Good Morning All,
The weekend wore me out. I was drained after the game and it was a long drive home. I took Sunday and this morning to reflect on the Vols and where we are at this point in the season and why we are there. Like all Fans I was convinced that the Vols would be better this year and in the pre-season that things looked good on the schedule. The experts said 7-5 was realistic. After the Bowling Green game fans were saying 11-1 and I was seeing 10-1 with an outside shot at the playoffs. NOTE: I was ignoring my own analysis.
Oklahoma, now the #10 Team in the Polls and with the top defense in the Big 12 and a returning All American DB and DL/LB. Tough loss. No one else has made them work. We lost points and yards on penalties. Defensive penalties really hurt.
Florida, a Top 5 defense at their place with a returning First Team All SEC/USA DB and Redshirt Freshman QB who was the National High School Player of the Year. We should note that the Vols played the Gators better than the #3 Rebels on both defense and offense. Really tough loss, again points and yards lost on penalties.
Arkansas, a tough team, very physical, lost a bunch of WR’s and one really good RB to the NFL. They were picked to challenge for the SEC West Title. Had not won a game but had been strong on offense in three tough losses. Offensive line was HUGE and lots of experience. Really, really tough loss with penalties stopping the Vol drives. Loss of the Punt Return TD was huge.
Overall I think that the team has improved on offense and defense, Special Teams are tremendously better. We are one of the least penalized teams in the SEC. Granted when we have one it is really bad. Our running game is better than last year. We do not fumble but the few hurt. Josh does not throw a lot of INT’s but when he does it hurts.
Why has the team lost? Penalties for “Blocks in the back” have called back two Punt return TD’s. Two long passes into End Zone or within the 5 yard line have been called back because of “Offensive Lineman Down Field”. Missed FG’s. Inconsistent Passing Game due to WR’s dropping passes and/or poor passes by the QB. Missed tackles. Not enough pass breakups or interceptions by the defense.
Injuries that created problems that led to the losses. On Offense: Left OG Marcus lost for the year, North and Pig fighting injuries (again). On Defense: Loss of Gaulden at Nickle/DB, Martin’s early injury at DB, Curt Maggitt LB/DE. With Curt and Barnett at DE, QB’s were put under much more pressure leading to more pressures and sacks. With Curt out QB’s have regularly rolled out away from Barnett and really hurt us on runs and for passes. RB’s do the same thing. Our defense has become too one sided.
When your worst lost is by 4 points, the reality is that any good play on 3rd down for us or to stop the other team can win a game. Our 3rd down defense has been good but it has been terrible on 4th down.
We have talented young players who are being thrown into playing a lot more snaps this year than the coaches would have wished for them to be playing. They are gaining some real lumps but also valuable experience. In the game reviews they are seeing the plays they could have/should have made in our losses. Unlike some of our past coaches Butch does not throw players under the bus in press conferences or on Big Orange Sunday, but he and his coaches do not mince words in the meeting rooms on play analysis.
One thing that I worry about is that if you harp enough about making “any mistakes” players may not make any plays by “playing safe” especially on defense.
The next two games with the Dawgs and the Tide were the two games that I had pegged as the VOL’s toughest for the year. It still looks that way. I do not know if the Vols will be favored in another SEC game this year, I do know that I am not throwing in the towel. Vol Fans need to stick by the team and the coaches as we go through the year.
The General did not believe in quitting nor do I.
GO VOLS! Beat Georgia!!