Good Morning, My Friends,
The past few days have been busy, and I have heard from several of you. Some Gloom and Doom, some ALL GLOOM, some Questions, and a lot of disappointment over the Gator game. You know from my notes that I shared the disappointment. Some “FANS” on radio shows stopped just short of calling for hanging players and coaches. They called for kicking kids off the team, sending them home, never letting them play again, and firing several coaches immediately. I noted none of those callers named who the “better kids” were that would replace them or who would then coach the team. I guess they figure you just stand outside the stadium and call, “NEXT!” or point at the bench and say, “YOU!”.
A couple of points about this team. First, I think the coaches are playing the best players they have available. Benching a player because of a mistake will not correct the mistake or make your team better when you put in a less talented and less prepared player. In the 1st QTR if Jeremy had done that you would have had the whole starting offense on the bench. Second, I think we have talented kids, but they are without the experience and maturity at this point to win in the SEC. They have not played together enough as a team to build the teamwork and coordination needed for consistent execution. In the “Good Ole Days” when you had a 120 man or more roster, some players would get in Johnny Majors dog house for a game error and never see the field again. But, it was clear that he did not do that with ALL players.
Of the two sides, the defense is ahead of the offense. There is a lot more experience there and they are more consistent. The defense always needs to rotate and play more kids then the offensive side of the ball.
Let’s look at the Vol starting OL and TE’s experience. I put the TE’s in this because Jeremy uses two TE’s and a TE as a Slot Back/FB for Blocking in almost every offensive set. That is 7 players, that have a total of 3 YEARS as starters in the SEC. Two JUCO’s have 2 years as starters in JUCO ranks. That is 5 years of starting experience with the starting 7 on the field. TE Wood-Anderson and Left tackle Drew Richmond are the only JR’s. The other 5 are Sophomores or Freshmen. Trey Smith (OT) and J. Johnson (OG) both sophomores have one year as starters. At the start of the year I expected this group to be much better, but the loss of Brandon Kennedy at Center really impacted the first line’s experience level and rotation especially on the interior of the OL.
Talent means that kids have the potential to excel with experience and maturity. Think about this and I know it is true, many of you were as smart and talented as your bosses in your career but you developed and learned from those bosses as they shared their learning and experience with you. How much of your success came from the lessons learned with the experience of working with those bosses and teachers? Their goal was to help you go to the next level of success.
This VOL OL is a talented group but not experienced nor mature as individuals or as a group. I guess the best way to sum it up is that they do not consistently dance well together and will step on each other’s foot as the game goes on. Butch recruited good kids and more than a few with SEC talent. But he and his staff did not develop players and create depth by working with and developing the kids that were not starting, in fact it appears that even the kids that were starting did not improve year to year. in the “Good Ole Days” when a Senior OL graduated he would be replaced with a two normally a three-year letterman or a Very Talented RS Soph. Butch best OL was the one he took over from Dooley. All of them were multiple year starters and 4th or 5th year players. Think about that. The recruited talent did not show up on the playing field in many positions.
The Bright Side of all of this, Football is like Chess. You get better by playing folks that are better then you, The Dark Side of that is like in Chess you are going to get whipped a bunch badly to get that experience. I had one friend I played that in four years I NEVER beat him. My game improved, and I could finally beat my dad easily. The next three weeks the Vols play three teams in the National Top 10. Two are in the SEC West. There are two road games. My hope and expectation are that this team will be competitive and learn and improve in these games. I hope that following that three game stretch they will be able to play with the remaining SEC East Teams. SC, KY, and Vandy are all better than they were last year. Barring injuries I had expected the Vols to beat the Gators and push in the other SEC East games. Barring injuries I still hope for a good November run and hopefully a Bowl Game. I am a glass half full guy and an optimist by nature. That comes from farming and gardening, you always expect stuff to come up and bear fruit.
The Dawgs are a good team. Favored by over 30 points and we are at Athens. Kirby Smart dies not believe in “Taking Prisoners” if the Dawgs can score 100 points they will. If the game gets out of hand I still expect the starters to play most of the game, but I expect to see backups thrust into the fire as well in a tough road game.
That’s my two cents worth of opinion.
Time to go. Go Vols! Beat those Dawgs!!