Adams: At 2-3, it's time to risk changes

Tennessee's football team is drifting farther apart.

That's not a knock on team chemistry. It's a statistical fact.

First fact: UT ranks fifth nationally in total defense (fewest yards allowed per game).

Second fact: UT ranks 97th nationally in total offense.

I never saw the disparity coming. In fact, I thought balance would be the strength of this team.

The schedule has something to do with it.

UT hasn't played an opponent whose offense ranks higher than 47th nationally. UCLA ranks 111th, and Auburn ranks 104th.

Conversely, three of UT's opponents rank in the top 25 in total defense. Based on defensive rankings, there are more problems ahead for UT's offense.

Three of UT's next four opponents - Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina - rank 22nd or higher defensively. Defense alone won't save UT in those games.

Defense almost didn't save the Vols in a 13-9 victory over Northern Illinois on Saturday night. But a quarterback change helped.

New starting quarterback Nick Stephens provided what proved to be the game-winning play when he hit wide receiver Denarius Moore with a 52-yard touchdown pass.

The play underscored an obvious shortcoming of this offense. It's sadly lacking in big plays.

Florida's offense has struggled as well this season. Yet the Gators have been able to produce sudden touchdowns. For example, against Arkansas on Saturday, Florida scored on runs of 36, 48 and 75 yards.

Granted, UT doesn't have anyone as fast as Florida's Chris Rainey, Jeffrey Demps and Percy Harvin. Nor does it have a kick returner comparable to Florida's Brandon James.

But UT might have more playmakers than it has shown. Maybe they're languishing on the bench as Stephens was until Saturday.

If so, why not give them a chance? What have you got to lose?

Sustaining long, successful drives against the likes of Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina would be difficult for any offense. But UT's difficulties are compounded by its mistakes.

UT needs a receiver who can make a defender pay for tight coverage. It needs a running back who can turn a 15-yard run into a 50-yard touchdown.

That's why players like Moore and running back Lennon Creer should get more opportunities. And that's why strong safety Eric Berry should be used on offense as well as defense.

Again, what have you got to lose?

Tailback Arian Foster could finish this season as UT's all-time leading rusher. He has the ability to break tackles and is an excellent receiver out of the backfield.

And on a team with a better quarterback and more dynamic players at other positions, he could be invaluable - if, of course, he could hold onto the football.

But Foster can't give this offense what it needs - an occasional quick-strike touchdown. Moreover, linebackers can run him down from behind, and UT rarely uses him as a receiver.

If UT had pulled out close games against UCLA and Auburn as it did against Northern Illinois, maybe it could risk plodding along at the same pace with the same offensive players. Yet it's 2-3, not 4-1, and it's headed for a non-winning season.

So it can risk change or continue to beat its head against the wall. Maybe a dent will show up by November.

Sports editor John Adams may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com.

© 2008 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 64

dcvolfan98 writes:

Fulmer recruited all of these guys. Why not give them a chance to show what they can do, even if that means taking the redshirt off. They may not stick around for the full four years anyway.

WeLoveTennesseeVols writes:

in response to dcvolfan98:

Fulmer recruited all of these guys. Why not give them a chance to show what they can do, even if that means taking the redshirt off. They may not stick around for the full four years anyway.

tHAT'S RIGHT TIME TO TAKE THE GLOVES OFF!

WeLoveTennesseeVols writes:

GREAT ARTICLE, FINALLY HE HITS THE NAILS ON THEIR HEADS.

GerryOP writes:

Has anyone seen Tauren Poole? Is he still in town?

Knoxobserver writes:

Excellent article. This team is not playing like a "team." We have talent but no cohesion and no heart. I wish I had answers instead of just complaints. I'm afraid the problems are much bigger than simple solutions.

khelton657 writes:

\

Well said, again, John...and much more tactfully than most of us would say it..

murrayvol writes:

in response to Knoxobserver:

Excellent article. This team is not playing like a "team." We have talent but no cohesion and no heart. I wish I had answers instead of just complaints. I'm afraid the problems are much bigger than simple solutions.

They may be but simple solutions are all we have at this point.

I can remember thinking if we could be 4-1 (or maybe even 5-0) going to Athens. In retrospect I wasn't thinking. I was dreaming.

volfan4evr writes:

Adams is right this time ...Its time to use whatever we have ...that means any offense that coach Dave my have up his sleeves ...Time to turn em loose and let em run ...Time for someone to knock Foster over the head so he will forget how good he used to be and remember that if you want to gain yardage in the SEC you have to hit a hole hard and run over people ...not try to juke and run around them ...Lets go coach lets see some of that wide open offense that we and all those recruits read about all summer...GET US EXCITED AGAIN .....GO VOLS

fredrickb writes:

Coaching change.

pdhuff#552644 writes:

John A, it is a REACH to use Fulmer and change in the same article. He doesn't realize that all the mileage is gone from 10 years ago.

He has to review the film to see that the charts need NO change, whatsoever.

And on we will go.....

fredrickb writes:

in response to MOUNTAINofOKEMO:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Okay.

MANVOL writes:

One more time...I Get it, a win is a win is a win. IT'S FREAK'N Northern ILLINOIS. OK we started Stephens, OK that's a baby step. Can we now bench Foster and start Creer? Enough with the studder steps before hitting the line and how many times does he have to be caught from behind before he too replaced? Put in Creer. Maybe Hamilton needs to have more meetings on who should be starting... "it is about dad burn popcorn sales", around here not a winning program.

burpee_von_rotweiler_IV writes:

Hey, change this: Get rid of that indoor practice facility. It is an unnecessary indulgence. Train like you fight. Fight like you train. Of course that ain't going to happen because one big ole coach likes to keep his big ole butt cool when it's warm and warm when it's cold.

MillisaAnn writes:

You are right Mr. Adams.

Fulmer please give these other players a chance!

Mansonlamps writes:

This article makes too much sense, but it requires that Fulmer goes against his ultra conservative/stupid instincts and you'll die of frustration if you believe Fulmer will do anything to change his stripes at this stage of his career. He is what he is. Unfortunatley he holds the program hostage right now and there's nothing anybody can do except hope we lose enough games to get this sad sack to retire or get fired.

MrBamSeydu writes:

I think Ahmad Paige could catch a deep ball if you put him out there. I also think Lennon Creer is our best RB.

Best player should play, no matter if they're a freshman or a senior. Fulmer is going to learn his lesson when he keeps staying with his old worn out ways. The fans are getting restless in Knoxville and he's not getting any younger... or for that matter he's not getting any better either. His winning % just keeps getting worse and worse. His approval rating is probably lower than the President's.

thevoice writes:

in response to WeLoveTennesseeVols:

tHAT'S RIGHT TIME TO TAKE THE GLOVES OFF!

No, he meant the redshirt, not the gloves. Totally different.

GerryOP writes:

Tauren Poole? Ahmad Paige? Brandon Warren? Gerald Williams? Iffy and inexperienced.

teedub writes:

Dear Coach Fulmer,
Times are tough in the Big Orange Nation. There is no question that you know and feel this better than anyone. You win, lose, coach, teach, and mentor in such a way that always makes me proud to be a Volunteer. There is no doubt that you give your all for Tennessee today. Everyday. For that, we as fans will always owe you a debt of incredible gratitude.

There is no doubt that times have changed in the SEC. The competition has gotten better, and you might say that we are seeing college football’s version of Darwinian theory at it’s finest. The Vols are turning into a back of the pack team, and we are staring a losing season in the face.

But that’s not what scares me the most. We’ll make changes and we’ll get better. What scares me the most is that the University of Tennessee will lose another one of it’s beloved icons. My childhood was no doubt enriched by Saturdays on the Hill. It’s why I am the Vol Alumni and fan that I am today. My Dad told me great stories about Conridge Holloway and Johnnie Majors. My own memories unfolded before my eyes with the likes of Tony Robinson, Reggie White, and Dale Jones. In my adult years, hardly a game goes by when I think about how great it would be to see Johnnie Majors every Saturday as part of the Tennessee pageantry. He’s not there. He’s so bitter that he wears Pitt colors to an event dedicated to the ’85 Vols. Rarely does a Majors interview go by without a backhanded compliment. It’s tragic, and I hate it. If Coach Majors had only recognized that the Vols were ready for a change, 17 years of ugliness might have been avoided.

This storied football program is way bigger than any one of us – that’s one thing that makes it so special. It will survive one way or another. It was Coach Majors time to go. Coach Fulmer, you were what the Volunteers needed. It was a new way of thinking and a new way of playing.

Anyway, it seems to many that we are very close to coming “full circle”. Please, please take note of our Volunteer history. I don’t think I can stand to not see you years from now on campus each gameday. I’m going to have a son one day, I want him to see the man that took Tennessee football to the championship level. I want him to hear words of encouragement inspiration from a living legend. I fear that legend won’t want to be around if decisions are forced upon him.

They say history repeats itself. That may be true, but it doesn’t have to. Please Coach Fulmer, don’t stop giving your all for Tennessee. Pass the torch and your wisdom, and help us start the next incredible chapter.

Todd Williams
UTK, Class of 1994

fredrickb writes:

Oh yeah I almost forgot:

BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!

http://muschampforut.wordpress.com

BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!

darbhoo writes:

So now we find out that the future of Tennessee football may be sitting on the bench? Do you suppose Fulmer has not seen all the freshmen and sophomores on the teams that are sticking it up our noses?

College football is about developing these young athletes and not letting them waste on the bench because they are "inexperienced" and "not quite ready". How do they get experience and get ready? Ask Crompton about the difference in wearing a non-contact jersey at helf speed and being in the battle.

Where is the Tennessee football of old where our atletes were tough and all feared and respected them for their never-give-up spirit?

Fulmer, use those players and at least give us a future we can look forward to with young, fired up EXPERIENCED players. It's the least you can do.

ect1983 writes:

PERFECT !!!!!!!!!!!!! But it won't happen. Ego. Money.Both Thanks for expressing what the vast majority think. But, it will get ugly

beachvol1 writes:

Phil, listen to what Todd has said, and if you care anything about the program and it's future, step down and let a newer breed take the helm and get the program back to respectability...as for now, the Vols are a division 2 program on a good day..

BobbyGraham writes:

does anyone know what has happened to lucas taylor? i am not saying he is the greatest receiver we ever had but he did have well over a thousand yards last year. Maybe he was Trooper's boy and Clawson doesn't consider him a playmaker

SFOrange writes:

in response to teedub:

Dear Coach Fulmer,
Times are tough in the Big Orange Nation. There is no question that you know and feel this better than anyone. You win, lose, coach, teach, and mentor in such a way that always makes me proud to be a Volunteer. There is no doubt that you give your all for Tennessee today. Everyday. For that, we as fans will always owe you a debt of incredible gratitude.

There is no doubt that times have changed in the SEC. The competition has gotten better, and you might say that we are seeing college football’s version of Darwinian theory at it’s finest. The Vols are turning into a back of the pack team, and we are staring a losing season in the face.

But that’s not what scares me the most. We’ll make changes and we’ll get better. What scares me the most is that the University of Tennessee will lose another one of it’s beloved icons. My childhood was no doubt enriched by Saturdays on the Hill. It’s why I am the Vol Alumni and fan that I am today. My Dad told me great stories about Conridge Holloway and Johnnie Majors. My own memories unfolded before my eyes with the likes of Tony Robinson, Reggie White, and Dale Jones. In my adult years, hardly a game goes by when I think about how great it would be to see Johnnie Majors every Saturday as part of the Tennessee pageantry. He’s not there. He’s so bitter that he wears Pitt colors to an event dedicated to the ’85 Vols. Rarely does a Majors interview go by without a backhanded compliment. It’s tragic, and I hate it. If Coach Majors had only recognized that the Vols were ready for a change, 17 years of ugliness might have been avoided.

This storied football program is way bigger than any one of us – that’s one thing that makes it so special. It will survive one way or another. It was Coach Majors time to go. Coach Fulmer, you were what the Volunteers needed. It was a new way of thinking and a new way of playing.

Anyway, it seems to many that we are very close to coming “full circle”. Please, please take note of our Volunteer history. I don’t think I can stand to not see you years from now on campus each gameday. I’m going to have a son one day, I want him to see the man that took Tennessee football to the championship level. I want him to hear words of encouragement inspiration from a living legend. I fear that legend won’t want to be around if decisions are forced upon him.

They say history repeats itself. That may be true, but it doesn’t have to. Please Coach Fulmer, don’t stop giving your all for Tennessee. Pass the torch and your wisdom, and help us start the next incredible chapter.

Todd Williams
UTK, Class of 1994

Great job TW.

The time for change is here.

We can all see its the only thing that, when allowed to happen, will make us better for it.

Fulmer does give his all for Tennessee. And when he realizes that he must make way for the next great Vol coach--he'll give it even more.

west_tn_volfan writes:

If gerald jones is our biggest threat on offense, why not use him at tailback and let him get about twenty touches per game? He has breakaway speed and he would be a threat every play. I thought that was the goal of this offense, get the ball in the hands of our best players.

Bigger_Al writes:

Adams is in heaven, as well as being a buffoon. The Vols are struggling, and he gets to kick the coaches and pour salt in the wounds of the fans. All this from a guy that spent most of his senior year in High School hanging inside his locker by his tighty whities.

"Revenge of the Nerd!"

DemocratVol writes:

Sign the petition for change at UT.

http://www.petitiononline.com/UTcoach...

utmdm writes:

in response to GerryOP:

Has anyone seen Tauren Poole? Is he still in town?

Sitting on the 2nd row with my son, I located a jersey with "Poole" sitting on the bench directly in front of me. Held his position well. Also saw a "Creer" and "Paige" sitting close by. Wondered if they might be those game breakers we are saving to preserve the the KY win streak.

To answer a previous post question about offensive line getting fired up about getting whipped by a -40 defensive line - I did not see a lot of fire in the eyes. Vlad who was injured did show some enthusiasm and seemed very into encouraging the bunch, though as it appears, without much luck. Did not notice much coach "encouragement".

FYI also noticed Briscoe getting chewed on by a coach throughout the game.

After the ill fated G-gun pass I did notice a look in the eyes but it wasn't fire. More of disgust. Seemed to cause much displeasure with most of the RBs also.

FedUpVolFan writes:

Wow!
Watching Fulmer's pre-game pep talk and it's so obvious the team doesn't have a clue.
No response to the Fulmer's challenge.
Every true fan should watch the sports south replay!
I said nothing else about this team and season could shock me.
I was so wrong!
Sad!
Crompton looking around while Fulmer trying to pump them up.
I bleed orange, but this almost makes me sick.

anyonebutfulmer writes:

John, how could you not rag on the offensive line? Those guys just don't seem to have any passion. None.

TheVolMan writes:

Good article John. Bigger_Al, pull your head out. If you don't like JA then stop reading and boycott the KNS like your fellow Weenies.

But if you have to read him then improve your comprehension. This article is balanced and spot on--not because any perceived anti-UT bias but because of the team's performance.

Are you satisfied with the season so far? If so then don't read intelligently written columns but instead listen to Vol Calls to hear Coach Fulmer reassure everyone that he and the staff are working "dang hard."

jt1369w writes:

in response to GerryOP:

Tauren Poole? Ahmad Paige? Brandon Warren? Gerald Williams? Iffy and inexperienced.

As opposed to the outstanding performers running the offense at the moment?

newtonrail writes:

I don't agree with Berry playing both ways at this point, unless it were at receiver which no one is aware of. He practiced a little in Fall Camp in the same Package Gerald Jones runs, and there can't be that much difference between those two to risk having a tired Safety on the field. Moore and Paige are the two with speed on team. Berry could run the Go routes, but would have to practice.

Volunteer-Varmint writes:

In response to TeeDub:

TeeDub,

Excellent letter! You have my vote for President.

Maybe you should send that letter to the KNS. If they print it maybe old phil will read it since he "Doesnt't read these posts". Maybe it will help. Who knows?

MidTennVol writes:

"But UT might have more playmakers than it has shown. Maybe they're languishing on the bench as Stephens was until Saturday.

If so, why not give them a chance? What have you got to lose?"

TOTALLY AGREE, ADAMS. Turn it loose and open it up.

But I fear Coach Fulmer is too mule-headed, afraid, conservative, risk-averse to take that kind of chance.

"So it can risk change or continue to beat its head against the wall. Maybe a dent will show up by November."

Coach Fulmer doesn't seem to understand that throwing caution to the wind on offense might just save his job. We may still lose the majority of games...but the fan base will calm down greatly if we see new players, new faces, new rotations, new players in different roles, etc.

How about this ridiculous offensive line and all their mental mistakes like repeat penalties? SIT THEIR BUTTS DOWN AND PUT IN THE TWOS AND THREES BECAUSE THIS GROUP AIN'T GETTING IT DONE. It will never happen because it's too risky in Fulmer's mind.

Even some trick plays to fire the team up. When was the last time Fulmer faked a punt or a field goal, for example, or tried an onsides kick? (Look what Richt did at Georgia to get the team out of its malaise last year. And remember how Saban opened the game against us last year?)

We'll be satisfied to see that at least he's trying to jumpstart the team.

But Coach Fulmer just doesn't get this. It is asking the leopard to change its spots; completely out of character for him.

He has retreated to that familiar bunker mentality we've seen so many times before. He's under siege and will continue coaching the team not to lose.

And it may cost him his job this time.

rootin4volz writes:

Two NFL teams on Sunday ran a direct snap to the tailback for TDs. Let's not only get creative about personnel, but let's get creative about what we do with them!

pdhuff#552644 writes:

We are at the point , I guess, that we need to lean back, fold our hands across our beer locker and watch this trainwreck guided by Phixable roll backwards downhill.

Barring a divine intervention, this die is cast.

Cellar dwellers.

KennesawVol writes:

in response to TheVolMan:

Good article John. Bigger_Al, pull your head out. If you don't like JA then stop reading and boycott the KNS like your fellow Weenies.

But if you have to read him then improve your comprehension. This article is balanced and spot on--not because any perceived anti-UT bias but because of the team's performance.

Are you satisfied with the season so far? If so then don't read intelligently written columns but instead listen to Vol Calls to hear Coach Fulmer reassure everyone that he and the staff are working "dang hard."

How about working smarter, not harder for a change. Oops - I forgot who I was talking about.

ect1983 writes:

in response to Bigger_Al:

Adams is in heaven, as well as being a buffoon. The Vols are struggling, and he gets to kick the coaches and pour salt in the wounds of the fans. All this from a guy that spent most of his senior year in High School hanging inside his locker by his tighty whities.

"Revenge of the Nerd!"

What do u want him to do...be a cheerleader ??/ Thanks for the GREAT columns JA

GerryOP writes:

in response to pdhuff#552644:

We are at the point , I guess, that we need to lean back, fold our hands across our beer locker and watch this trainwreck guided by Phixable roll backwards downhill.

Barring a divine intervention, this die is cast.

Cellar dwellers.

Dadgumit pdhuff, quitcher complainin'. We're the reigning 2007 SEC East Champs ... and almost beat the future 2007 national champs. ;>}

beef4davols writes:

Forget seeing any young talent on the field this year. Fulmer has it stuck in his mind that the risk is greater than the reward in playing our "inexperienced" players. Like in many other cases, he has a VERY outdated opinion on this matter. Do you think Percy Harvin would have seen the field at UT until late in his sophmore year? How do you think Phil would have handled having McFadden and Felix Jones on the same team? Harvin wouldn't have played early and definately not in the capacity in which he does now, and either McFadden or Jones would have wasted away on the bench just as much of our talent is now. Fulmer cannot and will not coach outside the realm of "Tennessee Football."

PAT4889 writes:

in response to west_tn_volfan:

If gerald jones is our biggest threat on offense, why not use him at tailback and let him get about twenty touches per game? He has breakaway speed and he would be a threat every play. I thought that was the goal of this offense, get the ball in the hands of our best players.

I like it. Dont know why we dont line Jones up at tailback, wide receiver, and even shotgun quarterback on some occasions. And keep the right tackle on the right side, where he belongs!

johnlg00 writes:

GREAT post, Teedub! You summarized my feelings exactly. As for John Adams, I thought his columns and radio interviews in "enemy" territory were way out of line. His assaults on CPF's character, as I saw them, were inexcusable. However, he has been right on in diagnosing UT's on-field shortcomings. The stubborn conservatism of insisting that the older guys get the majority of the playing time as long as they are doing what he wants in practice, in class, and in personal behavior--but almost no matter how little they produce in games--is KILLING US on the field and in recruiting. The inexplicable neglect of special teams, especially when the offense is not producing, is becoming pathological at this point. Please, Phillip, PLEASE give us some indication that you at least understand that it is TOO LATE for the same ol', same ol' to do us any good this season. PLEASE, no more "workin' like heck...gotta stay the course...gotta look at the film" malarkey! If you don't see that we need to REALLY CHANGE the way we are doing things by now, I'm pretty sure you never will! In that case, PLEASE step down at the end of the season before you squander the vast reservoir of respect and good will the majority of Vol fans have for you. As others have said, IT'S TIME!!!

orangebloodgmc writes:

Hades must be freezing over; I am agreeing with John Adams.

Play Creer, please.

scottmichaelmoore#540590 writes:

Its time that we take a page from the R.F. Janeway playbook...

I remember in High School we were down by 6 points with :01 left on the clock...Janeway was in the huddle and draws up this sick looking play that couldn't possibly work. The ball was snapped and two fakes later we score the winning TD... everyone wanted to call it the Janeway, but out of love for his country he named it the Statue of Liberty...what a Patriot.

yeavols#228407 writes:

It's time for a change alright...can anyone guess what that might be?

yeavols#228407 writes:

Hamilton's got Fulmer's back...in Fulmer's front, he has wonder woman bracelets deflecting anything. Don't look for Fulmer to leave anytime soon. He's going to stay and everyone will still go to Neyland and fill up the seats, get pay per view, and buy every orange sweater no matter if we are 0-12.

oldbasshead writes:

I think the chances of Fulmer returning next year are very slim. Here's why. UT is currently 2-3 with no SEC wins. There are 6 SEC games remaining. Is 7-5 good enough for Fulmer to keep his job? If he loses to Ga and Ala (which is likely) and wins all of the others, he will finish 7-5. I hope 7-5 will not mean Fulmer is back next year, but it could. If he goes 6-6, I think he is gone. All it will take to go 6-6 is a loss to Ga and Ala and one loss to either SC, Vandy or Ky. Two loses in the last group and UT ends 5-7. The Ga game this weekend is very important for Fulmer. With a win at GA, the team could come together enough to finish 7-5 or better which could leave the door open for Fulmer to return next year. Do you pull for UT to beat Ga? Well that depends on whether you want Fulmer back next year or not. If UT finishes 8-4 or 9-3, then Fulmer deserves to be back.

Go4Two writes:

Cgreer

Mike Leach loses every big game he plays. SEC defenses would chew up his chuck and duck offense. Got to run the ball to win in the SEC.

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