Good Day, My Friends,
It has been a while and a lot has happened in the past month, since we do not gather for lunch weekly, I decided to round up some thoughts from the past few weeks on several subjects.
Signing Day is over and from all appearances the Vols are going full bore into next year. I like this class for several reasons. First and foremost, we have numbers by position where we need them for next year and for the future especially in the DL. Second, we have a lot of kids from really good teams with really good HS Coaches. I think that history shows that this pays in terms of quality play especially down the road. Third, I think that there is athletic talent in the class with both size and speed (especially speed) at all positions. It also helps that these kids appear to have some brains in the classroom. Fourth, these kids appear to be “TEAM ORIENTED” and not “ME FIRST/ MY NUMBERS FIRST!”. Most of these kids will redshirt, but there is enough talent there for some of them to challenge for playing time next year in select spots. Many Fans lament the lack of “STARS”, but we need to remember the number of “3 Star” players that have made all SEC Freshman classes under Butch and Fulmer. Don’t Boo a kid that you have not seen play.
On the Team Oriented, I think that this staff really looks at character as well as skill. A lot of Talking Heads and Fans bash Butch because things he says. We need to remember that the same folks bash a coach for “Coach Speak” not saying anything. We say that we like “Tennessee Kids” because they bleed Tennessee. Aren’t we saying that they give their Heart to the Vols? Butch defends his kids and says why they are special to him when folks with microphones question their recruitment. When you look at the Super Bowl, you see a few former “5 Stars” but there are far more players on the field that were not as highly touted coming out of High School or even in the draft.
On the Coaching Front for the Vols there have been changes. On the new coaches, several things stand out. First, they are all successful recruiters, in fact “Outstanding Recruiters” appears to be the term most used to describe them. One additional point on the recruiting front. All the new coaches have exceptional contacts in the separate areas that the Vols recruit heavily – Mid-TN, GA, and FL. Second, they are all exceptional on the field position coaches who are known for developing their players individually and as a unit. They come from very diverse backgrounds but their passion for Football and their past successes are things they have in common. They have multiyear contracts and none of them are out of work job hoppers who would take a one year job at UT because that is their only option. In other words, these coaches do not think that this is Butch’s last year in Knoxville.
It amazes me that some “Long Time” and “Purported Insider Vols” connected with the UT Athletic Program in Knoxville have been verbally rooting for Butch to fail since he has arrived in Knoxville. To them wins are discounted and losses are “unacceptable” and “I told you so!”. I know he rubs those folks and a lot of the “Talking Heads” the wrong way, but it does not bother me and I confess I enjoy that more often than not.
On to basketball and the drama that is around both the Lady Vols and the Vols. The two teams are alike and unalike. The Lady Vols have “Star Power” but lack depth due to losses from injuries. The women have most of their talent in the upper classes. The men have a “5 Star” in Hubbs and an assortment of “No Names”. The men’s roster is mostly Freshmen and Sophomores. Both teams when they are good are really good. In those games, they run their offenses effectively and score a bunch. At the same time in those games their defenses really mistreat the other teams, forcing them into bad shots and frequent turnovers. They are at their best against good teams ranked ahead of them. They play their worst against “the easy teams”. Both teams can and do drive their coaches crazy. When they lose they both share common problems. They give up large leads. They miss huge numbers of free throws. They turn the ball over for uncontested scores that cut their lead. Giving up the large leads is driven by the other two factors. I have no idea why players on a team that normally shoot 70% to 80% from the line go under 50% for an entire game. Missing the front end of every one on one is a non-scoring turnover for the other team’s benefit. When these teams both pass the basketball, and run their offenses, they get inside scoring from the inside players and from drives from the guards. They get open outside shots and offensive rebounding. When the guards start dribbling the ball out front instead of looking to pass, the other team gets turnovers and easy baskets. When you are passing the ball around all the defensive players must be active and moving. When you dribble, the defense can be reactive and use less energy. When the ball is dribbled, the other offensive players motion and movement is restricted. Our three point shots are contested and we do not get offensive rebounds. The answers are maturity, discipline, and a bit more inside depth for the men. For the women, they need more depth with talent at point guard. They also need to be more consistent in their offensive execution. They have too many unforced turnovers because they are trying to make big plays especially on offense. DeShields needs to control her turnovers in this area.
Both teams have the potential to be successful in the post season and next year. They will be fun to watch and frustrating to watch the rest of this year.
Track is on the upswing and has had good success so far, this year. They need depth and a few more multi-event point participants on the team. Lots of young talent on both the men’s and women’s sides.
I have big hopes for baseball this Spring, Coach has his hands full in the best baseball conference in the nation. My hopes are driven by good additions to the staff, a good recruiting class, and the return of several outstanding players from last year’s injuries.
There are my “2 Cents Worth” for the day and we are on to Spring Practice.