Good Day All,
In the words of John Ward, “It’s Football Time in Tennessee!!”. I am ready to watch the Vols in a game and not in practice highlights. If you enjoy the game, you do not mind practice and even enjoy it at times, but you live for the love of the games. Here are my pregame observations to start this year.
I do not envy the Vol Coaches in their efforts and their dilemma for the past 8 months. The past couple of years literally everyone played, everyone travelled. Happy faces everywhere. The kids have worked their Fannies off the past year and lots of progress has been made in all areas of game preparation. The dilemma they faced? There are a lot of very talented new kids on the team and there are also a lot of older players with more experience and knowledge of the team’s systems but maybe less talented. Now the numbers are large enough that not everyone can play and travel. When the two groups are compared there are some things that stand out. QB… looks like it is clear who goes in and what order. RB… the position needs numbers and the rotation offers options to keep everyone involved. WR… ditto. Numbers will play regularly and the few injuries opened the door for everyone. TE… that area is short staffed and all the kids will see the field, maybe more then they wish at times. DB’s… numbers are there and injuries hold the door open for numbers to play. We have depth but it is not so deep that guys will ride the sidelines all the time. Except for injuries numbers could have been a problem because there are a number of very talented young players that had problems with missing assignments. These kids were playing behind less talented (read that as “slower”??) players that made fewer mistakes. Slower DB’s give up yards on completions, but missed assignments give up long TD’s and neither Coaches nor Fans are happy. The Fans most often do not know who missed the assignment because that player is usually nowhere near the Goal Line when the TD is scored, they are still back at the line of scrimmage.
DL… there are numbers and they are needed. It seems to me that the players know the need for depth for rotation purposes and the benefit of regular substitutions. I do not envy the Bowling Green OL playing against our improved starting DL fresh off a dominating Bowl Game win; because, when the second unit comes in they may be younger but their talent, strength, and size will make things hard on a tired OL.
There are two areas that there are potential problems the LB and OL stand out to me. Both areas are physical and mentally demanding, and with kids playing those positions that love the contact of the game. On the team there are a lot of LB’s and even more OL players. The Coaches did their job in recruiting. They recruited both numbers and improved talent. At the same time the kids that have been on campus for 3, 4, or 5 years have done all within their power to improve each year and be ready for “their turn” as a starter. They know that they know how to play the game of Football in the SEC. Neither position group does the type of rotation substitution that you see on the WR/ DB/ DL groups.
Both groups are critical to the success of the team for the same reasons. Both require sudden decisive action as a group and a correct response as a group to the other team’s actions. If one player in the group makes the wrong response the group can fail as a unit on that play. The Coaches want talent but they demand execution. It appears that this game is just what the team needs to get into the final preparations for the SEC season. Game film against a good team and not pounding each other will shake a lot of the questions out. This is a real game, not practice against “AIR”. This will benefit the OL more than the LB’s in my opinion.
My opinion on the game site, I think that the Vols need to play in Nashville and Memphis on a rotating basis every year if at all possible. We are “Tennessee’s Team!” Let the families and fans in all areas on the state have a chance to attend a “Home Game” fairly regularly. Come to think of it, I would consider Atlanta as a third site given the number of Vol Fan and graduates that live there. It is clear that Butch feels this is a real benefit in recruiting as well. The Vols could field a team from the talent in those three areas each year. A huge number of Mid-State kids will be at this game. I have noticed a falloff in recruiting Memphis kids since the Vols have been not been playing there regularly. Pat used to schedule games in her recruiting areas to allow her kids to play a game near their families. I know the Mid-Tennessee kids are fired up for this game. On a related note that is the final nail in this case is that I know that the Memphis Tigers Coaches and Fans do not want the Vols playing in “THEIR” Town…for me that is reason enough to play there.
Time to go!!