The words were head coach Derek Dooley’s, and they were directed mainly at an offense that apparently couldn’t have been trusted to beat Kentucky.
Dooley’s stinging one-word assessments were “terrible” for the passing game and “nonexistent” for the running game.
Some of the numbers varied so drastically from those adjectives, you might have wondered if the coach and the statistician attended the same scrimmage.
Raijon Neal rushed for 152 yards on 14 carries. Da’Rick Rogers caught two passes for 79 yards. Justin Hunter and Matt Milton each had a touchdown catch.
How terrible would it be if the Vols matched that production in The Swamp in September?
So what do you believe: The statistics or the coach?
An eyewitness would help. Since scrimmages are closed to media and fans, eyewitnesses are tougher to come by than coaches with no NCAA secondary violations.
When I finally found one, he concurred with the coach. He even repeated the word, “terrible.”
He said quarterback Tyler Bray had an awful day, the offense was out of sync … I might as well have been talking to Dooley.
The offensive difficulties were magnified by the competition. You can’t even find speculation on wild rumors.com that UT’s next defense might be comparable to Alabama’s.
If you just said, “But it’s only a spring scrimmage,” you obviously aren’t from around here.
It’s perfectly acceptable to say, “That’s only one series,” after UT loses three consecutive baseball games to Florida. But this is SEC football. Extreme reactions come with the territory, and “only” is a foreign word.
The reactions go both ways. If one spring-scrimmage report leaves you expecting abject failure, another is just as apt to foster delusions of grandeur. Sometimes, you can go from one extreme to the other in the same scrimmage.
Anyone who attended the last spring game probably left Neyland Stadium with three strong impressions: John Adams is a better coach than Jimmy Hyams but didn’t have as much to work with; the overall talent was at a low ebb; and Bray could flat out throw.
So you could have been despondent over the dearth of talent and encouraged by the potential of a skinny freshman quarterback.
You again can make your own appraisals at the spring game in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, you will have to rely on the coach to pick you up or bring you down.
I realize the inherent risk in trusting coaches, whose agendas often don’t coincide with brutal honesty. But in his first season with the Vols, Dooley developed a reputation for candor in publicly evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of his team as well as individuals.
So if the coach says the offense was terrible, my advice: believe him, not the numbers. And if you still need confirmation, find an eyewitness.
John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at http//: twitter.com/johnadamskns.