Adams: East shakeup sooner than expected

John Adams

You knew Tennessee was playing catch-up in the SEC when the 2009 football season began. And you knew it wasn't just chasing national championship contenders like Alabama and Florida.

LSU and Ole Miss were popular top-10 picks in preseason. Georgia was a consensus top-15 team.

As for the Vols, they were lumped together with much of the field - teams that could go up or down in the standings and might or might not go to a bowl.

That's how you are perceived after a 5-7 record and two losing seasons in four years. And that's why the last month has been so significant.

UT's outlook is far better than its 4-4 record, which includes four losses by a combined 20 points.

But it's not just about what's going on with UT. It's about what's happening elsewhere in the conference - specifically, at South Carolina and Georgia in the SEC East.

The Bulldogs have only one senior starter on offense. The Gamecocks started only three seniors on offense and defense combined against the Vols on Saturday night.

Contrast that with UT, which starts four senior offensive linemen, a senior running back and a senior quarterback. It also has seniors at both defensive tackle spots and linebacker.

But whose football future would you rather have - UT's, Georgia's or South Carolina's?

On the same weekend that UT was beating South Carolina 31-13, Georgia often looked overwhelmed against Florida.

More importantly, it looked overwhelmed against UT three weeks earlier.

No wonder, UT first-year coach Lane Kiffin is making the state of Georgia a recruiting target. The Bulldogs look lost.

South Carolina doesn't necessarily look lost. It just looks as it often has under coach Steve Spurrier.

He certainly has improved the program. But he hasn't removed the "Chicken Curse," which supposedly accounts for the program's epic streak of bad luck and mediocrity.

There was nothing spooky or mysterious about UT's victories over South Carolina or Georgia. And you couldn't say that it has more talent than either team. Yet it beat them by a combined margin of 44 points.

You think Georgia and South Carolina fans aren't concerned? If Kiffin and his staff can produce those kind of results in their first year, what can they accomplish with a full complement of their recruits?

Recruiting didn't have much to do with UT's victories over the Bulldogs and Gamecocks. The Vols simply played harder and smarter.

They also looked better coached.

It will take both outstanding coaching and recruiting to catch up with Florida. The Vols aren't ready for that yet.

But neither is Georgia nor South Carolina. And they had a head start.

As the Gators make their stretch run for back-to-back national championships, some view South Carolina at Columbia as their greatest challenge.

My guess: Florida would rather play South Carolina on the road than have a rematch with the Vols at home.

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

Get Copyright Permissions © 2009, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
Want to use this article? Click here for options!

© 2009 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Comments » 30

ReverendOrange writes:

Better coaching indeed. We knew our staff could recruit but were holding our breath to see if they could do something with the talent. Instead of getting 5 star recruits and watch them stall in their development as with the prior command, this group of coaches can lead, teach and inspire. The future is bright. Fear the Kiffen!

Vols033 writes:

in response to ReverendOrange:

Better coaching indeed. We knew our staff could recruit but were holding our breath to see if they could do something with the talent. Instead of getting 5 star recruits and watch them stall in their development as with the prior command, this group of coaches can lead, teach and inspire. The future is bright. Fear the Kiffen!

For everyone that hasn't seen Kiffin's name a million and 2 times this year, it is spelled Kiffin, not Kiffen. Not a typo either since the i and the e are on seperate sides of the keyboard. Anyways, great article John. We are definitely going in the right direction. Before the season, I said as long as we are 6-6 or 7-5 and competitive, I would be happy. I am very happy right now because not only will we finish 7-5 or 8-4, we will probably end up being second in the east. That is spectacular for a first year coach in a rebuilding year. The future is very bright, and not just because of recruiting. We have 2 walk ons and a tight end filling 3 of our offensive line slots, and we are pushing people around up front. We have a basket case at QB, and now he is playing like he might be one of the top 3 or 4 QB's in the league. This team plays with more heart and determination than any Tennessee team I have seen this decade. They never quit. They parallel Pearl's first team at Tennessee. They aren't the most talented, but they will fight you every second of the game. This has alot to do with our coaches and their attitudes, and I can only imagine what will happen when we have 4 and 5 star recruits in place all across the depth chart.

ReverendOrange writes:

in response to Vols033:

For everyone that hasn't seen Kiffin's name a million and 2 times this year, it is spelled Kiffin, not Kiffen. Not a typo either since the i and the e are on seperate sides of the keyboard. Anyways, great article John. We are definitely going in the right direction. Before the season, I said as long as we are 6-6 or 7-5 and competitive, I would be happy. I am very happy right now because not only will we finish 7-5 or 8-4, we will probably end up being second in the east. That is spectacular for a first year coach in a rebuilding year. The future is very bright, and not just because of recruiting. We have 2 walk ons and a tight end filling 3 of our offensive line slots, and we are pushing people around up front. We have a basket case at QB, and now he is playing like he might be one of the top 3 or 4 QB's in the league. This team plays with more heart and determination than any Tennessee team I have seen this decade. They never quit. They parallel Pearl's first team at Tennessee. They aren't the most talented, but they will fight you every second of the game. This has alot to do with our coaches and their attitudes, and I can only imagine what will happen when we have 4 and 5 star recruits in place all across the depth chart.

What do I know, I live in Alabama.
And, it's "a lot", not "alot".
Let he who is without spelling errors cast the first stone.

punkin writes:

in response to Euro_Vol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Ya'll need to lighten up on the Reverend. I can't tyype thaaat goooodd eithereee.

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

Kiffin has this group giving 110% on the field and the player development is the best we've seen in years..The problem to overcome is replacing players on the O Line..Kiffins zone blocking system makes teaching freshman to play a lot easier but as it stands we have not gotten commits from any big time lineman; also we must replace a center which can be very hard to do..We have 2 in state guys who haven't committed and they are MUST haves..We only signed 2 OL last year and one Schofield played on defense saturday..Does anyone have news about the possible lineman we are trying to sign???? As it stands we will field a very solid team next year but without some decent OL recruits to protect a new QB and young RB group we could be up the creek

indianavolfan writes:

in response to Euro_Vol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

No, it's "a lot." A good way to remember it is that you wouldn't write "alittle" so you shouldn't use "alot." Don't believe me? Go open a Microsoft Word document. Type "alot" and the spell/grammar function automatically separates it into 2 words.

By the way, I like Coach Kiffin and the Vols A LOT!

volaholic45 writes:

I expect better coaching still as Coach K matures. As well as he's done, I expect he may remember some decisions he made against UCLA & Bama and make better ones in similar situations in the future.

TommyJack writes:

in response to Euro_Vol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

No. Two words.

ReverendOrange writes:

Can't we all just get along?

leedsvol2007 writes:

in response to watchanowatchasa:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I think the guy that deserves the credit is Mike Hamilton.

He saw that it was likely things would not improve record wise in 2009 and he would have to fire Fulmer because we as fans and supporters would have seen the glass as half empty.

Before we run Fulmer totally under the bus most of the recruits from last year with the very notable exceptions of Bryce Brown and Janzen Jackson Fulmer had recruited. So it obvious recruiting was not down but moving in the right direction.

If you've been reading Adams for years you know he was knocking Fulmer even when he was having success. In coming years he will be questioning Kiffin that's his job.

The biggest change we have seen is the upgrade in staff. We had some outstanding coaches Chavis, Brooks, and Caldwell. But what we have now is better at every position.

Hamilton chose to invest the ESPN contract money on staff upgrades and it has worked.

One wonders what would have happened if Dickey had taken the same approach when Rodney Garner was lost to Georgia. Garner swung the balance in Georgia recruiting when the Bulldogs hired him away.

The bottom line is this, Hamilton has made the right moves and we are playing football like Tennessee fans expect, great defense, a power oriented explosive offense, and hopefully a better kicking game in years to come.

And we should seldom ever be out-coached.

GoVols!

CrankE writes:

"The Bulldogs look lost."

Because they are lost. Their uniforms looked like a high school team Saturday and their play wasn't much better. Richt's Bulldogs jumped the shark in 2007 when they beat UF with the black jerseys. It's been all downhill from there and they ain't hit the bottom yet.

Tennessee on the other hand hit bottom last year with a loss to Wyoming. It's going to be up the hill for a while, folks. I'll promise you that the rest of the conference knows this too.

BuckFama writes:

The Kiffin Crew has done a great job so far. Let's hope they can continue to improve and get to a NYD bowl game!

Go Vols!!

VolunteerLifer writes:

in response to licknpromise777#651578:

Kiffin has this group giving 110% on the field and the player development is the best we've seen in years..The problem to overcome is replacing players on the O Line..Kiffins zone blocking system makes teaching freshman to play a lot easier but as it stands we have not gotten commits from any big time lineman; also we must replace a center which can be very hard to do..We have 2 in state guys who haven't committed and they are MUST haves..We only signed 2 OL last year and one Schofield played on defense saturday..Does anyone have news about the possible lineman we are trying to sign???? As it stands we will field a very solid team next year but without some decent OL recruits to protect a new QB and young RB group we could be up the creek

This staff is recruiting some OL's but they put a greater emphasis on defensive linemen, given the disparity in numbers of recruits. I believe they intend to use the best of their DL haul on the DL, then move some of the others to the OL, rather than simply recruit HS offensive linemen. I think they feel they will get better athletes on both lines that way. Notice how so many of their recruits are defensive ends. I am guessing that the staff feels those are generally the best 'big' athletes on most high school teams, and if we recruit those and distribute some of them to other positions, we'll have better results than if we limit our recruiting to only people who play those positions in high school ball. Just a guess, but there must be some reason why this staff recruits so many defensive ends and tackles

If you look at the current roster, we have only eleven currently listed OL's returning. That's only enough for two-deep without reserves, and that assumes all are of good enough quality to make the two deep, and that is very unlikely. Add to those the three OL commitments, none of whom look like a threat to crack the two-deep in their freshman year. All this adds up to the likelihood that there will be some conversions from the DL, even if we do sign more OL recruits than those we have committed now.

hueypilot writes:

in response to Vols033:

For everyone that hasn't seen Kiffin's name a million and 2 times this year, it is spelled Kiffin, not Kiffen. Not a typo either since the i and the e are on seperate sides of the keyboard. Anyways, great article John. We are definitely going in the right direction. Before the season, I said as long as we are 6-6 or 7-5 and competitive, I would be happy. I am very happy right now because not only will we finish 7-5 or 8-4, we will probably end up being second in the east. That is spectacular for a first year coach in a rebuilding year. The future is very bright, and not just because of recruiting. We have 2 walk ons and a tight end filling 3 of our offensive line slots, and we are pushing people around up front. We have a basket case at QB, and now he is playing like he might be one of the top 3 or 4 QB's in the league. This team plays with more heart and determination than any Tennessee team I have seen this decade. They never quit. They parallel Pearl's first team at Tennessee. They aren't the most talented, but they will fight you every second of the game. This has alot to do with our coaches and their attitudes, and I can only imagine what will happen when we have 4 and 5 star recruits in place all across the depth chart.

Well stated 33. I, too wanted to see us competitive and we are that having been able to watch us in person at Alabama and Florida. We kept our poise and did not quit. I've also been impressed with the lack of off-the-field issues that this young coach and his newly assembled staff have not had to deal with. Kiffin looks calm and unrattled, sure of himself on the sideline, with few mental errors such as getting the play in late, or substitution gaffs. To return to our "customary" position at number 2 in the East in just one year is gratifying. Now let's get it to the next level. Well done to Coach K and his staff and players.

Down_The_Field writes:

the KNS has finally learned to count. yes, 4 losses by a total of 20 points and 2 losses by arguably 2 number 1 teams by a total of 12 points both on the ROAD. in a year where the critics and trolls want to portray us as a horible team with buffoons as coaches, there is noticable improvment on this team in an obvious rebuilding year. credit visor boy and his c0cks for scoring the first touchdown on this team in three weeks. 8 total touchdowns (4 rush and 4 passing) have been scored in 8 games on a defense plagued with injuries. this is an indicator that the defensive staff is coaching their buts off. the "ole man" is feared and don't kid youself in thinking he's over the hill. the man can coach successfully at any level. period.

NO OTHER DEFENSIVE STAFF IN THIS LEAGUE COULD PUT UP THESE RESULTS WITH THE SAME PLAYERS AND DEPTH. NONE.

go ahead and cry "moral victory" all you want cause your coaches know there's a storm brewing.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to Euro_Vol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

"Alot" is used, well, a lot, but it is not standard. "Awhile" IS standard. My source is Webster's New Explorer Dictionary, 1999 edition. I have been accused of being a "spelling nazi" myself, but I generally refrain unless I disagree with someone else's correction.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to licknpromise777#651578:

Kiffin has this group giving 110% on the field and the player development is the best we've seen in years..The problem to overcome is replacing players on the O Line..Kiffins zone blocking system makes teaching freshman to play a lot easier but as it stands we have not gotten commits from any big time lineman; also we must replace a center which can be very hard to do..We have 2 in state guys who haven't committed and they are MUST haves..We only signed 2 OL last year and one Schofield played on defense saturday..Does anyone have news about the possible lineman we are trying to sign???? As it stands we will field a very solid team next year but without some decent OL recruits to protect a new QB and young RB group we could be up the creek

I think many of us share your anxiety in that area. Given how well Cregg has done developing the O-line this year, and all the talent we are amassing in other areas, I am having trouble understanding why O-line recruits aren't beating down the door. I hope we have a couple of "silent commits" in hand, but if so I would feel a lot better if some of them were made public.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to volaholic45:

I expect better coaching still as Coach K matures. As well as he's done, I expect he may remember some decisions he made against UCLA & Bama and make better ones in similar situations in the future.

At least in the case of UCLA, he has already said he might have done some things differently if he had them to do over. I haven't heard him say the same about Bama, but, according to some reports, Lincoln didn't tell CLK he tweaked his quad injury in pre-game warm-ups. Of course, the defensive penetration made Lincoln's low kicking angle moot, IMHO. In any case, it would be hard to argue that CLK hasn't made better decisions lately.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to VolunteerLifer:

This staff is recruiting some OL's but they put a greater emphasis on defensive linemen, given the disparity in numbers of recruits. I believe they intend to use the best of their DL haul on the DL, then move some of the others to the OL, rather than simply recruit HS offensive linemen. I think they feel they will get better athletes on both lines that way. Notice how so many of their recruits are defensive ends. I am guessing that the staff feels those are generally the best 'big' athletes on most high school teams, and if we recruit those and distribute some of them to other positions, we'll have better results than if we limit our recruiting to only people who play those positions in high school ball. Just a guess, but there must be some reason why this staff recruits so many defensive ends and tackles

If you look at the current roster, we have only eleven currently listed OL's returning. That's only enough for two-deep without reserves, and that assumes all are of good enough quality to make the two deep, and that is very unlikely. Add to those the three OL commitments, none of whom look like a threat to crack the two-deep in their freshman year. All this adds up to the likelihood that there will be some conversions from the DL, even if we do sign more OL recruits than those we have committed now.

I have also heard that the staff's general preference is for quicker linemen and for shifting some D-linemen to the O-line. However, it seems to me that many of these DE's are pretty light for the O-line. I certainly don't claim to know as much as the experts in this area, but it doesn't seem like a good idea to have a guy gain, say, 30 or 40 pounds in a year or so to get them to a size that they can compete with 300-pounders on the opposing D-line.

VOL03_NC writes:

Good article Adams. You put it as accurately as can be stated.
One other thing is the coach is a big part of how well the team plays but an even bigger part has to be the associated staff. I think we have this one” in the bag”.

aldntn writes:

I thought the Vol defense would suffer badly without the Chief. But, Monte is a pretty much a defensive genius. The Chief is doing fine at LSU so I'm glad for him.

What a 1-2 punch Lane and Monte are.

WLafIndianavol writes:

Where is that idiot hiresanders now?

JDBVOLS1 writes:

in response to WLafIndianavol:

Where is that idiot hiresanders now?

He is on the MS State board talking his smack I am sure!

RockyTop1_old writes:

At least we are off the bottom of the East!! Many games left to have a GREAT 1st season under Coach Kiffin!! GO VOLS!! Break the .500 mark this weekend and then on to Ole Miss!!

RockyTop1_old writes:

in response to WLafIndianavol:

Where is that idiot hiresanders now?

Comforting Sanders after the Mississippi State loss on Saturday! GO VOLS lets go and run the table!! Beat Tigeeeeeeer High!! Here Kitty, Kitty...

MajorVol writes:

Anyone heard an update on Nukeese Richardson? Chattanooga paper had a story this morning that he didn't show up for Sunday's practice. Kiffin was supposed to address the issue today.

jtvols writes:

I thought coming into the season everyone was thinking the Vos would go 8-4 or 9-3. Then when we got all this great news from fall practice I kept hearing 10-2. The truth is, as Adams points out, TN has a lot of upperclassmen. In this league you win with upperclassman. Look at the schedule next year, look at everything we lose and you 7-5 or 8-4 season. We are still a couple of years away.

AllVol2008#1353998 writes:

in response to watchanowatchasa:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Good post, and well-written.

AllVol2008#1353998 writes:

in response to jtvols:

I thought coming into the season everyone was thinking the Vos would go 8-4 or 9-3. Then when we got all this great news from fall practice I kept hearing 10-2. The truth is, as Adams points out, TN has a lot of upperclassmen. In this league you win with upperclassman. Look at the schedule next year, look at everything we lose and you 7-5 or 8-4 season. We are still a couple of years away.

Bullsh-t.

VOL03_NC writes:

"My guess: Florida would rather play South Carolina on the road than have a rematch with the Vols at home."

This statement says it ALL!!!
IMHO, UT is closer to beating UF than Adams expects. We cannot beat UF one dimensionaly, If we can put together a good QB/WR for next year...

Want to participate in the conversation? Become a subscriber today. Subscribers can read and comment on any story, anytime. Non-subscribers will only be able to view comments on select stories.

Features