray is a vast improvement over what Tennessee has endured since Manning’s departure and the fall of Coach Phillip Fulmer. Finishing his rookie season with a quarterback rating of 142.73 and a great performance against North Carolina in the Music City Bowl, Tyler Bray has a lot of momentum and backing from fans going into his sophomore year; he should prove to be one of the best players Tennessee has seen in a long time.

The real key to Tennessee’s success will be its offensive line. Though lackluster last season, they were young. In 2011, Tennessee will be going into the season without a single freshman starting on the offensive line, giving talented running back Tauren Poole and Bray a chance to shine.

The real question when it comes to Tennessee’s offense is their wide receivers. The Vols graduated three of their top wide receivers last season, leaving only Justin Hunter as a returning receiver. However, the Vols managed to pick up two top wide receiver recruits out of high school in DeAnthony Arnett and Da’Rick Rogers, and they could help the Vols keep up the pace on offence, or just drop the ball completely, you never know with freshmen. But that’s Volunteer football: completely unpredictable.

Monday, July 25, 2011

'On the same page'

In his first 18 months on campus, Tennessee head man Derek Dooley and his staff have made some significant strides:

- They've healed a team psyche that was alarmingly fragile after predecessor Lane Kiffin bolted for Southern Cal.

- They've unified a fractured fan base.

- They've upgraded a depleted roster.

- They've restored some stability to a program that endured two head coaching changes within 15 months.

So, what does Dooley consider the most significant accomplishment of his Tennessee staff's first 18 months on the job?

"I think the biggest thing was the continuity that we had when we turned the clock and ended the season," Dooley said. "We were able to really clean up how we’re doing things, where we’re headed and effectively communicate it to the players. That’s a hard thing to do when you have nine new coaches and inherit a new team as late as we did.

"I just feel like we’re all on the same page. There’s not a lot of misunderstanding of how things are going to be done and what we expect. I think that’s been healthy for the organization."

Games are won in the fall but championships are won in the offseason. Dooley is impressed with the enthusiasm and diligence his players are showing this summer.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Little but lethal

Veteran Vol fans surely remember Terence Cleveland, a pint-sized receiver from Sweetwater who averaged a whopping 17.1 yards per catch as a four-year letterman at Tennessee from 1986 through '89.

Now there's another diminutive wideout from the same area on the Big Orange radar. That would be Tre Herndon, a 5-10, 161-pounder from East Hamilton High of Chattanooga. Though only a rising sophomore, he showed advanced enough skills at Tennessee's June camp to earn the Most Improved Receiver Award.

His pride was obvious as he grasped the trophy.

"I feel good, excited," he said.

Herndon said he liked "everything" about the UT camp, adding: "I learned a lot. The coaches were great and everything else was good."

The young receiver seemed almost a little awed by Vol head coach Derek Dooley.

"I shook his hand," Herndon noted. "He's a nice guy. I like him."

Like most of the prospects who visit Tennessee's campus, Herndon was blown away by the sheer size of Neyland Stadium, along with the Haslam Practice Field, the Neyland-Thompson Indoor Football Complex, the spacious strength and conditioning area and the Gibbs Hall dormitory.

"The facilities are great," the young man said, nearly gushing. "The dorms are great. I liked the indoor and outdoor fields."

In addition to Tennessee, Herndon says he's interested in Florida State and Florida, adding: "I'm originally from Detroit, so I like Michigan, too."

Although he still has three high school seasons to play before signing a college scholarship, Herndon already knows the key attributes he's looking for in a football program.

"A good facility," he said, "with good coaches where I can learn."

So here is a prospect that we'll be a good addition tot the UT Vols !

Monday, July 18, 2011

Tauren Poole, Tyler Bray named to Walker, O’Brien watch lists

The Tennessee offense was totally passed over by conference coaches.

One day later, two of its leading playmakers earned some attention from folks around the country.

Both quarterback Tyler Bray and running back Tauren Poole were among the many Vols not to earn a spot on the preseason All-SEC teams as voted on by the coaches on Thursday, but Friday morning both were confirmed as potential candidates for much bigger awards.

Bray, on the heels of his breakout finish to his freshman season, was tabbed for the Davey O'Brien Award watch list, an honor that goes annually to the nation's top quarterback.

Poole was one of eight rushers from the SEC named to the list for the Doak Walker Award, surely part of the reason the senior missed out on a preseason slot on the coaches team given the crowded backfield in the league.

Both Bray and Poole had already earned spots on the list for the Maxwell Award, which goes to college football's most outstanding player.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Vol great speaks to support Bristol Youth Leadership

Tennessee Volunteers quarterback legend Condredge Holloway said Thursday that the university’s football program can withstand a current investigation into alleged recruiting violations and grow stronger from it.

“We’re not in the best of times right now, but we’ll be back,” Holloway said. “We’re going through a few changes that you have to [go through].”

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Prentiss Waggner named to Thorpe Award watch list

The preseason accolades continue to roll in for Tennessee cornerback Prentiss Waggner.

Waggner, the junior defensive back, was one of 37 players across the country named to the Thorpe Award watch list Monday. The Thorpe Award is given annually to the nation's top defensive back.

So far, Waggner has been named to four preseason watch lists. In the spring, he was placed on the Lott IMPACT Trophy watch list and, last week, received similar recognition from the Chuck Bednarik and Bronko Nagurski award committees.

Waggner, after moving from safety to cornerback, finished 2010 tied for third in the SEC and 15th in the nation with five interceptions. His three interception returns for a touchdown set a UT record. With Janzen Jackson set to return to the team at safety, Waggner, who played safety during the spring, could be back at cornerback in 2011.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Khalid Henderson commits to Tennessee

Tennessee picked up its third verbal commitment for the class of 2012 on Wedensday when 6-foot-1, 210-pund linebacker Khalid Henderson committed to the Vols.

Henderson, from Pebblebrook High School in Mableton, GA, led is a three-year starter and led his team in tackles this past season.

“Coach Dooley was a little surprised when I committed,” Henderson told the AJC, who considers him one of Atlanta’s best kept secrets. “It was like he didn’t want to put pressure of me to commit. He asked me ‘What other camps do you plan on attending this summer?’ I told him probably Clemson, Georgia Tech and some others; Then I said ‘Coach, you don’t have to worry about that because you’ve got a Volunteer with me.’ He was really excited to hear that, congratulated me, and welcomed me to the Tennessee family.”

According to ESPN, Henderson registered an electronically-timed 4.69 40 and a 31.6-inch vertical at the Atlanta Nike Combine after his sophomore year.

The talented prospect was very impressive at a recent Tennessee camp and Derek Dooley obviously took notice.

Henderson has a total of 13 offers and joins Imani Cross and Corey Smith as current Tennessee commits.

Getting to the Game

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