John Adams: Lack of acclaim, not of promise

John Adams

The All-SEC teams, announced the last two days, were hardly illuminating from a Tennessee perspective.

A 6-6 team that lost more games than it won in the conference doesn't expect to have much of a presence when post-season honors are passed around.

Three Vols - cornerback Prentiss Waggner, defensive tackle Malik Jackson and safety Janzen Jackson - made one of the two All-SEC teams, which were announced Monday and Tuesday. You would be hard-pressed to make an argument for further representation.

But an All-SEC team devoid of Vols still warrants a double-take when you consider the school's history. The program had a 48-year streak of placing at least one player on one all-conference first team.

And worse teams than this one had outstanding players.

UT safety Eric Berry made first-team All-American two years ago when the Vols were 5-7. UT Linebacker Keith DeLong made first-team All-American in 1988 when the Vols had to win their last five games to finish 5-6.

But in a league as talented as this one, don't dismiss second-team honors. UT's trio is in good company.

The SEC is so stocked with stars that The Associated Press' second team includes a Heisman Trophy winner (Alabama running back Mark Ingram), the MVP of the last national championship game (Alabama defensive lineman Marcell Dareus), and a couple of possible top-five NFL draft picks (Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett and Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green).

Something else noticeable about that foursome: They're all juniors.

The All-SEC first-team, as selected by the AP, also is distinguished by underclassmen. If you exclude the placekicker and punter, the team includes only nine seniors.

For a program like UT's, which is playing catch-up in the nation's best conference, the preponderance of outstanding junior players would be discouraging if not for the possibility of an early exit to the NFL. Now, it's actually a plus for a program trying to gain ground on the powers that be.

The best juniors in this conference probably won't become seniors.

ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper lists six SEC players in the top 10 for next spring's NFL draft.

Five of the six are juniors.

Another 2011 mock draft has four SEC juniors - Dareus, Green, LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson and Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley - ranked in the top five.

Imagine the NFL team you could build using this season's best SEC players as a nucleus: quarterbacks Mallett and Auburn's Cam Newton, wide receivers Green and Alabama's Julio Jones, cornerbacks Peterson and Janoris Jenkins of Florida, and defensive linemen Dareus, Fairley and Drake Nevis of LSU.

Nevis is the only senior in the bunch.

The best thing about UT's best players: They're coming back. Waggner and the two Jacksons can form a nucleus for a defense lacking in depth and in obvious need of improvement.

When you consider that the Vols rank 10th in the SEC in defense, those individual honors are even more impressive.

Moreover, Janzen Jackson was the only one who entered the season with any recognition to speak of.

You have to wonder how many coaches or AP voters even know who Waggner and Malik Jackson are.

Waggner went from a backup to a starting safety to a starting cornerback. Malik Jackson, who transferred from Southern California, had a comparable uphill climb - switching from defensive end to tackle.

In a year of transition, they made second-team All-SEC. And they did it on merit, not name recognition.

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/adamsj@knoxnews.com.

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Comments » 24

KJVol writes:

Nice piece, John Adams. Not Pulitzer good, mind you, but good enough for second-team, All Weekly World News.

Next time, how about a column on UFOs?

OrangePride writes:

JA.....excellent piece! I always like it when I get a view from a different angle and, to be honest, I had not broken these awards down in this way. And yes, between the returning players, what looks like a VERY fine recruiting class (that just keeps getting better), and this coaching staff, I am excited. It is great to be a Tennessee Vol!

keepitreal4vols writes:

John, I think you cured my insomnia.

Vol86 writes:

You gotta love it. The guy actually wrote an ok article for a change.
Future looks good, but next year is to soon. We have a many spots to fill and much depth to build. Just got to sign couple more big time ol and dl. Plus a couple of speedsters.

Waterturkey writes:

Nice article.

Seriouslyorange writes:

Thanks for an interesting article. It's nice to get a different slant from our 'guy' that is apparently going to be 'our guy' for a long while. He seems like he is trying to do better, We'll see!

DroopyDrawers writes:

Where is Luke Stocker? He played great the last half of the year.

springtx_vol writes:

For all of us author/reporter want-to-bees, I am sure that John Adams and all of the other KNS writers can't wait to see the critiques of their efforts in the comment section. They just lay awake at night trying to figure out how to make everyone appreciate and like their articles.

NOT. Why even make a comment about the quality of the writing? Why make a comment on whether it is a pro-UT, anti-UT, or don't care-UT article? Read it for what it is saying, comment on the content if you agree or disagree, and leave the critique to the awards people.

Tau_of_Tennessee writes:

in response to springtx_vol:

For all of us author/reporter want-to-bees, I am sure that John Adams and all of the other KNS writers can't wait to see the critiques of their efforts in the comment section. They just lay awake at night trying to figure out how to make everyone appreciate and like their articles.

NOT. Why even make a comment about the quality of the writing? Why make a comment on whether it is a pro-UT, anti-UT, or don't care-UT article? Read it for what it is saying, comment on the content if you agree or disagree, and leave the critique to the awards people.

Ditto Gainesville_Vol. BTW, Great post on the Moore recruiting article. Fact based, relevant and insightful.

gnm53108 writes:

in response to springtx_vol:

For all of us author/reporter want-to-bees, I am sure that John Adams and all of the other KNS writers can't wait to see the critiques of their efforts in the comment section. They just lay awake at night trying to figure out how to make everyone appreciate and like their articles.

NOT. Why even make a comment about the quality of the writing? Why make a comment on whether it is a pro-UT, anti-UT, or don't care-UT article? Read it for what it is saying, comment on the content if you agree or disagree, and leave the critique to the awards people.

Love the irony.

Volunatic writes:

in response to KJVol:

Nice piece, John Adams. Not Pulitzer good, mind you, but good enough for second-team, All Weekly World News.

Next time, how about a column on UFOs?

Weekly World News had Bat Boy as honorable mention All-SEC.

Volunatic writes:

in response to DroopyDrawers:

Where is Luke Stocker? He played great the last half of the year.

I think Stocker will be drafted late on the 1st day or early on the 2nd day, unless he has a particularly good showing at the Senior Bowl or NFL combines that might move him up a little bit.

SECProudUT writes:

Well done John, Articles like this one is the reason I searched out your columns in the past. Keep up the good reporting and just maybe you will be back in the Top 25 of my Sports Writers Poll.

murrayvol writes:

in response to DroopyDrawers:

Where is Luke Stocker? He played great the last half of the year.

Voters usually consider both halves.

murrayvol writes:

For Auburn 2011 w/o Newton and Fairly will be a season w/o sunshine on the Plains.

baldingalum writes:

Huh? The comments posted never cease to amaze and disappoint. I read this article and thought it was well-written and an interesting look at a subject matter that hasn't gotten much recognition. AND it was even a positive spin for the future of our program. Then I read the litany of negative posts, akin to the "over the top" diatribes against AD Hamilton.

I'm not with you folks. I believe Mr. Adams is clearly the best columnist at KNS. The agree given his post. I read his articles with regularity. It seems to me the collective angst toward him stems from one of two things:

1) He attended another SEC school (not germane)2) You want perpetual homer articles. (start your own blogs)

Juzkruzin writes:

I would take Jackson over any other safety in the league, but he stills needs another year at the BO to improve, where he will go in the pros. The Chief's may take him and match him and Berry up again. This I would love to see, even though I am not a Chief's Fan, but I would just like to see them re-united at the next level, but he will probably end up with the Bills or someone like that. Did all you star wacther's see how many 2-3 stars made the first or second vs the 4-5 stars. Like I said before, it is not the size of the dog, but how big the fight is in the dog.

springtx_vol writes:

in response to Tau_of_Tennessee:

Ditto Gainesville_Vol. BTW, Great post on the Moore recruiting article. Fact based, relevant and insightful.

Thanks and thanks. Every now and then, I am the blind squirrel!

CoverOrange writes:

in response to baldingalum:

Huh? The comments posted never cease to amaze and disappoint. I read this article and thought it was well-written and an interesting look at a subject matter that hasn't gotten much recognition. AND it was even a positive spin for the future of our program. Then I read the litany of negative posts, akin to the "over the top" diatribes against AD Hamilton.

I'm not with you folks. I believe Mr. Adams is clearly the best columnist at KNS. The agree given his post. I read his articles with regularity. It seems to me the collective angst toward him stems from one of two things:

1) He attended another SEC school (not germane)2) You want perpetual homer articles. (start your own blogs)

3) He often fails to do the job of the columnist; to persuade the reader of his point with substantial facts.

Juzkruzin writes:

Where does Adams get his info from. He said Jackson was the only BO Player that got any pre-season attention What about Stocker? He was picked for 1st Team All Sec and 1st Team All American by some polls. Does he not keep any notes or what? To the Poster asking asking about Stocker, he blew it in the 1st 5-6 games of the season, when he dropped more passes than he caught, when nost hit him right between the numbers. He came on strong the last of the season, but he had already took his name off the All Sec Team. Had he played the 1st of the season, like he did the last 4 games, he would have been the on the 1st Team, but when you turn into stone hands, you usually get gravels for an award!!

baldingalum writes:

URBAN MEYER LEAVING FLORIDA!

He's working on a deal to get him to Ann Arbor.

baldingalum writes:

Florida and Miami without head coaches. What a great time to get Sunshine State talent!

MusicCityVol writes:

www.checkerboardchatter.blogspot.com

Volunatic writes:

kiffin wasn't "on the list of replacements" for the Trogans at first.

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