Good Day, My Friends,
Happy New Year to all of you. Things are “Popping” on the Hill and I thought it would be nice to look at what Butch is doing and the “Context” of the environment that he is working in.
The first point is the SEC. As a league the SEC has a lot of talent on both sides of the ball and at all levels on both sides of the ball. This talent has size, speed, and physical skills. The SEC is a line of scrimmage league. The SEC is both talented and physical at all levels on both sides of the ball. The NFL draft shows that each year. Compare the numbers of players taken from ALL SEC Teams with those in other conferences.
The Second point is the nature of the best SEC Teams. The best SEC Teams not only have talent, they have depth at all levels and their depth has experience. They have Senior/Junior dominated starting lineups with a lot of red-shirt players in the depth chart. All the teams play a physical game, their talent level and depth are the factors that set the top teams ahead of the others.
A side note: If the talent and depth are even, the factor that tips the scales between two teams is execution on both sides of the ball. An important part of execution is conditioning to enable a team to play at their optimum level for the entire game. Conditioning has three parts. These are all important. Those three parts are endurance, strength, and speed. A key part of success for these is maintaining Flexibility. If you lose flexibility while gaining strength you increase the potential for injury and a reduction in speed. If any of these are the primary or only focus of the training program the other two will suffer. The best SEC Conditioning Programs balance these components parts most successfully. I think that Butch is addressing this with his hire for the new Head for this program. This is one area where a good NFL Coach can make an immediate impact on a college team.
In Butch’s first years in Knoxville he was working hard to build and improve talent and each year worked to build depth. That is an on-going process.
At this point, Butch is looking at two things relative to the Vol Team. I want to point out that he does this every year as part of an on-going process. First, are the players the Vols are getting the fit needed to be competitive in the SEC? Secondly, are the players we are getting being developed to reach their potential to contribute to the success of the Vols on the field as players? While some players just grow and bloom, most need direction and coaching oversight to grow.
Looking at the current coaches, Butch should evaluate their contributions to getting talented kids (Can they recruit?) and at the same time their ability to develop the talents of the kids to contribute at the SEC level (Are the backups in the Coach’s area not only ready to play but challenging the starters for playing time?). This development has two factors. First, physical development to be able to go head to head with players in the SEC for an entire game. Second, skill development and means that they know what they are supposed to do on every play in terms of position, responsibilities, and priorities.
The second point shows up in depth on the team. Butch and the Vols have recruited talent at all positions. Based upon the level of talent on the team in every area, this past year demonstrated that there are problems with player development. This was especially evident on the defensive side of the ball.
The Vol Players are smart, their GPA’s show that. They have physical skills and athletic skills. The play of backups in games both this year and last year demonstrated that the backups
did not know how to play their positions. These are kids with two or more years in the system under the same coaches.
In my opinion, I think that this will be a major factor in Butch’s evaluation of current coaches because it has such a huge impact on the Vol’s potential for improvement in the future.
A lot of fans “want” this or that in “Scheme” on defense or offense. There are some nifty looking school out there that put up “Numbers” especially on Offense. Football history has shown that players win games and if the “Scheme” team has the most talent and can set up mismatches they win big. History has shown that when these teams play a team with equal or more talent that is fundamentally sound, these teams tend to get drilled. Miami vs. Houston, Stanford vs. Oregon, Bama vs…you name them.
The Vols play a Spread, but it is a “Physical Spread” that wants to be able to feature the run and power football. It uses “Finesse” but it is does not have the goal of being a “Finesse” offense that is throw – throw – throw. That is a formula for success in the SEC, see Bama and LSU at their best. I think that is what Butch wants in his hires on both sides of the ball. He does not want to change goals for offense or defense, he wants to improve game execution in fundamentals on both sides of the ball.
You do not have better execution without better player development. See Points #1 & # 2 Nature of the Best SEC Teams.
Happy New Year and Go Vols!