Adams: It's obvious Vols can't win SEC until 2012

John Adams

As Tennessee wraps up its preseason training camp and looks toward game week, it's an appropriate time for housekeeping. That includes acknowledging the large elephant in the corner.

It's not going away.

Tennessee's first football season under new coach Lane Kiffin is little more than a week away. But the program is still years away.

That's not meant to temper the excitement that has been building within UT fans for the last eight months. They should be excited.

Kiffin has assembled an exceptional coaching staff, made more recruiting inroads than anyone could have expected in his first year, and revitalized a stale program with the energy and work ethic that Urban Meyer has brought to Florida, and Nick Saban to Alabama.

But he's still years behind his most formidable competition. You don't close that gap with one recruiting class or two.

I believe this staff will be successful. I also believe UT won't be capable of winning an SEC championship before 2012. And the reasons are obvious.

n The overall talent is at a low ebb. Check the last NFL draft (when one UT player was taken) or the last UT season (when the Vols went 5-7).

n There's uncertainty at quarterback. Regardless of whether Jonathan Crompton or Nick Stephens is at quarterback, UT won't rank near the top of the SEC at the most important position.

There's also quarterback uncertainty beyond this season. I expect UT to sign a good quarterback in this recruiting class, but it still will have to develop him.

And how many teams win conference championships with a true freshman quarterback?

n The league's two best programs are at the top of their game, and UT has to play both Florida and Alabama every season.

Florida won the national title last season, and Alabama finished sixth in the final Associated Press poll. That's the first time both teams have finished in the AP top 10 since 1994.

n The SEC schedule will work against the Vols.

Take the 2010 season, for example. Florida and Alabama should still be top-10 programs. Georgia should be, too. And South Carolina will return more starters than any other team in the league.

Also, UT drops Auburn and picks up LSU from the West. That's not a plus. And it gets the Tigers on the road. That's not a plus, either.

Not only will the Vols play more good teams. They will play most of them back-to-back.

UT will play Oregon and Florida in back-to-back home games in September, then take on LSU and Georgia back-to-back on the road in October. After an open date, it will play back-to-back games against Alabama and South Carolina.

The 2011 season is only slightly easier. In September, the Vols will have back-to-back road games against Florida and North Carolina. In October, they will have four consecutive games against Georgia (home), LSU (home), Alabama (road) and South Carolina (home).

Then, in November, UT will pick up Arkansas in Fayetteville. Based on what coach Bobby Petrino did in his first season, the Hogs will be a bigger challenge then than they are now.

So it's likely that in both 2010 and 2011, UT will have to play the top three teams from the West.

Those are the kind of obstacles UT will have to overcome in the next three years.

I realize college football rarely proceeds according to form. Programs lose key players to injury and early entry into the NFL. Coaches go pro, too.

And the way Kiffin has recruited can speed up the timetable on UT's rebuilding. In fact, just one freshman player can shake up the established order or at least prop up a sagging program. Freshman Herschel Walker turned Georgia into a national champion in 1980. Freshman Peyton Manning saved UT from a potentially disastrous season in 1994. Freshmen Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin helped Florida win a national title in 2006.

Imagine where UT would have been in 2000 if Casey Clausen hadn't been ready to play as a true freshman. You could say the same for 2004 when freshman quarterbacks Erik Ainge and Brent Schaeffer played well enough for UT to make the SEC championship game.

Kiffin's first recruiting class obviously has tremendous potential. His second class is shaping up nicely. But Alabama and Florida aren't exactly struggling in recruiting themselves.

And they had a head start.

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

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Comments » 186

the10sevol writes:

trying to fan the flames, ja, or flame the fans?
GBO

TommyJack writes:

TJ says 2011

Ironcity writes:

I say 2011. But I am not writing this team off just yet.

SportoVol writes:

Typical Adams. Nothing much else to say, so let's take one more shot at Fulmer. Look, you got what you wanted and he was replaced. Let it go and let's see what the new staff can do with the players they have. As usual, go with the negative and you can say I told you so if it comes true. If not, you will just get on the bandwagon and hope everyone forgets about this column. And trust me, with the usual drivel you post Adams, your columns are mostly forgettable.

davethevol writes:

JA certainly made a valid assessment. But, I still think the Vols have the ability to surprise a lot of folks this year and next now that they do have some playmakers on offense that they were lacking the last year or so.

Pdiddy10 writes:

what kind of article is this?!? why say this?!? try to get us fired up not saddened

PlaidinOrangeandWhite writes:

Just remember that the same year that Appy State beat Michigan; Michigan beat Florida in a bowl game. Anything can happen. That is why we play the games.

volspaws writes:

In his new book 'On Rocky Top', Clay Travis refers to Adams as 'short and portly'..Adams should be acknowledged from this point forward as "S&P"....hey S&P, stay out of the media food line at Neyland this year.sounds like you need to hit the treadmill instead

warriorman86#667191 writes:

You think his job his to get fans fired up? This isn't the UT PR Dept.

VOLS4LIFE writes:

in response to sweeten_159#646196:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

"That's why you play the game...." took the words right out of my mouth. Why are you always so negative Adams? Can KNS get Wes Rucker from the Chattanooga Times? At least he's an alum.....Go Vols!

bhjohnso#207063 writes:

in response to SportoVol:

Typical Adams. Nothing much else to say, so let's take one more shot at Fulmer. Look, you got what you wanted and he was replaced. Let it go and let's see what the new staff can do with the players they have. As usual, go with the negative and you can say I told you so if it comes true. If not, you will just get on the bandwagon and hope everyone forgets about this column. And trust me, with the usual drivel you post Adams, your columns are mostly forgettable.

he's not being negative....just realistic. he's calling it as he sees it, and i think he's right. of course you have to play the games, and anything can happen, but he's just laying out the facts. and it's not "taking a shot at Fulmer" saying 1 NFL draft pick and 5-7 record last year, because those things actually happened. i think his main point here is to call for a little patience with this staff, so fans don't throw them under the bus if they haven't won an SEC title in the next couple of years.

798orange writes:

What is the point of trying to predict beyond this year? Its pointless because there are way too many variables with every team. John claims it is obvious they won't win the SEC until 2012, but later in the column states "I realize college football rarely proceeds according to form."

spvol writes:

S&P is a HACK.

veinsoforange writes:

JA has a definite problem. Even if his prediction comes true, what's the point in publicizing such a negative article. I bet you don't see such a terrible article EVER come out of the Gainesville Times. That would be unheard of. I sure wish JA would transfer to gatorland or some other forbidden place!

ncvol17 writes:

Adams is a soothsayer.. we need a QB who is wise beyond his 18 yrs to spearhead our resurgence. it won't be this year and very tough next year...darn I'm getting too old to wait too many years...

david.roe#232850 writes:

john,

makes sense. on any given day teams that play with heart win. the vols hearts are growing. 11' with some 9' 10' big wins. you gotta believe! give me a w - with bama first - starting in 09'

RJ_Vol writes:

http://rivals.yahoo.com/ncaa/football...

I wonder what Scroggins is thinking about right now...

paden312 writes:

You're also assuming that none of those teams have bad years...you of all people should know that football works in cycles just like everything else in life. Look at the teams of the past, a few good years, then a few bad years. USC is basically the exception...but if I'm not mistaking, they had some "off years" in the 90s. You never know when some key players will go down and cause the season to go downhill. Complete waste of your time Adams in writing this, and waste of my time in reading. Use the whole brain next time, instead of just half of it.

sleiii writes:

CONTRADICTION IN TERMS?
"And how many teams win conference championships with a true freshman quarterback?"
***
"In fact, just one freshman player can shake up the established order or at least prop up a sagging program. Freshman Herschel Walker turned Georgia into a national champion in 1980. Freshman Peyton Manning saved UT from a potentially disastrous season in 1994. Freshmen Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin helped Florida win a national title in 2006."

stayingorange writes:

I'll say this is maybe 50/50, just like any predictions 2 years out - it might happen and it might not. I don't think the UT talent level is too low and I think Adams has repeatedly said the team was not performing to its talent level. Just because Carolina returns more players doesn't mean their any good. Petrino? I'd rather bet he's gone from Arkansas in 2 years. I could keep breaking this apart but I think the most obvious reason to discount any long-term predictions is this:

Two years ago UT was an interception away from winning the SEC and I truly believe that even by this year the Vols will be a better team than that one, let alone the 2010-2011 team.

RJ_Vol writes:

in response to jaylit:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

LOL. I hear there are some shamrocks carved on a Mayan temple w/ a package of Oscar Meyers next to them. I'm not into ancient texts, but that 2010 next to that drawing might ought to have the Gators worried. It could be worse...

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090826/a...

mbible1utk#324980 writes:

i think we have the best coaching staff in the country... which can speed up the turn around process. No doubt we got tough sledding, and I think we'll be better this year than next... but I have no reason to not believe we can be a pretty good team this year. We return a great defense, the offense will be the question, but without Fulmer in control, we should improve.

CoverOrange writes:

I really really really hate to say it but I see JA's point. The SEC may be the toughest conference top to bottom but UF and UA are on a different tier than the rest of the conference. Lane will beat those he's suppose to beat and be competitive with the rest based on determination, heart, work ethic and discipline. But to be competitive with those two at the top more talent is needed and that talent then needs to be seasoned. That isn't to say that Meyer or Saban might not slide back due to complacency, ala Fulmer circa 2002, but you can't count on it.

I feel dirty now.

BigEVol writes:

Win SEC in 2012? Ha! I expect a National Championship in 2 years. Oscar Meyer got it in year 2, and Nick Satan nearly did. Yes, Florida was loaded when Meyer got there, but Alabama's talent level was no better than TN's now - Satan recruited well and played a ton of freshmen. The expectation has already been set. Be optimistic - expect greatness! Get on the train! Go Vols!

vw writes:

Come on JA, Im against all the JA hate comments but you didnt help your cause with this one. We shall be competing next year. LSU with Miles is a trainwreck in the making. Im with WitchDoctor on this one, though he needs to go back to nashvilles craigslist

VOLuptuous writes:

I was looking over the schedules today, and the same thought occurred to me....the SEC is freaking brutal....still excited, though

teampenny#658108 writes:

in response to paden312:

You're also assuming that none of those teams have bad years...you of all people should know that football works in cycles just like everything else in life. Look at the teams of the past, a few good years, then a few bad years. USC is basically the exception...but if I'm not mistaking, they had some "off years" in the 90s. You never know when some key players will go down and cause the season to go downhill. Complete waste of your time Adams in writing this, and waste of my time in reading. Use the whole brain next time, instead of just half of it.

Gators have been to 17 straight bowl games-no losing seasons. That is a long cycle.

DennisVols writes:

Adams: And how many teams win conference championships with a true freshman quarterback?

Adams:Imagine where UT would have been in 2000 if Casey Clausen hadn't been ready to play as a true freshman. You could say the same for 2004 when freshman quarterbacks Erik Ainge and Brent Schaeffer played well enough for UT to make the SEC championship game.

Seems like he answered his own question.

"The overall talent is at a low ebb. Check the last NFL draft (when one UT player was taken) or the last UT season (when the Vols went 5-7)."
When you finish 5-7 and have the kind of year UT had few players are going to be on the NFL Radar. Foster was a 2nd round NFL pick had he left following his Jr year.
This team was so poorly coached it overshadowed the talent that was here. Most of the existing players on this team were part of top 10 recruiting classes so the overall talent level is not down as Adams would suggest. They are in fact very thin at certian positions. They do need to recruit a top level QB in this class but both JC and NS where highly rated when they were recruited. The fact that the previous coaching staff failed to develop either of them into elite QB's does not mean this staff cannot accomplish this.
As far as the scheduling goes, if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best. The last time I looked every football field is 100 yeards between the goal lines and 50 yeards wide so no matter where you play there is no difference in the field. Great teams win on the road.
Adams logic is flawed and of poor reasoning. This year will determine just how quick UT is back in the championship hunt. Marked improvement in the offense and a overall improvement in the competitive way this team plays will boost an already good recruiting class into a great one and Kiffin, unlike CPF, has no problem making freshmen game ready.
2010 UT has a outside shot at winning the east and by 2011 will be considered one of the favorites.
Keeping it Real
Go Vols!!!

tenmanjonez#561272 writes:

Adams, last time I checked, the last time a team came close to winning the SEC championship with a true freshman was... hmm who was it?....

oh right... IT WAS US with Mr Erik Ainge.
We came pretty damn close to beating, who i think was the best team in the nation, auburn in that game as well. Granted we had a pretty good run game, but never the less, it was still a true freshman bolstered team.

Down_The_Field writes:

blah.....blah.....blah....why don't you show up to the vol locker room and tell them they CAN'T win. you may find yourself trying to pry a football out of your nose.

i'll bet you were just another media punk that predicted the vols to loose in 1989 after a disastrous 1988 season. i remember the 1998 team wouldn't make it either due to a new qb and injuries on the d-line.

i'll also bet you sided with moscow over the 1980 USA hockey team too.

GO VOLS!

andy112382#209793 writes:

Funny thing, people were citing the same things when Ainge had his meltdown his sophmore year, yet we played (and very well could have won) for the SEC title just two seasons ago. How could we be so far away when we are not far removed at all from our last SEC title game appearance???

If anything, we have even more exciting players ready to hit the scene. Gerald Jone and Denarious Moore have tons of chance to be big time players once they are healed up. Bryce Brown - 'nough said. Richardson and Teague and highlights waiting to happen. Brandon Warren stepped up to the challenge from the sounds of it, and...well, Eric Berry, once again 'nough said there. Now they have a staff that will actually fire up the sidelines and fanbase.

99gator writes:

you all may not like it, but i think adams is dead on.

2009....ain't happening.
2010....you will be younger than you are this year. who will be playing qb and who will the o-lineman be? eric berry will be gone.
2011.....at alabama and at florida. assuming meyer and saban are coaching at that time, winning on the road against either school is a chore.

these are all under the assumption that alabama, florida, georgia, lsu, continue to recruit as they have.

this is also under the assumption that tennessee can recruit at the level lsu, florida, georgia, and alabama have.

paden312 writes:

in response to teampenny#658108:

Gators have been to 17 straight bowl games-no losing seasons. That is a long cycle.

yes...but they weren't at the same level that they are now. Look at the Zook years or the last years of Spurrier. Sure they went to bowl games, but they weren't going to the Nat'l Champ or going to the SEC everyone of those years previously noted. Not every team is championship caliber EVERY year. You can surely put that together. AND If there is no way UT can win maybe they should stay in the hotel and not even come out.

pj_ladyvolnMI writes:

Just read that USC (as in S. Cal) is starting a true freshman quarterback. I guess Pete didn't call Adams first...or maybe lowered his expectations.

99gator writes:

it's not a matter of whether winning the SEC earlier than that is impossible. of course, anything is possible.

the main idea of the article is that the odds are long for various reasons.

1. a talent gap. (which exists. for the people who keep mentioning where recruiting classes were rated.....at some point, crompton stops being a 5* qb and has to be considered a bad college qb)
2. no qb
3. scheduling problems.

and IMO, he's exactly right.

06143831 writes:

Well Mr. Adams, I really can't express how dumb I think you are after this article. Overall talent is at low ebb. because 1 player went to draft last year, right. I have one question for you. How many of our players were graduating last year at a starting position? The ratio doesn't seem that bad now does it? Put that in your pipe and smoke it Adams. It would be nice if you would pull Tebow's c0ck out of your @ss and start writing like you are a writer for UT, not UF.

06143831 writes:

on yeah, you can blame last season on bad coaching, an offensive playbook meant for yale graduates, lack of fire, and mixed messages sent from coaching staff. Sometimes "trying like heck" and "dog gawnits" don't get it done.

newtonrail writes:

The sky is falling. Chicken Adams, move over.

Vols033 writes:

I see his point. We have to be realistic guys. We probably won't be in contention until 2012 unless we have a very special player step forward for our offense before then. I know most of you will say "we have Bryce" but at one time we had Jabari Davis and before him we had Brian Darden. They were two highly rated running backs who were huge bust. Our success will ultimately depend on how well Nick Stephens can learn the offense and produce next year. We will not win a championship with a true freshman at quarterback, and anyone who says we will needs to take off their orange sunglasses and be realistic. I am a huge Vols fan and i bleed as much orange as everybody else, but in reality we are a 7 or 8 win team this year, and considering our needs on our team (quarterback and brand new offensive line) we won't be much better next year. I hope I am wrong but that is just the way it is.

CRFVols writes:

Why even write this article? We know that the possibility is low, but why put it out there in the media? What if our boys see this article from one of "our" reporters? I don't think we need this negativity right now, we had enough of it just getting through the season last year.

movol77 writes:

As GVX wraps up its preseason coverage and looks toward game week, it's an appropriate time for housekeeping. That includes acknowledging the small mouse in the corner. JA.

volzcrushm writes:

LISTEN TO THE WITCH DOCTOR. The talent is there. If our new coaches are for real, then we will give everybody fits this year....and next year could be contenders.

hillsborovol writes:

Dang...I can't seem to find my calculator. Wait a minute, here it is. Let's see...Mr. Adams states in his article that he expects UT to sign a great QB in the 2010 class. That would make this QB (let's call him Bray) a freshman in 2010. Now, Mr. Adams, please add one to 2010...that makes Bray a Soph in 2011. So, let's review the math lesson. 2010 plus 1 = 2011. So, please explain the comment "And how many teams win a conference championship with a freshman quarterback?" within an article pronouncing that it is obvious we can't win until 2012.

The only thing "obvious" to me is that the writer isn't smarter than a 5th grader.

memphis_vol_fan writes:

Leave it to John Adams to publish this column a week before the season starts.
I might as well just burn all my UT apparel and become a gator fan like you Adams.

FLAVOLS writes:

Adams is right - Face it, in two years (2011) the schedule will be brutal. But in 2012 the stars begin to align again.

givehim6 writes:

Never fails to amaze me just how many people will judge a team or season on what happen last year. Does most seasons turn out like this? The teams that start out on top end up with one or two surprising losses, One team start out big, but falls apart by years end. A at least 1 cinderella team will rise out of the deep.

mlsoft#228820 writes:

I think Adams missed one significant point. The flaw in his logic is that the other SEC powerhouses, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, LSU, and whoever else he wants to add, all play the same type of brutal schedules he maps out for UT. That is especially true in the East.

Florida has to play Georgia, Alabama, and UT every year. Alabama has to play Florida, Georgia, and UT every year, and Georgia has to play Florida, Alabama, and UT every year. All of them have to play SEC West teams also, and Florida will tell you that the Ole Miss's of the world are not pushovers.

All of the teams have to play these opponents both home and away. No one has an all-at-home schedule.

The bottom line is that it is unlikely that any team will make an unbeaten run through the SEC, meaning that the SEC champion will likely have at least one loss, and it would be no shock for the eventual champ to limp into the winner's circle with multiple losses.

UT's chances for a SEC Championship improve when we keep that in mind. It also means it will be harder for the SEC to place a team in the NC game.

mlsoft

FWBVol writes:

I was talking to the head coach at Fort Walton Beach High School tonight, the same school that produced one Danny Wuerffel. FWB has a senior quarterback, Luke Barnes, that is about to break all of Wuerffel's passing records at the school. The kid is 6-3, 205 pounds, has a strong and accurate arm, runs the 40 in 4.5 and has one offer, from Troy.

The Fort Walton Beach coach is a straight up guy who played college ball at Austin Peay and was a grad assistant at FSU. He said Barnes is the real deal. I've saw Barnes once last year on a nasty night for passing and he still looked pretty good.

Luke Barnes has played against some of the best competition in the Southeast and anyone that is smart enough to take a chance on him might get the sleeper quarterback in the class.

rockytopatl writes:

College football is a totally unpredictable sport. That's why most of us love it so much. The Vols could be great this year and win 10. Heck, they could even contend for the title this year. But frankly, the chances are much greater that they'll be an average team because Adams is right about the talent level. Personally, I think we'll win 8 or so, but a lot of my more rational, less emotional Vol friends think I'm nuts.

Our offensive line is thin. Our linebackers are relatively inexperienced. Our quarterback is probably not SEC worthy. Our already not-so-good receiver corps is so knicked up that we'll be playing freshman early in the season. All these are facts. And when one interprets such facts, Vol fans go nuts that "our reporters" are so negative and why doesn't Adams "transfer" to Gainesville? Get real, folks. Take off your orange-tinted glasses. He's doing his job and telling it like it is. Just as he did with Fulmer.

We're all hoping Kiffin can right the ship and make us contenders again. I think it will happen. But it's going to take time, and that's the point Adams is making here.

The best we can hope for is to beat the teams we're supposed to beat and be competitive against the more talented teams. We might get lucky or geeked up and beat one of them. But we're just as likely to lose to somebody we aren't supposed to lose to. That happens when you can't dominate on offense like we could when we had a good passer and good receivers. You can't run the ball every play, and we'll learn that early in the season, just like we learned last year you can't win with just a good defense.

Meanwhile, quit killing the messenger. Newspapers are dying. Be happy you have one that is focusing such significant resources on Tennesssee football.

tennezz writes:

in response to tweetdriver63#346474:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

The Mayans were the top team for while but they fell from power just like the gators will! After you reach the top there is no where to go but down! And I will be the first to laugh about it!!!

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