Strange: Vols don't need to see how good Vandy's defense is

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While watching tape over the course of the season, Phillip Fulmer can't help but also see some of his opponents' opponents. He's noticed something about Vanderbilt.

"They're a good defensive football team,'' Fulmer said Sunday night.

That's hardly a scoop. For a more detailed report on the next team in Tennessee's path to the SEC East title, here's Steve Spurrier:

"They've got good athletes, they play very hard and they're very aggressive. They know their assignments and don't make hardly any errors in their coverages.

"They stymied us pretty good.''

That's an understatement. In a 17-6 stymie of Spurrier's Gamecocks on Oct. 20 in Columbia, the Commodores notched seven sacks, three interceptions and recovered a fumble.

Florida wasn't especially stymied. The Gators were at full-Tebow speed when they waxed Vandy 49-22 a couple of weeks ago. And yet coach Urban Meyer had this to say about the Commodores' defense:

"Their personnel has been upgraded. It's a much different defensive team than it was two years ago.''

And lest we forget, two years ago it was good enough to win 28-24 in Neyland Stadium.

Yeah, Jay Cutler and Earl Bennett get most of the glory for that one. But check the play-by-play and you'll find Vandy's defense forced two three-and-out Tennessee possessions in the final four minutes to give Cutler a chance at the game-winning drive.

Meanwhile, back in 2007...

"They beat South Carolina and they should have beaten Georgia,'' said Meyer. "This is a very talented team. They have NFL prospects on the defensive side of the ball.''

The Commodores have held eight of 10 opponents below their season average in total offense. Five of the eight came up at least 89 yards short, among them Kentucky, who was fortunate to get out of Nashville with a 27-20 win on Saturday.

More data: Vanderbilt ranks no worse than 35th nationally in the major defensive categories - run, pass, total, scoring. The 'Dores' 27 sacks are second in the SEC, their 15 interceptions tied for third.

"This late in the year, stats do mean something,'' Fulmer said.

One possible meaning is that Erik Ainge and friends aren't going to have an easy time moving the ball or scoring points.

Coach Bobby Johnson is in his sixth season at Vanderbilt. He's known primarily for bringing an option-oriented offense to the SEC's perpetual underdog. But it's time to give him props for a defensive vision as well.

"We've probably increased our speed on defense,'' Johnson said. "That's been the major thing. Speed is the key thing in the SEC.''

Vandy has moved safeties to linebacker, linebackers to defensive end, ends to tackle. It's nothing new under the sun. UT has been doing it for years.

"That's given us the opportunity to match up with some other teams' offense,'' said Johnson. "That's one reason we've got some sacks. We've got some fast ends and fairly fast interior linemen.''

So while you're keeping an eye peeled on Bennett, the showcase receiver, or a couple of local tailbacks, Cassen Jackson-Garrison (Central High) and Jeff Jennings (Jefferson County), check out some guys on the other side of the ball. Guys like Jonathan Goff, Marcus Buggs, D.J. Moore and Broderick Stewart.

Goff, the middle linebacker, is one of the NFL prospects Meyer was talking about. Buggs is a safety moved to linebacker.

Moore, a sophomore corner, has five interceptions. Stewart, an end, has five sacks, seven tackles-for-loss and five quarterback hurries.

The Commodores have improved in most every defensive category since last year. The trend could continue since six of Vandy's top 10 tacklers are sophomores.

"Their personnel, they're in the middle of the pack or the upper half of the SEC,'' said Meyer, "especially at certain positions.''

Tennessee's position is trying to nail down an Eastern Division title. Vanderbilt is the next-to-last step.

It'd be a heckuva note to get stymied now.

Mike Strange may be reached at 865-342-6276 or

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Comments » 73

IceVol writes:

As long as we stay on our toes we should be OK, but it will not be like the days of old, this will be a good football game.

pdhuff#552644 writes:

Fear the Phil, Dores, he'll have them ready! Go Vols!

pete.broockman#629092 writes:

we had better be running on all 8 cylinders for this one. They are playing for respect and bowl eligibility, they will be playing to win with nothing to loose. We had betterplay as well as we did against Ark and not go in thinking we have this one in the bag like we have done so many times before. I remember planty of Vandy games where we just pulled it out in the end.

eb502us#225637 writes:

Vandy will be tough regardless. However, having "Mr. Non-Adjustment" (Cutcliffe) as our OC makes this game that much tougher, especially after halftime.

OldNumber7 writes:

Volster, there's a lot of football left. This team is in great position - but not because we roared to the top - some pretty embarrasing football along the way. Coach Chavis did an excellent job this week - let's hope it continues. But considering the years and years of inconsistent play - I wouldn't bet a dime on it.

jeffreymbrumley writes:

hopefully the same guys that showed up against Georgia and Arkansas will be on the field against Vandy (and Kentucky). Either way they should be exciting, fun ballgames to watch.

phi0129 writes:

For real Kingsport. When did 7-3 losing to your two rivals by over 60 points combined become something to write home about? Excuse us volster for not accepting mediocrity and challenging the toughness and direction of this program. Mayo thanked us in the post-game interview, why can't you? The point is the lack of consistency is mind-numbingly pitiful. What TN team will show up the next couple of weeks?
My prediction before the game Saturday was that TN would win and look good in the process. Not because I thought they had become a great team, but because TN football has turned into a team of constant ups and downs. I figured we would win and look impressive now just so we could have a huge let down further along in the season that would devastate the fans even more. For that reason, I expect to lose one of the next two games. I sure hope that doesn't happen, but it matches the only theme I have seen with TN football in the past 5 years.

tenndave writes:

You did say something that is true. 7-3 is something to be proud of, especially in the SEC this year. You lose all crediability thinking we should not be proud of 7-3 and in first place. Ask GA, Fla, and all others except LSU how they feel. I guess they are embarrassed and want to fire thier coach. Yes we lost big but we have also won big with what amounts to a freshmen secondary. We may lose the next two and be 7-5 but as VOLS WE WILL BE PROUD. If you are not, don't pretend to be a VOL, own up to it and admit you root for another school. Regardless how we finish, I AM A VOL AND PROUD OF IT!!!!!

vol4jesus writes:

___CR is off meds again! You know in your prior poster life you were challenging. Now you are challenged. Upbeat is not in your file either. Go Vols beat the dores!!! Stay the curse you would say! We say same song ,same verse. GO VOLS!!!

orangebass writes:

9-3 will be an acomplishment for this team but make no mistake they have been blown out by some very average teams. and were it not for some help from auburn and improvement by georgia the vols woul already be heading for atlanta or nashville (or worse). i am not a verbal 'coaching staff basher' put the program has not improved in the past five years, winning a championship THIS year is critical for the program as well as the current coaching staff.

vol4jesus writes:

Kingsport-vol is off his meds too. You know I'm not so sure Georgia is semi-good. Beat Florida in Jax and beat Auburn handily past weekend. So Semi-good is shaky in evaluation. Of course that would help you make your point. Oh btw poor Miss.St beat bamar this past weekend too. I know you can't be persuaded to be happy for VOLS because that would be'humbling". Against character that has been displayed throughout postings. GO VOLS!!!

vol_in_lsu_land writes:

7-3, with a (realistic) chance to go 9-5, 10-4, or even (heaven forbid) 11-3, and that isn't something to be proud of?

Losing to quality Florida, Alabama, and Cal in such a competitive season, but beating a solid Arkansas (with Heisman hopefull RB), Georgia (#9 currently), Steve Spurrier coached USC, respectable Miss State, etc....Hmmm, this isn't a good season?

Good lord, you guys are looking more and more foolish and unrealistic each and every day. This season ALREADY is (at least as good as) last year's turnaround year. We have a legitimate shot at actually winning the division and going to Atlanta. Beating LSU and having a championship (and a 10-3 record at that point) is NOT unfathomable. What will you high-standard setters be saying if we go to a BCS game, huh?

Here's a little suggestion. If you guys REALLY want to look like geniuses, why not wait till after Atlanta to rub it in? If you are SO CERTAIN that this team (and Fulmer) are doomed to failure, then surely you can hold your criticism until we have actually blown it (if we do). Until then you just look foolish.

But you know, I know I exzactly why the negative comments aren't being held back. It's because you already realize that Fulmer isn't going anywhere this year. You have failed to create enough negativity to bring him and the team down so you stew in your own juices. Well, you may be correct and we may finish "mediocre"...but we may not. Why is it so hard to just lay down your negativity and pull for the team you are "supposedly" fans of?

threehundredbowler writes:

Awe shucks guys,please lay off poor old volcr.He didn't get his nap at the game saturday.Too many people hogging up seat space and too much crowd noise.YAWN.

firetst#220411 writes:

GO VOLS!! What a surprise team showed up on Saturday against the Hawgs. Here in South Florida they are calling the VOLS "The YoYo VOLS" because of their inconsistent performance on both offense and defense. Let's hope the VOLS can maintain their momentum and make it to the Sugar Bowl after waxing LSU!!

rbhobbs73#226545 writes:

I am so tired of this true Vol Fan phooey.

Look I am ALWAYS proud to be a Vol. I always will be.

However, there are times that I complain about the state of the football program on the hill. There are times that I think the coaches are doing a terrible job (most of the last 5 years), and there are times I think that the coaches do a fantastic job (Arkansas and Georgia this year, 2004 with the Freshmen, etc...).

The maddening aspect is the inconsistency. We look like we could beat the Patriots one day and lose to Maryville High the next.

I have been a Vol fan all my life, I graduated from UT and will always be a Vol fan, even if we (God forbid) have 10 losing seasons in a everyone talking about TRUE VOL FANS needs to shut up. We are all VOL fans on here and some are just more vocal for change than others.

The next 3 or 4 games will tell us the direction that the program is moving in. I have voiced my concerns this season, but am hopeful that I will see more coaching, effort and execution like I saw Saturday and that we will win an SEC title and set ourselves up for next year. If we fall on our face, then it is probably time for a change.


phi0129 writes:

rb....My sentiments exactly. I try to explain that but people just don't listen. Alot of the Fulmer supporters are narrow minded people. Which makes sense if you think about it...

rickhillal#577233 writes:

If our critical comments incite enough rage in the players to win games, then will the fans with the "rose-colored glasses" thank us for the SEC championship? All supporters of UT athletics should be able to find whatever comments, suggestions, encouragements, or negative feedback it takes to get young men aged 18-22 to play as a winning team on the field.

fatmike265 writes:

Vandy, don't laugh, don't blink, and sure don't bet against them this year. They have been waiting for this one all year the others wear just the tune-up to get to us lulled into a calm before we go at it and to get them to a bowl game. They will come at us like no other and they won’t give up or lie down this year if we get ahead. Ainge better get his running shoes on and our defensive backs had better stay alert. Fulmer will have them up but I hope the players will be there for him. No more excuses Fulmer has had them ready and the football players have not been there for him. They had better get their heads on right for these two last games.

The_View_From_Memphis writes:

Vandy has already beaten SC at SC, and Kentucky gave LSU the only blemish on their record. Vols fans this shouldn't surprise you, but theses aren't your granddaddy's(or even daddy's)'Dores and 'Cats. Vandy and Kent. are both GOOD!! Stop all of this talk about Atlanta. There are two games remaining against two opponents who would rather beat UT than spend the holidays in Shreveport and/or Memphis. It aint over!!!!

DennisVols writes:

Two games do not make a season. What do the stats really tell us? "This late in the year, stats do mean something,'' Fulmer said.
On one hand we have those who still dwell on loses to UF and Bama as the greatest signs that this program is heading the wrong direction and is doomed. Those stats confirm that.
On the other hand we have those who look only at the GA or Arkansas games as signs that UT is still the team to beat in the SEC. Those stats would confirm that. GA and Arkansas have 2 of the best rushing offenses in the conference yet averaged just 94.5 against UT, their passing offense averaged just 168 yards. Both of those would place UT in the top 2 in the conference.
On one hand the stats from the first 2 show UT in dead last on defense in all categories, on the other hand the latter 2 games would place UT at or near the top.
What we must learn is to not have tunnel vision. This season will not be based on the 1st two games mentioned or the last two. We will have to wait and see if the UT team that got run over by UF and Bama shows up against Vandy and KY or does the team that took down now #9 ranked GA and shut down the best rushing offense in the conference Hogs comes to play.
Take a look at my blog for a look at the road ahead.
Keeping it Real
Go Vols!!!!

threehundredbowler writes:

You guys keep talking how Phillip backstabbed Majors.Show proof of that {and not hearsay proof}or quit spreading rumors.If you prove it to be true,I will except the proof.If not ,you should be ashamed.People seem to delight in trying to bring someone else down to their level.Again,if you prove it to be a fact,I will apologize.I am not a Fulmer lover.I am a UT lover and will continue my support as I have for the last 35 years regardless the coach.If it takes getting rid of the entire staff then so be it.I believe the ship is on the right course needing only a few adjustments.Let us see what happens for the remainder of the season.As Kenny Rogers song said,you never count your money while sitting at the table.There will be time enough to count it when the dealing is done.

calvolfromkingsport writes:

So when will Urban Meyer be fired? Any speculation? How about St Saban? Is Sly Croom still going to win Coach of the year "this" year? REAL WORD!

mj54 writes:

Bama has lost 4 games by 25 points combined. We lost to UF and Bama by 63 points combined and on top of that, our coach admitted he didn't know why our second leading rushing didn't see the field for one freaking play during one of those games. After turnovers in both those games, we quit. We were outscored 48-0 after the turnovers in the Bama/UF game.

But it's all ok. We beat Arkansas and luckily just happen to catch UGA at the right time this year.

With blind sheep like some people who are UT fans, it's no wonder we have fallen so far into mediocrity.

Ironcity writes:

jcvet how long after 73 did it take for UT to win anything? Thats right a LOOOONG time. Be careful of wht you are pround of and be careful of what you wish for. Fulmer should stay Chavis should retire because he can't stop the spread if the QB can throw.

civilianvol_formerly_marinevol writes:

Lighten up on the whiners, volster. They had a rough day Saturday that will take them a long time to get over. Just think how sad it was for the whiners watching Tennessee destroy Arkansas. Hey, the Arkansas fans agree with the whiners, and want Coach Fulmer to be fired, too.

calvolfromkingsport writes:

So who of you will guarantee we get a coach to surpass the results of CPF? How about those KY wildcats the other nite? They sure know how to play bb since ol Tubby left. Oh yeah, that's a different scenario. Right?...

tenndave writes:

Some of you guys just kill me. No Kingsport vol Iam not on the coaching staff but I do take Peyton Manning's opionion along with the other lettermen on Fulmer over yours. And MJ54, your points comments makes no sense. If it did then there is no way Ga beats Fla or M State beats Bama at all, and there will be no way we can beat KY cause they beat LSU. Glad the game is played on the field and not in the blogs. I am behind Fulmer even if we lose the next two games.

Now on to positive things. The Vols win out, and make it to Atlanta. GO VOLS!!!!!!!!!!!

Oh by the way, if we make it to Atlanta and Lose to LSU assuming they are still No. 1, should we fire the staff or just require our players to transfer somewhere else like an OVC school.

mj54 writes:

Please tenndave, try and pay attention in between bows to your god, Phil Fulmer.

My point was that Bama/UF have been competitive in all there losses. We haven't been, and as I pointed out, we quit and stop playing when things go against us and Fulmer excuses it. He's such a great coach that he still can't tell anyone why Hardesty, the 2nd freaking leading rusher on the team never saw the field against our biggest rival.

I've resigned myself to the fact that Fulmer will still be here. However, IMO, Roper and Slade need to go after the season is over and I wouldn't mind Chavis being gone either. We need assistants who can coach and recruit. Chavis, Slade and Roper can't do either.

budd#207344 writes:

givim6- You are exactly right. Fulmer and his staff have not had the game pass them by or any of the other nonsense you hear from this board. They have plain and simple gotten lazy. You do not produce the GA and ARK victories by not knowing the game.
Fulmer will not be fired this year because it will cost too much. If he doesn't win the SEC next year he is gone. Posters can curse and howl at the moon, that's what will happen. Calling him or his staff names will not change it. Personally I would like to see him fired because he has quit and I don't like that.But he has added to our great legacy and I will give him the repect that deserves.

All this said I will still root for the team and be happy when they win and angry when they lose. But I grew out of name calling a long time ago.

asleep#212036 writes:

The problem with saying Fulmer is an idiot is that people don't become idiots overnight. That means he must have always been an idiot. Therefore he was an idiot when we won the NC is 1998. Hogwash. The man is no idiot. I think the issue is his management style. He is hands off with his coordinators (didn't know Hardesty didn't play), laid back (numerous discipline issues - a "players coach"), and fiercely loyal to a fault (offense headed south for seven years before Sanders "resigned"). These are fixable things. No successful business rests on its laurels and to me, that is Fulmer's only crime. He needs to infuse new blood into the system periodically as well as prune the dead and dying branches off the tree ASAP. If he won't, then we can look at Penn St., FSU, and Michigan to see once proud programs slowly disappearing from the national conversation. Long-tenured coaches + lack of staff accountability = what they have become and where we may be headed. Don't get me wrong, I'm excited about beating Arkansas, even if others aren't. Unranked? Maybe, but McFadden carried plenty of ranking on his own. Georgia semi-good? Please! Ask Auburn and Florida how semi-good they are! Fulmer just needs to change his style. He just has to feel the need. They say the first step towards solving a problem is admitting that you have one. Maybe some of the aggressive (and at timeS, annoying) "negativity" on this site and others might serve a noble purpose after all. Go Vols!!!!

asleep#212036 writes:

By the way, budd,

The number I saw to buy out Fulmer and his assistants is around $7.5 million. Then you would need to pay the next guy more, especially if you picked up an "elite" coach from another team or the NFL ranks. Daunting numbers indeed to fire a guy who's winning almost 75% of his games over a career. I do agree though that laziness, not intelligence, is the culprit in Knoxville, else where do the (occasional) great games come from? Hamilton is likely to light a fire under the entire staff if we don't end up in New Orleans. Next year would then represent the breaking point. Waiting another year would also save us $2.5 M in the buyout. Go Vols!!!

takebkknox writes:

There will always be bulletin board material to get players fired up and it's best that it doesn't come from our own side. Don't buy into the idiotic premise that the KNS, Pennington, Adams and company should be given trophies for getting the team fired up. They should be given their walking papers for creating a hostile environment that could potentially scare away future recruits. Cancel your subscriptions to the KNS and don't buy anything from the sponsors of these cancerous elements.

budd#207344 writes:

Please do not question the great and powerful Touchdown TN. Soon one of his flying monkies will come attack you. Haven't you watched his TV show?

rootin4volz writes:

You're ALL freakin' idiots.

LargeOrange writes:

TouchdumbTN you are too obvious. Please quit trying help motivate the team. They don't even know who you are and certainly don't read your grade school level taunts. You just waste our time having to scroll over your 4th grade, nah nah na na nah phooey. Grow up and leave.

Volinar_21 writes:

KingsportVol and others - Name me one team in the SEC who hasn't been up and down? Wake up dude...this is the SEC. It's tough...even LSU lost to Kentucky. Not one team has been consistent. Explain this to me: Florida kills Tennessee, Georgia manhandles Florida, Florida should have beat LSU. Kentucky beats LSU and then Florida goes and kills the meantime Tennessee Kills Georgia. It's a mess. I could go on.... We lead the East. Enjoy it! If you want to fire Fulmer, then every coach in the SEC needs to get fired too except Miles. We have alot more to be proud of than 10 other teams in the SEC. You'll never be satisfied...quit whining. Maybe you should be a Gator...oh wait...they have 3 losses too.

Volinar_21 writes:

I bet some of you eternal pessimist where the ones booing Peyton Manning his freshman year and cheering Brandon Stewart!

Stumps writes:

My goodness. I'm new to this board, been a Vols fan since about 1990 when I moved to Knoxville... no longer live in the area, but I follow this news board daily and the Volunteers. I attend one game a season, and this weekend we'll be in Knoxville for the Vandy Game. Can't wait!
For those that seem to take pleasure in running down Fulmer, there seems to be some mis-information floating about. Fulmer didn't stab Majors in the back, he came off the bench and did his job. He did what any of us would have done - coach to win and compete for the head coaching job. Majors was a mediocre coach at best, not Tennessee level talent, look what he did at Pitt.

For the record, there is validity in the position that Fulmer's time might have come. Most expect TN to win 8-10 games a year and at least beat FL and AL, and finish the season ranked in the top 20. He's a good coach, but the SEC is more competative each year. TN doesn't have the luxury of playing a schedule like Kansas or Ohio St, most SEC teams play 5-6 top 25 teams each year. If TN can't win the SEC title, Fulmer might be gone.

Having said that, I love the Vols, and will cheer for them every game. I'm not going to waste my time whining about Fulmer. Vandy and Kentucky will be tough games, both programs are vastly improved, but they are still games TN should win.

Now, if I drive 8 hours to see them play and they loose to Vandy, I might have a few things to mutter, but I'll keep 'em off the board ;) Go Vols!

Stumps writes:

calvol - thanks for the link, good article. drives home the point that there is only one guy who's opinion on Fulmer counts - Hamilton.

what kind of person emails the AD after a TN loss? ... wait, nevermind. please don't answer that :-)

LargeOrange writes:

TD??, why do you post that everyone is fat? You have never met me which is a good thing for you. So you have no idea what I look like, but I will give you a hint, unlike you I did play football for 8 years, started every game and wrestled in the Tennessee State Championship my senior year. So suffice to say I am not worried about dropping by your tail gate "party". You need to bring your fat obsession up, at your next session with your Therapist, you might want to get the meds adjusted again too. I can't decide if you are really obese and obseesed with fat becasue of that or more likely you are the 98 pound weakling that is big and tough on-line. Either way as your hero CR???? would say "Yawn". Drop the personal phooey when you don't have anything intellegent to say except that "your" team "has no BALLS, no HEART, no CHANCE. Vandy will hit them in the mouth in front of 100K plus" Yawn!!

Stumps writes:

hey TDTN, there's another stumps on board? I had no idea? wow. small world.

Fulmerite? nah, just not a basher. I'd hate to coach in the SEC, how do you pick which games to circle?

LargeOrange writes:

TD?? you are so lame I am going to stop wasting my time on you. You posted that the VOLS had no balls , you wouldn't know what those are. Tell me where you slink off to after the VOLS win Saturday and your loss will be complete.

LargeOrange writes:

TD?? you are so lame I am going to stop wasting my time on you. You posted that the VOLS had no balls, you wouldn't know what those are. Tell me where you slink off to after the VOLS win Saturday and your loss will be complete.

pdhuff#552644 writes:

Well in Phil's defense, I know he can outeat Satan, Superior and Hollywood Richt! What's that you say, eating is not a SEC official stat, darn just whem I thought Phil was tops in a category! I know he leads in white towel waving, woops, that could mean something else! I better work on ths category a while. Go Vols, beat the Dores and stumble on toward Ky! Don't even think about playing a #1! What channel is PPV anyway, I've found IFC, Comedy, A&E, S&M (reshowing Fla game)! Go Vols!

jdcvols#230433 writes:

LargeOrange, we do not need to know your background, but I would advise you not to confront TDTN. I can assure you he is not fat nor 100 lbs.

imnotwithphil writes:

Vandy will play us close - they always do - but the Vols win this one pulling away. It could even be a blowout...

orangebloodgmc writes:

Our offense just needs to be varied, to mix it up, to run plenty, but not go to that well in a predictable pattern. Our offense needs to NOT get too cool and complacent, thinking they got plenty of time to drive later. I thought they did a little better with this last week, fightin and scrappin for 1st downs. Rodgers has toughened up and hard-running Hardesty is getting more carries. We'll be OK if we stay hungry.

Hixson_Vol writes:

It's a shame that good defense is wasted on Vandy. I wish the Vols defense was as good.

orangebloodgmc writes:

They say Vandy's D is good and maybe we will see that it is ... but I think I recall them saying that about Miss State and Georgia, with Georgia's in the top 10, and it just didn't work out that way for 'em. Got a Hemi in it? We bout to find out.

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