A Few More Tennessee Thoughts

The Nick Saban years have brought quite a few memories for the ages.  Of course, there’s three national titles and the two SEC championships.  There’s the last-minute comeback at LSU.  And there’s the 49-0 beat down of Auburn in last year’s Iron Bowl.  These are all memories to cherish for a lifetime.

Yesterday’s 45-10 win over Tennessee falls into that realm as well.  There’s something to be said for come-from-behind, last second wins over rivals, but those are only cool if your rival is your equal, or if you aren’t quite to the level of your rival.  When you’re head and shoulders above your rivals, you expect to hammer them and that’s just what happened yesterday.

Specifically, there were two words that came to mind throughout the game: “candy” and “baby.”  A friend also recommended this word: “bludgeoning.”  I’m sure we could think of a few more, as well.  The point is, this game was never in doubt and the final score could have been a lot worse.

Here are a few more random thoughts:

* AJ McCarron usually had all day in the pocket.  There were a couple of times he had to move out of the pocket, but I don’t believe a Volunteer laid a hand on him all game.

* Ryan Kelly stepped back into the starting role at center.  Most Tide fans swore the offensive line play picked up a notch when Chad Lindsey replaced the injured Kelly earlier this year, so it was interesting that Kelly took back his job and played most of the game.  The ‘Bama coaches obviously see something in Kelly that most Tide fans don’t.

* I thought for sure Amari Cooper had suffered a serious knee injury.  Based on the replay, I was very surprised to see him bounce back.

* Landon Collins is already one of my favorites.  He’s been a special teams nightmare for opponents and regularly hammers folks, but his play yesterday – especially his pick six – moved him into a different level among Tide faithful.  The commentators are rightfully saying that he and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix are the best tackling safety duo in the country.  Clinton-Dix will probably be an All-American this year and Collins one next year.

* Give Matt Millen props.  I do believe Kenyan Drake is our best back at this point, though he’s got to keep working on ball security.

* I believe kick and punt returners are born, not made, and Christion Jones was born a returner.  He’s got three things working in his favor here: he can catch the ball, he has speed and moves and he’s extremely confident in his ability.  Javier Arenas was a better all-around return man, but Jones isn’t far behind.

* The pass interference call on Cooper was bogus and seemed like an act of mercy by the official toward UT.  (Good thing that official wasn’t working the 2005 UT game where D.J. Hall made the spectacular catch to set up the winning field goal.)

* I’m surprised that Kevin Norwood’s fumble wasn’t ruled a fumble.  His momentum was clearly stopped, but it would’ve helped if a whistle had blown.

* Trying to get Dee Hart a score probably cost us another touchdown.  I’m not trying to be greedy and I’d like to see Hart score as well, but I believe that’s what happened.

Anyway, it was a great win and a memory I hope to cherish for a long time.

Roll Tide!





Landon Collins is the Boss

If you’ve watched much Alabama football this year, you can’t help but notice #26.

At first, he showed up making almost every tackle on special teams (or so it seemed).  Against Tennessee, he showed up in place of Vinnie Sunseri…

Here Come the Vols

There’s nothing that intensifies the highs and lows of fandom like a rivalry game.  At least that’s certainly been the case for me as I’ve experienced the Alabama – Tennessee football rivalry over my lifetime.

I stepped into the Tennessee rivalry at a great time – during the 1970s.  The years of my youth were spent dominating the Vols (and many other teams).  My teenage years brought some heartache.  As ‘Bama came back to earth, the Vols (and several others) earned a little payback.  My early adulthood saw the Tide not lose to Tennessee from 1986 until 1996.  And unfortunately, I was there to see Manning and company destroy us.  (However, don’t tell coach Saban, but I did leave before getting a chance to see Peyton direct the band.)

That win by the Vols ushered in a long dark period in this rivalry.  UT went on to win nine of the next 10 and 10 of the next 12 against ‘Bama.  (I threw up a little bit just thinking about that again.)  Folks, that’s hard to endure.  There’s no way to understate this.

And then, just like that, Nick Saban arrives and ‘Bama has reeled off six straight.  The average score in these wins?  34-11.  Under Saban, the Tide has surged and, except for the 2009 game, rear ends have been stomped.  Just the way we like it.

Which leads us up to this game.  The Vols travel to Tuscaloosa this weekend as four touchdown underdogs.  They are a 4-3 team that is statistically near the bottom of the conference in both total offense and total defense.  On paper, this shouldn’t be a contest.  But, they are also a team that is showing some signs of life.  In week three, they traveled to Oregon and were humiliated, 59-14.  A week later, they were beaten by a Florida team we now know is not so good.  A week after that, they barely held off South Alabama.

But then, something changed.  They beat up Georgia before eventually losing in overtime.  After a week off, they came out and found a way to beat a decent South Carolina team.  So, they have some momentum as they roll into town.

Again, on paper, this isn’t a game.

‘Bama is more talented, better coached and is playing at home.  So what happens in this one?  Alabama will win by a score that looks pretty good in the end, but it’ll be a much closer game than the last several.  Here’s what I’m looking for in this one:

* If both teams play their best games, Alabama wins going away.  Turnovers are one thing that changes that, so we don’t need ’em.  AJ McCarron hasn’t historically slung the ball around throwing care to the wind and I don’t expect that here.  T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake need to hang onto the ball.

* The defensive front seven needs a good game.  UT’s offensive line is experienced and is pretty good.  Their backfield alone won’t blow anyone away, but with their big uglies, they can for sure run the ball.  And with enough time, their quarterback Justin Worley can make a play or two.  There’s a rumor or two that a Tide defensive lineman is suspended, so this becomes an even more interesting match up.

* Amari Cooper, we’re looking at you.  The last two games have seen Cooper more involved and looking like his old self.  He’s a playmaker and when he’s healthy, he stretches the field and forces defensive double teams.  When he’s on, the offense is more effective and explosive and we need him to be on.

* I would expect the Tide offense to be very aggressive to start this game.  The Vols have played with a lot of emotion the last couple of weeks and they’ve hung with teams and made it interesting in the fourth quarter.  I would not expect Saban and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier to fall into that trap.  Look for ‘Bama to get up early and try to run away from the Vols.

Enjoy the game and Roll Tide!

Maybe Peyton Can Help Out

We know he has some experience:

The University of Tennessee has relieved the director of bands of his duties and put him on paid administrative leave for the rest of the fall semester following the band’s complaints regarding reduced travel and budget cuts.

The university announced Monday that Gary Sousa had been relieved as director of the Pride of the Southland Band due to insubordination, a misrepresentation of facts and a lack of confidence in his ability ”to work constructively and collaboratively with others going forward.” The move is pending a full review.
That makes me sick even thinking about it.

Well, Well, Well – Look Who Took Some Money

Former Tennessee running back Arian Foster has this to say:

“I don’t know if this will throw us into an NCAA investigation — my senior year, I was getting money on the side,” said Foster. “I really didn’t have any money. I had to either pay the rent or buy some food. I remember the feeling of like, ‘Man, be careful.’ But there’s nothing wrong with it. And you’re not going to convince me that there is something wrong with it.

Well, I guess he has a lot more to say, but you can click the link for that.

I don’t doubt there are a lot of really poor kids that attend school on athletic scholarships.  I have no doubts that many of these kids have zero discretionary money to use.  It would be plain stupid to say otherwise.

But I do not buy the “either pay rent or buy some food argument.”  Something is missing whenever we hear that.  You can bet on it.

Athletes that receive major college football scholarships don’t usually go hungry.  And they aren’t usually homeless.  Schools may break up or allocate their scholarship benefits differently, but they aren’t expecting their athletes to scratch up their own meal money or rent.  That just doesn’t happen.

Let me put it another way that maybe will make sense.  When Foster showed up in Knoxville to enroll, I’m guessing somebody explained “here’s how you eat” and “you can live in certain places and here’s how that’s paid for.”  I’m guessing that Foster was probably given access to meals or money for rent and it was spent on other things.  Not that he didn’t need those other things, but when you spend it, it’s gone.

Later in the article, he also mentions this:

“I said, ‘Coach, we don’t have no food. We don’t have no money. We’re hungry. Either you give us some food, or I’m gonna go do something stupid.’ He came down and he brought like 50 tacos for like four or five of us. Which is an NCAA violation. [laughs] But then, the next day I walk up to the facility and I see my coach pull up in a brand new Lexus. Beautiful.”

Coach is working 80 or 90 hours, never sees his family and is driving a comped Lexus and I’ve spent my meal money so I’ll get him to babysit me and come on over and commit an NCAA violation.  Got it.

The system is broken, but I’m sorry, it’s hard for me to muster any sympathy here.

I could be totally wrong.  Maybe Foster actually was expected to pay for his apartment and pay for his food on his own.  But I just can’t see how.



Tennessee’s Payment Plan

Derek Dooley is supposedly on the “hot seat” at Tennessee and many folks want to know the magic number of wins the Vols have to have for Dooley to keep his job.

I would argue his job is a little safer than most think:

Weaved among a litany of roots that shrunk the University of Tennessee athletic department’s financial reserve to below $2 million following the 2011-12 fiscal year was, “Changes in leadership,” according to a UT financial update released on Aug. 27.

With change comes residual effects.

“During the past four years, the athletics department has experienced a significant expense related to payments to former coaches in the sports of football, baseball and men’s basketball as well as former directors of athletics,” the release said.

According to the article, once a coach has been shown the door, the full amount of the related buyout is placed into an escrow account where monthly payments are made to this dismissed coach:

For instance, after inking a separation agreement with Fulmer effective Nov. 30, 2008, the coach’s full 48-month payout worth $6 million was placed in an escrow account, put on the books for the 2008-09 financial year, and ultimately paid out in $125,000 monthly installments.

The same applied for Pearl’s buyout of $948,728 paid out over 15 months following his March 2011 termination. As well as former baseball coach Todd Raleigh, who replaced Delmonico in 2007, and received a $331,657.531 buyout over 13 months after being fired in May 2011.

Even former athletics director Mike Hamilton got in on the action:

After his resignation in June 2011, and ultimately replaced by Hart, Hamilton, the former athletic director, signed a separation agreement for $1,335,000 to be paid out over 36 months.

He’s been receiving just over $37,000 per month since and will continue to do so until July 2014.

In case you are counting, that’s one football coach, one basketball coach, two baseball coaches and an athletic director that have been skeedaddled since 2007.  Seeing how UT’s overall athletic department financial reserve is now below $2 million, I think Dooley has a little more slack than most fans would think.

Norcalvol’s UT Prediction

Norcalvol does good work and you can see some more of it here in his preview of the 2012 Vols.

He thinks the Vols go 8-4:

A paper study leads me to 7 wins this season. But, from the recruiting results, to the new coaches, to the new defensive philosophy, to the thoughts of a healthy Tyler Bray and Justin Hunter for an entire season, and to the general vibe of confidence and togetherness coming out of pre-season camp, I feel reasonably optimistic for an additional win.

And the dismissal of Da’Rick Rogers doesn’t change that tally one way or the other.

I’m not quite that optimistic:

6) Tennessee Volunteers [4-8 (1-7)] – The recent Da’Rick Rogers news backed me off the Tennessee bandwagon a bit. Tyler Bray and JustinHunter (if he’s healthy) will be tough, but it’s just not enough. The offensive line will be improved, but the running game won’t necessarily be.  The losses will get started next week against N.C. State in Atlanta and will be frequent after that. I think Derek Dooley needs a 7-5 record to save his hide, but I don’t think that will happen. You can thank Da’Rick for that.