Fresh troops helped Vols survive setbacks

First-year players have big hand in Vols' quest for SEC's East Division title



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A few came sooner. More are arriving later.

Either way, Tennessee wouldn't be in position to nail down an SEC East title without significant contributions from its freshmen.

The 19th-ranked Vols (7-3, 4-2 SEC) take the next step Saturday when Vanderbilt (5-5, 2-5 SEC) visits Neyland Stadium. The 2 p.m. kickoff will be televised on a pay-per-view basis.

Looking back over 15 years, head coach Phillip Fulmer said he's never had this many first-year players contributing.

"There's always one or two, but never this many,'' said Fulmer.

He counts 21 true and redshirt freshmen (and three junior-college transfers) chipping in to help the Vols gain and retain control of the Eastern Division.

And Tennessee isn't the exception. Florida has played 18 true freshmen and six have started for the defending national champions.

Georgia has started four true freshmen, as has South Carolina.

Ironically, this year's upwardly mobile SEC teams - Kentucky, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt - have counted on less help from true freshmen than the traditional powers.

Over in the West, Auburn has played 15 true freshmen, Alabama 10 and No. 1-ranked LSU has even started a couple.

"The game has changed a bunch,'' said UT secondary coach Larry Slade. "Recruiting is the lifeblood of your program and more young guys are playing around the country.''

Especially in Slade's secondary. True freshmen Eric Berry and Brent Vinson are starting and Dennis Rogan is the only reserve at cornerback.

Rogan also has taken over as the top punt returner and joins true freshman Lennon Creer deep for kickoffs.

Creer also has a 100-yard rushing game under his belt and averages 6.3 yards per carry on 34 attempts.

Denarious Moore has caught nine passes and returned kickoffs.

After fighting through a hamstring injury, Gerald Jones has caught passes in three of UT's past four games and even run a few snaps in the "G-Gun" offensive package.

"A lot of these guys have come from great high-school programs that won championships,'' said Fulmer. "They know how to practice. The college environment hasn't intimidated them.

"There's still a learning curve but it's been a fun group to be around.''

The learning curve was accelerated for Berry - considered the nation's top defensive-back prospect - and Vinson due to the pressing need for bodies in the secondary.

Every time Berry gets his hands on the ball, he seems do something with it. He has already broken a 37-year-old school record for most yards off interception returns in a season with 207.

With at least three games to play, Berry has other records in striking range. The SEC season record for interception-return yardage is 244. The NCAA mark is 302 yards.

"His attitude and work ethic and his intelligence, combined with his speed and athletic ability ... have made him one of the up-and-coming premier defensive backs in the Southeastern Conference,'' said Fulmer.

"Freshman or not, I think he's one of the best defensive backs in the league.''

Berry also has returned a fumble 52 yards and has been in on 57 tackles.

Other true freshmen helping to a lesser degree are Savion Frazier, Ben Martin, Chris Walker and Kevin Cooper.

"Starting as a freshman in this league is a hard thing to do,'' said junior receiver Josh Briscoe, "and you've got to be a great athlete.

"They're working hard every day to get better. They don't want to be the weak link of the team.''

Eventually, they may become the strongest link. They've got a head start on that battle.

"I'm anxious to see just how good some of these guys end up being,'' said offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe.

Some of them aren't bad already.

Mike Strange may be reached at 865-342-6276 or strange2@knews.com.

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Comments » 52

utclassof1992 writes:

Kinda reminds me of 1994, when Peyton's class first started hitting the field. We saw how that turned out. Looking forward to the future, if we can keep them improving and focused.

ellisonfamily writes:

We better knock it out in the next two years. I don't see Berry in college past his junior year. I think his family situation is not weighing on him to make the money of a pro contract, but he is sooo good. I find it hard to believe he'll go past his junior year. Not trying to be a pessimist, but it is the way of college football these days.

LargeOrange writes:

Ok, I have the orange shades on and have broken out the single malt Kool-aid, but how could anyone read this article and be down on the VOLS and the future? (I know I will hear the answer). Looking forward to leaving for Knoxvegas in the morning ready to party and rock Vandy's world. 21 freshmen playing and contending for the SEC-E, life is good. Come on TDTN, you got to believe!! You can do it and so can the VOLS!! GO BIG ORANGE!!

TopperVol75 writes:

Yes, a Top 5 recruiting class starting to pay dividends. But, can we follow that with another Top 5 class or two? And then, will we coach 'em up or not? We have a great base to build upon and I hope we all get behind our program and DEMAND that EVERYBODY is held accountable, from top to bottom, to return us to the level of SEC dominance. GO VOLS...beat the Dores...then beat the Cats...then???

gohawks1 writes:

Man, I can't wait to see how much better this group is going to get. Every time Berry touches the ball, I look for something magic to happen. He's exciting to watch, and this team is gonna be fun to watch too.

Go Vols! Take 'em one at a time - Dores, Cats, Tigers, . . .

DenmarkVol_aka_Mbumburu writes:

Yeah, this is all goodness, but my only question is this: has the coaching staff learned anything from these freshmen?

We've heard every August how they're going to "put the best athletes on the field." Yet we all know of the innate aversion -- I would almost call it a "phobia" -- this coaching staff has to playing freshmen unless they absolutely have no other choice.

Have the successes of these freshmen taught the coaching staff anything? Time will tell.

utclassof1992 writes:

The 1997 signing class also had some great athletes that played young and went on to the NC as sophomores or RS freshmen in 1998. Lewis, Henry, Wilson, Coleman (I think), Stephens, and the list goes on.

smith7206 writes:

Am I the only one who doesn't think it a strange that "upwardly mobile SEC teams... have counted on less help from true freshmen"?

Huntingdonvol writes:

IS THE MOVEMENT TO FRESHMEN THE ROLE OF PRACTICE OR IS IT COACHING!!!!!!HUUUMMMM!GO VOLS AND GEORGIA WILL LOSE TO KENTUCKY THIS WEEKEND!!!!!!!MY THINKING IS IT PURE TALENT AND HELP FROM THE TROPER<<<TAYLOR<<<NOT NEARLY BEING PAID ENOUGH!AND THE ANSWER IS THE HIGH SCHOOL COACHES!

budrhon writes:

I'm more concern about the upcoming recruiting class. The Vols are not in the picture on a lot of the 5star players.

CrankE writes:

Back in September, October, the lament was that Florida was doing so much more with their young talent than was Tennessee. Yet who needs all the help to get to Atlanta? Tennessee must capitalize on this opportunity.

lnbadger320 writes:

LargeOrange, i understand what you're saying, but i also know that we've been down this road so many time and it's the same. We can't beat Florida with any type of consistency and once GA players get more experianced, we're gonna have a tough time beating them and don't forget bama. i don't doubt our talent, it's our coaches that worries me.

VOLinDAWGland writes:

I'd guess it will be hard to land a 'top 5' rated class for whatever that's worth given the last couple of classes and the numbers in those classes. Also we will be getting back some players from previous classes who had to take a detour. This class will be all about addressing specific needs with quality, not about quantity. We're set at WR and TE, pretty good shape at RB, but could probably use a young one to groom, good at OL, good at LB, reasonably good in the secondary. We could use some beef on the DL. This yeear will be about getting some good prospects to develop for future PT which is the way it should be. It's a great position to be in and is why we're seeing some quality kids talking like they've been jilted...we just don't need them all at this time.

mjohnsonvols writes:

I would just like to see cr and jwray comment on here win or loose, wrong or right but I guess this just proves all of us right that they are not true Vols. I hate we have scared them off. If we loose one of these next two they will come out but that is a typical looser.
Go Vols beat Vandy! One game at a time.

ssukonic#254241 writes:

I think tngeoff has it right. Look at the amount of fr. we've used vs. the amt. fla. has used. I don't think you can say our coaches just won't put freshmen in. It's that you don't want to put them in when they're not ready. You don't want them to lose that confidence if they're thrown in too early. When is the right time vs. it's too soon? That's the question. If you have faith in the coaches judgement, then you let them do their jobs. Has this year made them see that freshmen can and do contribute. I'd say so. I, for one, like the direction this team is headed. Go Vols......

webbofconfusion writes:

Coaches say they will put the best athletes on the field, and I believe they do that week in and week out. Freshman don't walk on to campus and magically become the best athlete on the team. Athletes have talent, skills, and mental capacity to play at this level and maybe even beyond. It showed early in the season (due to injuries) that we were not ready... But with focused effort and a lot of game time these talented freshman have become very talented athletes. I expect good things in the future, but for now I will be happy with another win on Saturday.

It is interesting to see Comments in the past few weeks change, as we have turned things around.

Go Vols.

Oenoboy writes:

Posted by lnbadger320 on November 16, 2007 at 6:32 a.m.

LargeOrange, i understand what you're saying, but i also know that we've been down this road so many time and it's the same. We can't beat Florida with any type of consistency and once GA players get more experianced, we're gonna have a tough time beating them and don't forget bama. i don't doubt our talent, it's our coaches that worries me.
_________________________________________

That's the SEC. There are always going to be teams we don't beat with consistency and vice versa. I've said this before on here so I apologize for sounding like a broken record. If we won every game, every NC, and never had to "worry" about the results of games and seasons going in to them, what would be the point of watching and cheering? It's the rollercoaster of ups and downs in any program that makes it all worth while. If you need a "safe place", where everything is predictable, watch Rocky movies.

Has anyone noticed that no one team has repeated in the BCS Championship? That’s nine years and nine champions. This is what makes NCAA football great! UT only has four NCs in our 100 year history and only two were consensus. That’s an average of 1 in every 25 years! They are rare and beautiful things and happen to be the goal of every talented team and coaching staff in the country at the beginning of the year.

My point is…? We all need to simply enjoy the game and consider ourselves lucky to have a coaching staff that has kept us consistently competitive (only one loosing season) for 15 years. Only a handful of programs have that luxury. The SEC East is considered the most difficult and competitive division in the most difficult and competitive conference. If we win out, it will be our 4th SEC East crown in seven years. Some call that mediocrity; I call it a job well done.

GO VOLS!!!!!

orangebloodgmc writes:

Oenoboy, well said. By the way, make mine Chianti or Shiraz. Geaux Vawls, take 'em one game at a time.

asleep#212036 writes:

Of course, we don't HAVE that 4th SEC championship in 7 years just yet! I think it is within our grasp if we continue to play well but I hope our players understand that. There are no longer any chip shot wins in the SEC, period. Even lowly Ole Miss almost beat Florida and Alabama. I do like several posts that point out that since the Florida debacle, our team has played much better. Scoring defense much better, offense more balanced, special teams moving up the conference ladder every week. It is truly beginning to look like the Alabama game in the middle of this run (post Florida) was the aberration. Now let's go beat the 'Dores and Cats! Go Vols!!!

LargeOrange writes:

I agree Oeno that is why I love this game so much. I would really love a 16 team P/O format but that is another debate and not happening anytime soon. TDTN I'm sending over another batch of the Big Orange Kool-Aid special gameday recipe. Enjoy, isn't optimism so much more fun? I just got off my last conference call, logged off from work, put the Orange flags and magnets on the car and will be north bound 75 in 15 minutes. Life is good and so are our VOLS. One game at a time, crush VANDY!! Go Big Orange!!

99gator writes:

maybe some of you could help, but i would like some specifics that this article does not give.

how many of the 21 true/redshirt freshman and juco (who are not freshman by the way) are starting, not-starting but playing, or are just special teamers.

i know about berry. but, the article is a misleading thing without some specifics.

Oenoboy writes:

99Gator…As you know, they don’t give out playing time in football like basketball so all this info is basically grey. I’m giving you Frosh/Soph info without Juco.

We have 8.5 Frosh/Soph starters and 6.5 Senior starters. The .5s are because of Mapu and Williams being a question mark each week. The key figure is we have two freshman starters in our defensive backfield with our only two backup cornerbacks being freshmen. We have the most youthful and perilously thin backfield in the SEC. 16 of our 22 second stringers are Frosh or Soph and all of them have been getting significant playing time other than Crompton.

DennisVols writes:

The way it used to be is over in college football. Last night #2 Oregon played an unranked team and walked out knowing their shot at a National Championship was over. “One game one championship.” This is the playoff system in the BCS division. UT’s shot at a national championship ended with their 2nd loss of the season to Florida, their shot at an SEC championship appeared over after the loss to Bama. Now here we are with 2 games remaining and UT is still in control of winning the Eastern division of the SEC. The opportunity has come because of 2 factors. Those who were in front of them failed to take care of business when they had the opportunity to do so, and UT has stepped up its game and won 6 of 7 games since the loss to UF.
Twice UT was beaten down, once by UF and then by long time rival Bama. On both occasions UT showed something few felt they had. Both times this team pulled its self up and came back to win. Over the past 7 games a UT defense that was hurt by youth and injuries, was once ranked last in the SEC as a scoring defense, now has the lowest scoring defense over those 7 games compared to LSU, Bama, UF, UGA, USC.
UT’s scoring offense ranks 2nd to only LSU (36.57ppg to 36.14ppg).* Now we come to the Vandy game. No one is a “gimmie game”, a “cupcake” any more. The SEC has either feasted on or been feasted on by each other this year. UT beats UGA & USC, UGA beats UF & Bama, UT loses to UF & Bama and so on.
One game one championship is what is in front of UT. Handle their opponents and they go to ATL on Dec. 1st to face LSU. They have the same opportunity they had 10 games ago to win the east and get their first SEC title since ’98. No game this season is bigger than Saturday’s game against Vandy. If they win then no game will be bigger than the one next Saturday against UK.
This is a test, a test of talent, mental fortitude, and preparedness by the coaching staff and players.
*See my blog for more on this and leave your comments
http://www.sportingnews.com/blog/Denn...

Go VOLS!!!!!!!!!!

rbhobbs73#226545 writes:

Berry and Vinson are True Freshmen starting at Safety and Corner. Rogan is a true freshmen who is playing the nickel, as well as returning punts and kicks. Creer also returns kicks and gets snaps at RB. Gerald Jones is playing at WR.

McKenzie is a JUCO DB getting meaningful snaps in the secondary.

All of these guys are contributing heavily on our much improved special teams.

I am only a little disappointed that Ben Martin hasn't seen more time at DE, and I don't know if he is behind from his knee injury in pre-season or if the injury is not 100% healed and they are being cautious.

That is my take 99gator.

Oenoboy writes:

VolCR...the answer is the coaches are the ones at the practices evaluating these players and doing their best to make decisions based on what the players show like any coach. It's nothing new to see a freshman emerge half way through a season in any program as they adjust to the speed of the college level game.

I don't know how many times I've heard a naive fan (such as myself) say "why didn't we start him from the beginning?" The answer is always the same, he was not ready. Remember Payton's freshman year? Even he admits he wasn't ready for his baptism by fire.

Our coaches have started young players in the past few years when they felt it necessary. Wasn't it `04 when a true freshman QB took the first snap of the season?

orangebloodgmc writes:

I thought Berry was still playing corner in the FL game when he returned the pick 96 yds.? When did he go to safety?

Volunatic writes:

How is it "ironic" that the upwardly-mobile teams aren't depending on freshmen as much as the others?
That seems "intuitive" instead-- more-experienced players = more success.

Oenoboy writes:

Berry came in as a CB first and then moved to safety in the California game when Parish wasn't getting the job done. They made a game time adjustment. It took until the fourth game for juco Willingham and true freshman Vinson to establish themselves as viable starters and allow for Berry to be permanently moved to safety.

With the losses of Inky Johnson, Roshaun Fellows, Demetrice Morley, Antonio Gaines, and Marsalous Johnson over the last two seasons, I’m sure Chavis is trying everything he can to stop the bleeding. Very few programs would be in the position we are right now with that many losses in their defensive backfield.

We now have three starters back there that have never played this level of football until this year. Those of you who want to bash Chavis need to remember he was voted Assistant Coach of the Year in `06 for a reason.

OldNumber7 writes:

Oenoboy. Your 9:55 a.m. post has a lot of good points. Good thoughts there.

I do, however, think that the use of 'consistenty competitive' is a bit much. I think what grates on my nerves the most about this coaching staff is when it gets the spotlight it chokes. Then, it's an uphill battle to get it back until when it's finally achieved....they choke again.

I think these coaches have the experience to keep us in it year after year - but only if someone else fails. Until they evolve their game - Tennessee will never reach out and take a title, that is, win it running away (even the '98 team didn't do this). The coaching staff has demonstrated that even standing up in 2005 and exclaiming big changes amounted to nothing - we've seen not a single change. Point is, I applaud their ability to win a couple this year - but am sickened that the only games that showcased our program have been national embarrassments. I hope Kentucky isn't another one next week. It's this inconsistency that gets us no respect - you have to win convincingly when it matters - a feature of UT football that has never existed under Fulmer. All they need to do is evolve - the talent is there.

More Cowbell.

asleep#212036 writes:

RocketVol,

No team in recent memory, with the exception of Auburn in 2004, has run away with the SEC. Only Tennessee, since the 'Bama team of 1992 (who didn't blow anybody out) has gone undefeated, with the exception above. Spurrier's 1995 and 1996 teams didn't lose a conference game but my word, check out the NFL rosters from those teams! And they both still lost a game anyway. I say that to say this: I don't care if we run away or "take" the SEC in grand fashion. I do care, as you do, that we seem to toss our national title hopes early and manage to stick a couple of humiliating losses in otherwise good seasons. More than X's and O's, this staff has lost its ability to motivate the kids as they once could. If it were totally scheme or fundamentals, they couldn't have stone-walled Georgia and Arkansas.

VolCr,

As far as playing the freshmen significantly, I think it is a lack of confidence that they have that player ready. Further, every big-time program has gone to that formula. If you have a stud freshman, let him play - you may only have him 3 years anyway. The ONLY reason, IMO, our freshmen played was pure necessity. That said, we should be able to see the problem. It's not that they're freshmen, it's that Fulmer and company never intended them to get much PT. They didn't work them enough in practice and had no contigency plan for the inevitable injuries. I say if the kid is that good, practice him hard, play him often, and get him ready - he may be your only option when your starter(s) goes down. And then just maybe you won't get blown out early while the kids you didn't intend to play figure out how to compete at the college level. Most of that should be gone by now and sure enough, the defensive performances, and thus the record, continue to improve. Go Vols!!!

Oenoboy writes:

Good points RocketVol but (of course that word was coming) I am confused where you are coming from.

We won the 98 NC undefeated. What defines running away to you? The fact we pulled off the miracle against Arkansas? Most NC runs have a close call. We had the perfect season…no losses.

Also, every team experiences success on the backs of other's failures be it against them or other teams. That's how the game works.

The point I disagree with most is that we choke when we are in the spotlight. This coaching squad has made a career off winning big games. Please do not make me list them all. I will however name a few of the bigger ones to show you what I mean. UGA `07 and `04, UF `01 & 04, Michigan `01, Miami `03, and of course the four top 10 teams we beat in `98 “not running away with it”. Don't forget this coaching squad is also 5-1 in OT.

Of course you can list some heartbreaking losses just like every other team’s fans are able to. I go back to my original point that losing is part of the game. What program isn’t riding the rollercoaster of good and disappointing seasons? Why should we be the exception?

FWBVol writes:

Every one talks about PT for freshmen. I'm one of those who wants to give a coaching staff, whether UT's, Auburn's, Georgia's...the benefit of knowing things we don't know about maturity, practice habits, grasp of schemes and such.

At every level from high school through the NFL, only the most exceptional players start in their freshmen or rookie years. In high school it's a 14-year old going against more physically mature 17 and 18 year olds. In college the freshman is an 18 or 19 year old going against 21, 22 or sometimes 23 year olds.

It's only been in the last 35 years or so that freshman have been allowed to play varsity ball. There was the time when the NCAA mandated a kid come to campus and play freshmen ball a year before moving up to the varsity in every sport.

Yes, there are some kids that are physically and mentally ready to make the jump straight from the high school field to the college game and start from day one, but most need a little time to learn.

In 1994 when Peyton and Brandon Stewart were fighting for the quarteback position so many fans were caught up in Stewart's athletic ability. But he wasn't the student that Manning was. Peyton came in with some physical tools, but he was still a skinny kid with a lot of potential and an unbelievable work ethic.

If Cutcliffe and Fulmer had listened to the fans in 1994 and started Stewart who knows how UT's history would have played out.

This year's freshmen have played better as they've gained experience and UT has simplified the defensive scheme.

Yes, VolCR, the coaches have flip-flopped with Eric Berry, but it's been a need based thing. And, if I remember correctly, while he was projected as a corner by recruiting services and got the first look there by the UT coaches, he was actually a safety in high school.

Maybe programs like Vandy and Kentucky are doing well with more seasoned players, but they don't have to worry about as many of their guys leaving early for the NFL, and they still don't recruit the kids that can step in and contribute their first year on campus.

Those teams might be improved, but looking at the standings in the East, Vandy will probably still finish at the bottom of the league and if Georgia and Tennessee beat Kentucky, the Wildcats will finish in either fourth or their traditional fifth in the East. And next year, when they are forced to play younger kids in the positions they'll graduate, it should be back to normal.

ssukonic#254241 writes:

Hey guys.........I'm impressed with this discussion. Oenoboy, FWBVol, Rocketvol, asleep-------This is the kind of thing that's fun to read........not that phooey from some guys about "Foolmer" and PhatPhil." Good job.......keep it up. Not that you need me to tell you this, but it's good stuff. Thanks!

asleep#212036 writes:

Oenoboy,

I'm assuming RocketVol is referring to our less than stellar record against the Top 25 the past 5 years compared to the 1996-2001 "glory days". So much of that has to do with recruiting, coaching upgrades at many of our sister institutions (GA, AL, FL), and the ebb and flow that is college football. I still also believe that coaching staffs get stale, not necessarily at the HC post but in the ranks of the assistants, where all the real coaching is done. Programs that stay relevant over long periods of time tend to have high turnover among the assistants, either by their having moved on or been fired. Either way, when a program becomes inbred, as ours was (and to some degree still is), you run the risk of getting in a rut. Once the other teams figure out your traditional tendencies, strengths, and weaknesses, you begin to struggle. New blood keeps everyone else off balance. Proof? Spurrier's first 5 years at UF? Four SEC titles, 2 NC games, one NC. His last 5 years? One SEC title. Everyone figured it out and he didn't adapt. New blood coach Fulmer - it't the only way to get the Big Orange back into the SEC/national spotlight. Go Vols!!!

webbofconfusion writes:

VolCR,
It is called adjustments. Coaches make them when they need to fill holes caused by many different things....

We on a winning path now. So enjoy the ride. Don't speculate as to what could have been, but what can be. We have a great chance and as long as the contributions can continue to be made, I am willing to let the coaches "stay the course" and make adjustments.

Go Vols!

webbofconfusion writes:

Rocket,
Respect is 13 of 15 ranked seasons in the coaches poll. That is the confidence of coaches in the NCAA, that UT deserved to be in the top 25 at the end of the season... I posted in another thread(don't want to kill this thread).. we rank 11th on the list for just the 2000's for the coaches poll.

You can read into stats as you may want, but you have to admit.. that is really good.

Go Vols.

invisiblekid writes:

Oenoboy, I think you make some excellent points but I do have to disagree with one statement: "This coaching squad has made a career off winning big games." There is no way to sugarcoat the 4-11 record against FL under Fulmer, especially with 2 of those wins coming against Zook. Fulmer has stated time and again that winning the East is the first priority and, since the SEC split into divisions, the East has more often than not run through FL. The point to all this is that, in my opinion, the game against FL is typically the biggest game of the year for the Vols and unfortunately they have fallen short more often than not. Couple this with the less than stellar bowl record and I doubt that we will see Fulmer and his staff on the short list of great "big game" coaches.

webbofconfusion writes:

CR...
You might think after 10 games the freshman have enough experience... and they can be contributing to the team.

I know my first time on the job I stumbled a few times, but now I am one of the MVPs.

TNWOLFPUP writes:

They're going to lose and it's because they're favored......

ssukonic#254241 writes:

invisible kid.........don't you think that part of the reason we've lost to Fla. so much is because playing them so early in the season, coaching takes a back seat to talent. And the reality is that Florida is a hotbed for talent....and that talent shines through that early in the season. I'd like to play them this week and see what happens. I'm not sure we'd win, but I think it would be quite a bit closer than it was last time.

Oenoboy writes:

invisiblekid...I don't think there is a UT fan alive that would try to sugarcoat Fulmer's record against Florida? Spurrier at Florida dominated every coach but one, Bobby Bowden. Over the last 10 season (including this one) we are 4-6. Not ideal but better than most. Florida has one of the most talent rich recruiting grounds in the country similar to Louisiana, Texas, and California. With Florida State and Miami in a down cycle, they are landing most of the top talent down there.

And then there’s Tebow. He’s the best Sophomore QB I’ve seen play the game since Touchdown Tommy Frazier and every Defensive Coordinator in the conference has nightmares about facing him for two more years. We’ll all be looking forward to the day he goes pro. Until then, UF will continue to be our (and everyone else’s in the SEC East) nemesis no matter who’s calling our plays. As frustrating as that is, replacing Fulmer is not going to change the fact Florida has the look of a dynasty in the making and will likely be favored to win the NC for the next two years.

We just have to weather the storm and hopefully find a way to outscore them. I will say this, Chavis is one of a handful of DCs in the country that might be able to figure out the Achiles heel of Tebow in that offense.

We're counting on you Chief!

GO VOLS!!!!

jweaver3#395614 writes:

CR Berry played safety most of his high school career, why this is not sec, it does help him know where to be on the field. He also is just such a natural athlete that he can be a little out of position and his speed can help him close. I agree that I to would have liked to see them play earlier, but that has never been Fulmer.
GO VOLS
BEAT THE DORES
TXVOLSFAN
fresh off of back surgery today but back posting tonight, sometimes you just have to play hurt
hahaha

pdhuff#552644 writes:

Wonder if this article had said "Fresh coaches help Vols survive setbacks"! Oenoboy, I'll give you credit, you stay the course. I wish I could still have the eubillent frame of mind you always seem to have! I'll admit 2005 took the wind out of many of our sails. I wish I could see what you see when you look at the state of this program! I'm scared Saturday because I don't know what level of emotion we'll display, Ga or Bama! Go Vols and somehow beat Vandy! I sold my beer cans today and got $29.97. I guess I'll put the overage of two cents worth on Govolsxtra! The rest went to PPV.

asleep#212036 writes:

Someone said, and I think it is interesting, that we do play Florida early every year and that may be part of our problem in beating them consistently. The early date would tend to minimize schemes as there would be so little current game film to work from at that point. However, talent, even when applied randomly, can produce marvelous results. To wit, Eric Berry and Dennis Rogan this year. I doubt if we (or anyone else in the SEC besides LSU) consistently put as much talent on the field as the Gators. With neither team able to get too fancy in devising a game plan, both teams go relatively basic and tell their guys to make plays. Better talent trumps lesser talent almost every time. Move to later in the season and that is no longer the case. Intricate game plans can be formulated to minimize your weaknesses and exploit their's. To wit, Kentucky beating LSU. No comparison in talent but a big difference in execution of a great plan.

Once Spurrier got established, Fulmer beat his Gators only twice. In 1998, at home, a very talented team led by Tee Martin took advantage of 5 turnovers and won in OT. In 2001, an even more talented team led by the road warrior, Casey Clausen, beat one of Spurrier's more talented teams in Gainesville by scheming a run game that kept the ball away from the Fun-n-Gun offense. The first game had more to do with players making plays while the second was a marvelous execution of a perfect plan. The very next week, poor execution led to a horrific loss to a decimated and marginally talented LSU team. I think the teams that play Florida later in the season have the chance to scheme their way to victory and we just don't have that luxury. No excuses for losing - it's just that there may be a reasonable explanation of our specific difficulties in the game vs. those teams that play them later (LSU, Georgia, Auburn, Florida State). No excuses for tomorrow though. Scheme or not, our talent advantage over Vandy should be insurmountable. Go Vols!!!

GerryOP writes:

Ahhh, ssukonic, the 'Crocs play us early in the season also -- and they usually whup up on us. Soooo, how can you rationalize we lose to them because we play them early in the season?

Furthermore, I think it was a couple of 'Croc freshman who contributed to their victory last year. A couple of kids named Tebow and Harvin? Also, I would advocate that being prepared for a game, whether it be the 1st game or the last game, is a coaching issue.

If it were simply a talent issue, we should win 90% of our games every year and there would not be blowouts like our loss to Alabama. No one who knows anything about college football would claim that Alabama had more talent than we did. Likewise, without doing a position-by-position analysis, we have 22 seniors running through the T tomorrow. That sure seems like a lot of experience, experience that was there for the 'Croc game this year when we got blown out 59-20.

So, whether you want to play the schedule card, the talent card, or the experience card, most failues come back to the same basic issues -- the game plan, mid-game adjustments and player motivation. All responsibilities of the coaching staff.

asleep#212036 writes:

pdhuff,

I believe that this Vols team is overall a much better, more confidant group that has much more to play for than the 2005 squad. Further, Vandy doesn't have Jay Cutler or Jamie Wilborn, both in the NFL. I never want to look ahead but my word, if they choke at home to the 'Dores, I think I will lose it! Some losses are just inexcusable and this would be one of them. I can't even get the PPV in my little Alabama town because they're aren't enough UT fans for my cable provider to recoup the licensing fee. #!&*#! Go Vols!!!

GerryOP writes:

So, you ask, what caused the turnaround mid-season this year? I'm glad you asked!

Mid-season the '07 team was on the brink of surpassing the '05 team in futility. I believe that around about the time of the Alabama game, like maybe within 24 hours after the team returned to K'town, someone -- whether it was Mr. Hamilton, the alumni backers, the players, players parents, Pennington(lol), former players, or PAF's wife -- grabbed PAF by the scruff of the neck and "politely but firmly suggested" to him that maybe, just maybe, doing things the way he had been doing things for the past 15 years was not working. Inherent in the message was the "suggestion" that PAF might want to let the O and D coordinators coordinate and start putting the best talent, not the most experience, on the field.

If you will recall, that is when we stopped hearing "stay the course", that is when some really talented freshmen started "showing their stuff", that is when all of a sudden we started seeing a game plan focusing on the ground game (God knows, we certainly have a pretty impressive stable of kids who like to run the ball!), that is when the defense came together, that is when the special teams play started to be "special", and, finally, that is when we started consistently winning football games. Oh, yes, that is also about the time when we started seeing more news articles quoting the players and the rest of the coaching staff rather than the multitude of inane, nonsensical quotes from PAF. Although he did manage to sneak in a startling realization in the above article about how shocking it is to see how well this group of freshmen play!

A coincidence? I don't think so. I think someone pointed out to PAF that if he wanted to "stay the course" that the course was heading directly out the exit door and onto a bus out of K'town.

Just my opinion!

Oenoboy writes:

...or maybe it is as simple as our young team just didn't handle being on the road that well? Just my opinion.

GerryOP writes:

Maybe ... but ... that was "way back" when PAF was focusing on experience not talent. But, maybe ...

1974Vol writes:

I say if we win the SEC Championship and go to a BCS Bowl we give ol' "Foolmer" one more year to prove he's still got it.

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