Adams: Berry proved one player can make impact

As a figurehead coach for the Orange team in Tennessee's spring game, I was heartened by the response of the crowd as our offense broke the huddle for its first play of the second half. It sounded as though the entire crowd of 35,000 was cheering us.

Then, I noticed the JumboTron and realized the Orange offense was a sideshow to the main attraction. Former UT star Eric Berry was in the house, and the crowd was responding accordingly.

UT fans will be pulling for Berry on Thursday when he's taken in the first round of the NFL draft. Aside from his pro destination, the only questions: How high will he go and how much will he make? The best answers: Near the top and a lot.

But this draft will enable UT fans to do more than revel in Berry's fame and fortune. It's cause for optimism.

Berry is an example of how much one great player can impact a program. There's no way UT could have made it to the SEC championship game in 2007 if he hadn't become an instant star.

Berry's adaptability and versatility were as significant as his talent. He was an All-American under two different coaching staffs and two different defensive systems.

UT's overall talent level isn't up to traditional standards, but what if it signs one great player comparable to Berry? Or, as the draft reminds us, what if other players raise their level of play significantly from the previous season, as defensive tackle Dan Williams and running back Montario Hardesty did last year?

Williams never made so much as second-team All-SEC team before his senior season. He's now a likely first-round pick.

Hardesty never rushed for more than 384 yards in his first four injury-plagued seasons at UT. He gained 1,345 last year while establishing himself as a high-round draft pick.

Berry, Williams and Hardesty are three big reasons why UT bounced back from a 5-7 season in 2008 to win seven regular-season games last year. Their departure is a good reason to doubt whether the Vols can post back-to-back winning seasons.

But you can look at it another way. UT has potential at each of those positions if you don't get picky about Berry playing strong safety and Janzen Jackson being a free safety.

Jackson had off-the-field issues that detracted from his outstanding freshman season, but former defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin compared him favorably to Berry as an all-around talent. And new coach Derek Dooley had nothing but good things to say about him this spring. So it's hardly farfetched to project him as an All-SEC candidate this fall.

Defensive tackle Montori Hughes has the ability to emerge as an SEC candidate as well. In fact, he's probably the most physically gifted defensive lineman UT has had since Albert Haynesworth.

Consistency, not talent, is his issue - just as it was for Haynesworth for much of his college career. But Hughes has played just one college season.

Replacing Hardesty's production won't be easy, especially since the next running back will be surrounded by an inexperienced quarterback and offensive line. Yet production has never been a problem for Tauren Poole, who rushed for 5,413 yards his last three seasons of high school.

Although he is neither as big nor as fast as Hardesty, Poole has repeatedly made yardage through sharp cuts or determined running whenever given the opportunity. Most of those opportunities have come in spring or preseason scrimmages but he also has gained 171 yards on 32 carries for a 5.4-yard per-carry average the last two seasons.

Poole's teammates express great confidence in him. They were similarly complimentary of Hardesty before the 2009 season.

You saw how that turned out.

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

Get Copyright Permissions © 2010, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
Want to use this article? Click here for options!

© 2010 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Related Topics

Comments » 19

TommyJack writes:

Good read.

rockytopatl writes:

Great points all. There is enough talent on this team to win. Obviously, the biggest thing that was not said here is a lot of less-than-star quality players are going to have to step up. Namely the new offensive line, not just the five who start, but some guys to back them up. Then there is the quarterback. Jon Crompton may well be drafted. Who thought that possible at midseason last year? Simms AND Bray will need to step up. I think we will need both of them. They will need to grow up on the field like Crompton did.

This team can be as good as last year's team. I fear that's the top end, but that much is attainable if a lot of things go Tennessee's way, particularly early in the season. Play Oregon and Florida tough like last year's team did at the Swamp, and the Vols could be a team to be reckoned with.

VolDad4Life writes:

Who are you and what did you do with John Adams?

flatrock writes:

I thought it might have been better for the Vols if Berry had played centerfield and Jackson had
played closer to the line...but Monte has a slightly deeper resume, so I will let that rest...!

rockytopatl writes:

in response to flatrock:

I thought it might have been better for the Vols if Berry had played centerfield and Jackson had
played closer to the line...but Monte has a slightly deeper resume, so I will let that rest...!

I'd agree if we got burned over the top early and often. But I can't recall that happening last year. Am I forgetting something.

Muscle_Shoals_Vol writes:

No mention of Stocker? He could be all-world.

bspurlingcac#225603 writes:

in response to VolDad4Life:

Who are you and what did you do with John Adams?

Maybe he is starting to grow an orange heart...just a little bit??? Give it a day or two and we will see.

bspurlingcac#225603 writes:

in response to flatrock:

I thought it might have been better for the Vols if Berry had played centerfield and Jackson had
played closer to the line...but Monte has a slightly deeper resume, so I will let that rest...!

I thought the same thing last year.

easleychuck writes:

Optimism from an unlikely source...interesting article.

KevDVol writes:

in response to VolDad4Life:

Who are you and what did you do with John Adams?

The vocabulary and syntax sure sound familiar. Kind of similar to....Coachspeak! Adams may have to write his way out of this. But lets enjoy it while it lasts.

murrayvol writes:

in response to Muscle_Shoals_Vol:

No mention of Stocker? He could be all-world.

He'll be mentioned a lot in the fall....if someone can get the ball to him.

tulelakevol writes:

"Near the top and a lot". Well deserved for Mr. Eric Berry. I will enjoy watching him on Sunday's. I had to double check to make sure Adam's name was on this. Maybe his ghost writer wrote the article.

196SVol writes:

So, does this mean that the Vols defense will be bad next year? I have seen so many posts that the Gators offense will be horrible now that Tebow is gone. Guess the same for the Vols defense....

hueypilot writes:

in response to VolDad4Life:

Who are you and what did you do with John Adams?

Some quips make me laugh out loud. This was one of them.

budd#207344 writes:

My thought on Mr. Adams article is that he is saying there is enough talent on this team if it is coached up. I think the question he has left out there is "Will it be coached up?"

JTC writes:

This might be the most optimistic article I've ever read from Adams...does he know something we don't?

rclarkvols#224537 writes:

The description of Poole sounds alot like the description of Emmitt Smith. Not very big, fast or flashy but put him on the field, give him the ball, and see what happens.

nickutah writes:

I appreciate the optimism.

Been a Vol fan since I was a kid but Berry's Orange 14 was my first jersey purchase.

I have high hopes for CDD & am willing to give him some time.

DOCTORBU writes:

Saw Poole saturday and he is for real.So is Tyler Bray.

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