Adams: Fans can celebrate progress

Tennessee fans still can't be sure who their starting quarterback is, the team's depth chart is a work in progress, and an all-new coaching staff hasn't turned a troubled offense into an over-spring success story.

But for all the uncertainty, UT is about to complete one of the most eventful spring sessions in school history. Saturday's spring game will punctuate a season of change.

Lane Kiffin is only UT's third head coach since the end of the 1976 season, but the last transition was hardly extreme. You had one former UT player (Johnny Majors) being replaced as coach by another former UT player (Phillip Fulmer).

The coaches changed. The system didn't.

More than the coaches and system are different now. So is the atmosphere. The volume and intensity have been turned up. Even if you didn't make it through the practice gate, you could hear the difference from across the street.

This hasn't just been a case of players trying to impress a new coaching staff. There has been a heightened sense of opportunity - an awareness that playing time and starting positions are there for the taking.

You can expect more of the same in August when the complete freshman class joins the competition. Kiffin made it clear in his first press conference that freshmen would be a priority in August.

Freshman defensive tackle, Montori Hughes, already has taken advantage of Kiffin's non-seniority system. After converted defensive end Wes Brown was injured last week, Hughes moved into the starting lineup. Do you really think that would have happened under the previous regime?

Hughes' emergence signifies more than a change in coaching philosophies. It also speaks to a program whose talent level has declined in recent years. The drop-off is evident at almost every position, but it's most flagrant at quarterback.

In the best of times, former coach Phillip Fulmer didn't have to rely on freshmen, because his depth chart was well fortified with proven players. Eventually, Kiffin and his staff should refortify the depth chart through the kind of salesmanship they demonstrated in the final few weeks leading up to signing day. It was the recruiting equivalent of Oklahoma's hurry-up offense.

Don't expect Oklahoma results just yet. It will take years, not weeks, of recruiting to transform UT into a championship program. In the meantime, UT fans can celebrate progress, if not championships.

The Vols should leave this spring a more disciplined, tougher and confident team. For the most part, they've got their health, too. Given the heavy hitting in scrimmages and skeleton drills, the lack of injuries is both surprising and significant.

The gains of the spring won't be lost in the fall. UT will be a better team, and a more troublesome adversary for the best teams in the SEC.

Too many opponents looked too comfortable in UT's 5-7 season of 2008. Florida basically toyed with the Vols; even when the score was close, Alabama played as though the outcome was predetermined; South Carolina's offense snoozed through the second half after taking a 21-0 lead through two quarters.

At least, with a new offensive and defensive system, UT should be more difficult for which to prepare. But UT's preparation should be a bigger plus.

The preparation began this spring when a new coaching staff changed the mind-set as well as the schemes.

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

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Comments » 25

TommyJack writes:

Change we can believe in.

Volsnfl writes:

Getter done, GO BIG ORANGE!!!

AirForceLawVol writes:

Mr. Adams, I hope you're right. I have no expectations regarding wins and losses, but I do expect a tougher team. The Vols need to work toward creating an "Orange Effect" whereby teams think about nothing but us until they play us and feel nothing but us after they play us. I wish I could be there for the O&W game. Go Vols!

DennisVols writes:

The difference will be in the competitive nature, the prepration, and passin we will all see this fall. That in itself will get more wins and be a refreshing change from what we have had to watch the last few years.
Keeping it Real
Go Vols!!!!!

Voluvr writes:

We are already winning.

gtown_vol writes:

Ah phew! I smell Adam's... must have stepped in something. Fire Adams!

Go Vols! Love how things are developing.

Pops writes:

"Freshman defensive tackle, Montori Hughes, already has taken advantage of Kiffin's non-seniority system. After converted defensive end Wes Brown was injured last week, Hughes moved into the starting lineup. Do you really think that would have happened under the previous regime?"

Fulmer started Eric Ainge as a freshman Quarterback, so yeah I think its possible that Fulmer might have started Hughes as a freshman defensive tackle. Some of the criticism of Fulmer is deserved, but come on this is just piling on. Why not just make the article about the positives of Kiffin, instead of constantly denigrating a UT legend? Have some class Adams.

Waldorf writes:

in response to Pops:

"Freshman defensive tackle, Montori Hughes, already has taken advantage of Kiffin's non-seniority system. After converted defensive end Wes Brown was injured last week, Hughes moved into the starting lineup. Do you really think that would have happened under the previous regime?"

Fulmer started Eric Ainge as a freshman Quarterback, so yeah I think its possible that Fulmer might have started Hughes as a freshman defensive tackle. Some of the criticism of Fulmer is deserved, but come on this is just piling on. Why not just make the article about the positives of Kiffin, instead of constantly denigrating a UT legend? Have some class Adams.

He started Ainge/Schaefer because he had no choice. Managers used to place bets on how many ints CJ Leak would throw in practice. He was NEVER going to be the starter.

Good riddance Foolmore. I hope you trip and all on your fat butt tomorrow so I can laugh at your pathetic self one more time.

MrBamSeydu writes:

John Adams was right all along. I love rubbing that in all the anti-Adams / pro-Fulmer fans who wouldn't believe him when he said we NEEDED A COACHING CHANGE 2 YEARS AGO!!!!

GaytorHater writes:

in response to DCdynasty:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

sportsfish writes:

in response to Pops:

"Freshman defensive tackle, Montori Hughes, already has taken advantage of Kiffin's non-seniority system. After converted defensive end Wes Brown was injured last week, Hughes moved into the starting lineup. Do you really think that would have happened under the previous regime?"

Fulmer started Eric Ainge as a freshman Quarterback, so yeah I think its possible that Fulmer might have started Hughes as a freshman defensive tackle. Some of the criticism of Fulmer is deserved, but come on this is just piling on. Why not just make the article about the positives of Kiffin, instead of constantly denigrating a UT legend? Have some class Adams.

I agree that we need to focus on the now and future and not forget the good things Fulmer and staff accomplished. Having said that, he started Ainge out of necessity, not preference. C.J. Leak was not an option!

tennezz writes:

in response to DCdynasty:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

What does the DC stand for? DUMB CLOWN? It should be DS - DIP S--T!

DoubleDs writes:

in response to tennezz:

What does the DC stand for? DUMB CLOWN? It should be DS - DIP S--T!

What type of pathetic loser hangs out on opposing team's chat boards? Tennezz you must have missed your South Park rerun this evening.

Just to set the record straight - even if UF beats Tennessee this year (which I would certainly not assume if I were you), the simple fact is Tennessee wil still lead the overall series with the Gators.

Now you're excused and can go back to listening to your newest Britney Spears CD....

tennezz writes:

in response to DoubleDs:

What type of pathetic loser hangs out on opposing team's chat boards? Tennezz you must have missed your South Park rerun this evening.

Just to set the record straight - even if UF beats Tennessee this year (which I would certainly not assume if I were you), the simple fact is Tennessee wil still lead the overall series with the Gators.

Now you're excused and can go back to listening to your newest Britney Spears CD....

I believe you misread my post! I was talking to DCdynasty! I am all ORANGE!

FeelVol writes:

in response to Pops:

"Freshman defensive tackle, Montori Hughes, already has taken advantage of Kiffin's non-seniority system. After converted defensive end Wes Brown was injured last week, Hughes moved into the starting lineup. Do you really think that would have happened under the previous regime?"

Fulmer started Eric Ainge as a freshman Quarterback, so yeah I think its possible that Fulmer might have started Hughes as a freshman defensive tackle. Some of the criticism of Fulmer is deserved, but come on this is just piling on. Why not just make the article about the positives of Kiffin, instead of constantly denigrating a UT legend? Have some class Adams.

I'm with you Pops enough already with the Fulmer bashing isn't it past time to let it die.

Colliervol writes:

"Hughes' emergence signifies more than a change in coaching philosophies. It also speaks to a program whose talent level has declined in recent years. The drop-off is evident at almost every position"

"Don't expect Oklahoma results just yet. It will take years, not weeks, of recruiting to transform UT into a championship program. In the meantime, UT fans can celebrate progress, if not championships."

All the dim bulbs (trolls and Vol "fans") that want to denigrate the new coaches and say that this season will tell us everything about this staff need to read and comprehend the two quotes above. Of all the things Adams has ever written, these two may be the most accurate. I've pointed out before that it is going to take several YEARS to straighten out the mess that this staff was left with. Just the way it is. If you don't understand it, too bad. If you are looking for immediate results, you are probably going to be disappointed. Progress is the operative word.

PaulTheVol writes:

I agree completely with the line about celebrating progress for the next couple of seasons. This is a process that needs several years to complete before the program becomes self-sustaining again. I expect to see effort from the players and progress from the program this year and as long as I see that then I'll be happy. As long as they bring in talent then the results will come.

scvols writes:

Just keep working like heck.....

Madkels writes:

in response to DCdynasty:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Blah Blah Blah Blah

Madkels writes:

in response to DCdynasty:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

The more I see you idiots refering to 9/19, it reminds me of the broadcaster that says something like "he hasn't throw an interception in 63 attempts" and the next one is taken back by the d-back for 6.

windy writes:

in response to PaulTheVol:

I agree completely with the line about celebrating progress for the next couple of seasons. This is a process that needs several years to complete before the program becomes self-sustaining again. I expect to see effort from the players and progress from the program this year and as long as I see that then I'll be happy. As long as they bring in talent then the results will come.

Didn't take Satan at Alabuma 5 years. Kiffin can do it also in a year or two. Go Kiffin and Vols.

Volfan52 writes:

in response to windy:

Didn't take Satan at Alabuma 5 years. Kiffin can do it also in a year or two. Go Kiffin and Vols.

Well-coached and properly motivatd teams can and will find a way to win. Does anyone really believe Utah had as much talent as Alabama?

philfan writes:

in response to gtown_vol:

Ah phew! I smell Adam's... must have stepped in something. Fire Adams!

Go Vols! Love how things are developing.

This is an overly optimistic article about Tennessee's outlook for the future and specifically for this year. I might have liked Adams' comments save for the usual jabs at the winningest coach in Tennessee history.

All of you are naive if you think we can win with mostly freshmen who have won their assignments by competing diligently in practice sessions and by impressing a not too bright and inexperienced coach named Kiffin. Freshmen make mistakes and a lot of them. I have seen even the most talented freshmen screw up big time in front of 107, 000 screaming fans.

Oh well, if Tennessee does poorly this year (and I hope we do well), Adams and everyone else can always blame it on Fulmer. So what else is new?

leedsvol2007 writes:

I agree with Adams that the change in atmosphere and practice intensity are definitely steps in the right direction.

But I believe if you were to research the actual records many freshman started and contributed during the Fulmer era.

That said Fulmer had a philosophy of not rushing players at strength positions until he was convinced they could physically compete.

Its interesting that Montori Hughes was recruited by Fulmer on the recommendation of a high school coach when he was basically being ignored. When he stated he thought he had a diamond in the rough he was ridiculed. Although he is technically a freshman he prepped last year which really makes him a sophomore in terms of age.

I am really excited about Kiffin, the staff he has assembled, the way they have simplified the offensive schemes to end the confusion that was evident last year and overall the breath of fresh air they have provided to the program.

Last season was disaster primarily because of the change from Cutcliffe to Clawson. In hindsight had Fulmer not scrapped his offense due to the hue and cry from fans he would still be the coach.

I would suggest we simply get behind Kiffin and what he is doing and not continue to bash Fulmer who gave us one of the best eras in the storied history of Vol football.

The change has been made let's move forward.

GoVols!

belayvol writes:

Time to focus on the 09 season. Love the new attitude on the hill. The train is moving too fast to see anything from behind. It's all about running over whoever get's in the way now. Each week the steel on the front of the engine will be changed to the proper configuration. Gator, elephant, dawg catchers all ready to weld on and do some damage.

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