John Adams: UT challenge is around the corner

John Adams

The best way to appreciate No. 1 LSU's depth of talent is to look around the corner.

Last year about this time, the Tigers were touting cornerback Patrick Peterson for the Heisman Trophy. He didn't come close to the Heisman, but he was a first-round draft pick of the Arizona Cardinals for whom he opened the season with a game-winning punt return for a touchdown.

So how did LSU manage to replace college football's premier cornerback?

Answer: With more productive players.

As good as Peterson was, the Tigers are now better fortified on the corner than they were last season, thanks to starters Morris Claiborne and Tyrann Mathieu, and backup Tharold Simon. They will pose huge problems for Tennessee's injury-depleted passing attack this Saturday in Neyland Stadium.

Claiborne made second-team All-SEC last year as a sophomore and is being projected prominently in the next NFL draft. A former high school quarterback and state-champion sprinter, he has succeeded Peterson as a kick returner with 12 returns for a 29.1-yard average, which ranks second in the conference and includes a 99-yard return for a touchdown.

He's the second-best playmaker in the LSU secondary.

LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis, who previously coached at UT, hasn't had a playmaker like Mathieu since Tennessee linebacker Al

Wilson was knocking the ball loose from any Gator he could reach in the 1998 UT-Florida game. And Mathieu does it almost every game.

In 19 career games, the 5-foot-9 sophomore has forced nine fumbles and recovered six, two of which he has returned for touchdowns this season.

He's as apt to spike the ball from a ball-carrier as pry it from his grasp. If it's not surgically attached, you're at risk.

Mathieu leads the conference in forced fumbles and recoveries. He also leads his team in tackles and punt returns.

"He's what I call a baller," Dooley said. "They've got that something that they know how to impact a game.

"Probably half the time he's done it, the coach doesn't even know what he's doing. He sees it, triggers and creates."

LSU's depth of talent is hardly limited to cornerback. Injuries have forced it to use four different offensive line combinations. It still rushed for 238 yards in a 41-11 rout of the Gators on Saturday.

The running game hasn't missed Stevan Ridley, who led LSU with 1,147 yards rushing last season and now plays for the New England Patriots. His departure created an opening for sophomore Spencer Ware, who seemingly runs as hard as Ridley, only faster. Behind him are a couple of other sophomores, Will Ford and Alfred Blue, run-challenged Tennessee would love to have. And the Tigers also are trying to find carries for prize freshman Terrence Magee, who, like Ware, was a high school quarterback.

The depth reflects the relentless recruiting of Les Miles, who has picked up where his predecessor, Nick Saban, left off. And it's made to order for Chavis.

Nebraska coach Bo Pelini liked sticking with his starters when he ran LSU's defense during its 2007 national championship season. Chavis uses his bench, just as he did at UT, where he once had John Henderson and Albert Haynesworth in reserve. Now, he has freshman tackle Anthony Johnson, a consensus high school All-American who has 2.5 tackles for loss despite playing sparingly.

"Their d-line, they roll them in," Dooley said. "You can't tell their 1's from the 2's from the 3's."

But if you make it past LSU's deep front line, your troubles are only beginning. Somewhere, Mathieu will be lurking.

And he won't just be looking to make a tackle.

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

© 2011 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 34

VOLliven2it writes:

Wow no one can deny a delight in JA's spirit as he wrote this article. Would he not be better writing in Baton Rouge? He is right the LSU Tigers are really good. I would love to see the Vols surprise them and stay in the game a lot longer than anyone is giving them a chance of doing. We shall see.

orangecountyvols writes:

Vols,

This is Adams' moment of glory. He can't wait to get to the typewriter after this one.

Wonder if he'll wear his purple and gold to the stadium?

Adams and so many have essentially written the Vols off already. They may be right, but we still have to play the game.

We might be playing the eventual National Champion this Saturday.

VolinCalif writes:

in response to VOLliven2it:

Wow no one can deny a delight in JA's spirit as he wrote this article. Would he not be better writing in Baton Rouge? He is right the LSU Tigers are really good. I would love to see the Vols surprise them and stay in the game a lot longer than anyone is giving them a chance of doing. We shall see.

Can't knock John for telling it the way it is. One has to remember that John was an early bird when telling fans that UT was dropping behind in getting players, etc. As the saying goes "Give the devil his dues."

RetainDerekDooleyPlease writes:

Typical Adams. He just can't help but glow about his alma mater LSU.

Who wants to hear about that bum Johnny Chavis? Adams, remember, "Third and Chavis"? I want to hear about how Coach Dooley is restoring Tennessee to greatness. Just hide and watch Adams. With CDD "watering that bamboo", I wouldn't be surprised if it shoots right up just before the MTSU game.

With a man who's " doing things the right way", like Derek Dooley, and Hunter and Bray back next year, Tennessee will likely torch Akron, Georgia State, and Troy. We'll even take N.C. State. Book it.

All Derek Dooley needs is that signature win, then the trolls will disappear. I'll say he'll get it next year against a tough, Bill Curry, led Ga. State aquad. Then watch out. CDD will own Atlanta and North Georgia in recruiting. He'll never lose another solid citizen, the kind it takes to win with, to Georgia Southern or Mercer again.

CDD, just keep watering that bamboo. You'll get it done. True Vol fans know it takes 5 years to turn it around.

GBO

chuckfromwoodbury writes:

in response to RetainDerekDooleyPlease:

Typical Adams. He just can't help but glow about his alma mater LSU.

Who wants to hear about that bum Johnny Chavis? Adams, remember, "Third and Chavis"? I want to hear about how Coach Dooley is restoring Tennessee to greatness. Just hide and watch Adams. With CDD "watering that bamboo", I wouldn't be surprised if it shoots right up just before the MTSU game.

With a man who's " doing things the right way", like Derek Dooley, and Hunter and Bray back next year, Tennessee will likely torch Akron, Georgia State, and Troy. We'll even take N.C. State. Book it.

All Derek Dooley needs is that signature win, then the trolls will disappear. I'll say he'll get it next year against a tough, Bill Curry, led Ga. State aquad. Then watch out. CDD will own Atlanta and North Georgia in recruiting. He'll never lose another solid citizen, the kind it takes to win with, to Georgia Southern or Mercer again.

CDD, just keep watering that bamboo. You'll get it done. True Vol fans know it takes 5 years to turn it around.

GBO

Jeff. Take a chill pill. That missed block on the fake punt really messed up your self esteem. Doesn't matter, Richmond was an All-American. You on the other hand..........

BigVolinCarolina writes:

Adams always needles UT, but that's what comes with trying to sell newspapers.

Anyone who gets mad at Adams for publicizing UT's decline several years ago is foolish. It was obvious long before Fulmer's last few seasons that UT was gradually falling behind--all it took was to "watch the film".

Odds are we'll lose to LSU, 'Bama and SC. But, as the old saying goes: "That's why they play the game". It's not likely we'll win but, like Ace Ventura, Pet Detective once said, "You're telling me there's a chance?!?"

MikeTheTiger writes:

in response to MOUNTAINofOKEMO:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

What could have been. Mathieu came to a camp at UT and they didn't have the least bit of interest in him. WOOPS!

rockytopatl writes:

in response to orangecountyvols:

Vols,

This is Adams' moment of glory. He can't wait to get to the typewriter after this one.

Wonder if he'll wear his purple and gold to the stadium?

Adams and so many have essentially written the Vols off already. They may be right, but we still have to play the game.

We might be playing the eventual National Champion this Saturday.

Typewriter? Nobody has used one of those things in 30 years.

Madkels writes:

Hey, JA. After writing this, did you have to go home and change pants?

born2ride writes:

Mathieu is the best corner we will see.

AllVol311 writes:

I love MY Vols. I support them no matter what...win/lose and good times/bad times. We are in a bad place right now and more than likely will get absolutely destroyed this coming Saturday. Will I be there? You bet I will. Will I be praying for an act of God to upset LSU? You bet I will!

Bray going down (I feel) was the nail in the coffin for our season. Do I hope I'm wrong? OH YES!

I just hope that if I am right and our season stays in "the tank" that people arent calling for Dooley's job....I think hes the guy we need to build a program with foundations of being a classy program. And bring UT back to its former glory.

GO VOLS!

DwayneElizondoMountainDewHerbertCamacho writes:

in response to RetainDerekDooleyPlease:

Typical Adams. He just can't help but glow about his alma mater LSU.

Who wants to hear about that bum Johnny Chavis? Adams, remember, "Third and Chavis"? I want to hear about how Coach Dooley is restoring Tennessee to greatness. Just hide and watch Adams. With CDD "watering that bamboo", I wouldn't be surprised if it shoots right up just before the MTSU game.

With a man who's " doing things the right way", like Derek Dooley, and Hunter and Bray back next year, Tennessee will likely torch Akron, Georgia State, and Troy. We'll even take N.C. State. Book it.

All Derek Dooley needs is that signature win, then the trolls will disappear. I'll say he'll get it next year against a tough, Bill Curry, led Ga. State aquad. Then watch out. CDD will own Atlanta and North Georgia in recruiting. He'll never lose another solid citizen, the kind it takes to win with, to Georgia Southern or Mercer again.

CDD, just keep watering that bamboo. You'll get it done. True Vol fans know it takes 5 years to turn it around.

GBO

Sir...that was some wonderfully crafted sarcasm.

DwayneElizondoMountainDewHerbertCamacho writes:

in response to BigVolinCarolina:

Adams always needles UT, but that's what comes with trying to sell newspapers.

Anyone who gets mad at Adams for publicizing UT's decline several years ago is foolish. It was obvious long before Fulmer's last few seasons that UT was gradually falling behind--all it took was to "watch the film".

Odds are we'll lose to LSU, 'Bama and SC. But, as the old saying goes: "That's why they play the game". It's not likely we'll win but, like Ace Ventura, Pet Detective once said, "You're telling me there's a chance?!?"

Wasn't that a "Dumb and Dumber" quote?

DwayneElizondoMountainDewHerbertCamacho writes:

in response to AllVol311:

I love MY Vols. I support them no matter what...win/lose and good times/bad times. We are in a bad place right now and more than likely will get absolutely destroyed this coming Saturday. Will I be there? You bet I will. Will I be praying for an act of God to upset LSU? You bet I will!

Bray going down (I feel) was the nail in the coffin for our season. Do I hope I'm wrong? OH YES!

I just hope that if I am right and our season stays in "the tank" that people arent calling for Dooley's job....I think hes the guy we need to build a program with foundations of being a classy program. And bring UT back to its former glory.

GO VOLS!

Man...I feel like I'm telling a little kid that Santa doesn't exist, but here it goes...

UT wasn't a classy program when it was experiencing its former glory...Fulmer just didn't get caught.

Sorry little guy. We all have to grow up eventually.

abnerPeabody writes:

in response to DwayneElizondoMountainDewHerbertCamacho:

Man...I feel like I'm telling a little kid that Santa doesn't exist, but here it goes...

UT wasn't a classy program when it was experiencing its former glory...Fulmer just didn't get caught.

Sorry little guy. We all have to grow up eventually.

What do you know about being classy? Absolutely nothing, Right?

OldNumber7 writes:

in response to AllVol311:

I love MY Vols. I support them no matter what...win/lose and good times/bad times. We are in a bad place right now and more than likely will get absolutely destroyed this coming Saturday. Will I be there? You bet I will. Will I be praying for an act of God to upset LSU? You bet I will!

Bray going down (I feel) was the nail in the coffin for our season. Do I hope I'm wrong? OH YES!

I just hope that if I am right and our season stays in "the tank" that people arent calling for Dooley's job....I think hes the guy we need to build a program with foundations of being a classy program. And bring UT back to its former glory.

GO VOLS!

I think the nail in the coffin was the inability to get a first down running the football. If that doesn't get fixed soon it will cost UT many more games, respect, and become a coaching staff killer. I am a huge Dooley fan, but if he needs to make changes internally to fix it I suggest he do it. Fulmer did not...it cost him his job.

gc_scvol writes:

in response to AllVol311:

I love MY Vols. I support them no matter what...win/lose and good times/bad times. We are in a bad place right now and more than likely will get absolutely destroyed this coming Saturday. Will I be there? You bet I will. Will I be praying for an act of God to upset LSU? You bet I will!

Bray going down (I feel) was the nail in the coffin for our season. Do I hope I'm wrong? OH YES!

I just hope that if I am right and our season stays in "the tank" that people arent calling for Dooley's job....I think hes the guy we need to build a program with foundations of being a classy program. And bring UT back to its former glory.

GO VOLS!

You, My Friend, could not have said it better.
GO BIG ORANGE !!!!

ClemCash writes:

in response to born2ride:

Mathieu is the best corner we will see.

Dre Kirkpatrick.

ScottEmge writes:

"He's what I call a baller," Dooley said.
I appreciate that Coach Dooley can at least identify a player that is a "baller". Now if he could just recruit and sign some of these guys we would be in a better situation than we find ourselves in at this point in the season.

wallingdad writes:

LSU will be able to rush 2 linemen and keep 9 back to protect against the pass. I cannot see UT rushing for any positive yardage if we cant do so against Ga or Fla. given the trend we will end up with -40 yds rushing. our best rushing play will be the qb sneak where we gain 0. i know this sounds pessimistic but i need to see something positive before i jump up and down and say "yippie, we are on the right track"

bigorangebolt writes:

Vols:

I like Coach Dooley and respect him. I just think with his lack of expereience of winning at a major college school will be his failure! He was 17-20 at little La Tech! Dumbo Hamilton made a knee jerk reaction in hiring Dooley, because Hamilton could not get Muschamp or Cutcliff. I think we are looking at where Bama was with Shuler at head coach. It is reality! We need to face it! I see some winners, who would fit nicely into UT's program. How long will this due process take? When do you want to win? I hate to say this next statement. Pray for a new coach! Go Vols!

www.craigsteronline.com

baldingalum writes:

in response to RetainDerekDooleyPlease:

Typical Adams. He just can't help but glow about his alma mater LSU.

Who wants to hear about that bum Johnny Chavis? Adams, remember, "Third and Chavis"? I want to hear about how Coach Dooley is restoring Tennessee to greatness. Just hide and watch Adams. With CDD "watering that bamboo", I wouldn't be surprised if it shoots right up just before the MTSU game.

With a man who's " doing things the right way", like Derek Dooley, and Hunter and Bray back next year, Tennessee will likely torch Akron, Georgia State, and Troy. We'll even take N.C. State. Book it.

All Derek Dooley needs is that signature win, then the trolls will disappear. I'll say he'll get it next year against a tough, Bill Curry, led Ga. State aquad. Then watch out. CDD will own Atlanta and North Georgia in recruiting. He'll never lose another solid citizen, the kind it takes to win with, to Georgia Southern or Mercer again.

CDD, just keep watering that bamboo. You'll get it done. True Vol fans know it takes 5 years to turn it around.

GBO

Three things...

1. I want you to promise all of us you'll continue to post your sarcastic negative screeds in a year's time. I'm sure your peers think you're hilarious, the bamboo metaphor clever...today. I want this same level of "comedy" presented in a year's time.

2. John Adams went to LSU. So what? Should we only read articles by UT guys? Vonnegut and McCarthy aren't writing a lot on the subject.

3. Are you waxing nostalgic for John Chavis? Please, please, please sit down and watch, fittingly, the TN-LSU game of 2001. Watch who Tennessee had on the defensive side of the ball. Then watch a third-string LSU quarterback and back-up running back destroy them.

keviningeorgia writes:

in response to VolinCalif:

Can't knock John for telling it the way it is. One has to remember that John was an early bird when telling fans that UT was dropping behind in getting players, etc. As the saying goes "Give the devil his dues."

+ 1

keviningeorgia writes:

in response to RetainDerekDooleyPlease:

Typical Adams. He just can't help but glow about his alma mater LSU.

Who wants to hear about that bum Johnny Chavis? Adams, remember, "Third and Chavis"? I want to hear about how Coach Dooley is restoring Tennessee to greatness. Just hide and watch Adams. With CDD "watering that bamboo", I wouldn't be surprised if it shoots right up just before the MTSU game.

With a man who's " doing things the right way", like Derek Dooley, and Hunter and Bray back next year, Tennessee will likely torch Akron, Georgia State, and Troy. We'll even take N.C. State. Book it.

All Derek Dooley needs is that signature win, then the trolls will disappear. I'll say he'll get it next year against a tough, Bill Curry, led Ga. State aquad. Then watch out. CDD will own Atlanta and North Georgia in recruiting. He'll never lose another solid citizen, the kind it takes to win with, to Georgia Southern or Mercer again.

CDD, just keep watering that bamboo. You'll get it done. True Vol fans know it takes 5 years to turn it around.

GBO

It's great to hear from Jeff Flowers again! I so worried you had crawled into a shell after you whiffed on that block and cost UT and your team mates that big game.

Was Richmond really hard on you afterward? He shouldn't have been. Just because your brother was an All American baller and you were 2nd string, who failed miserably, you should not blame yourself.

Like so many of your previous shrinks have advised, find a football program who you can criticize and defer this anger. I'm so happy you have! What the heck! Those who refer to you as a back stabber just don't know all you have been through.

See you at the "American's are Hurting the Planet With Their Greed" rally this weekend!

AllVol311 writes:

in response to DwayneElizondoMountainDewHerbertCamacho:

Man...I feel like I'm telling a little kid that Santa doesn't exist, but here it goes...

UT wasn't a classy program when it was experiencing its former glory...Fulmer just didn't get caught.

Sorry little guy. We all have to grow up eventually.

Unlike most people who talk out of their you know where, I'm not going to comment on what I don't know about. I was 7 years old when UT peaked in its former glory in 1998. And I didnt say that it was or wasn't a classy program under Fulmer. I wasn't even talking about Fulmer.

I said I think Dooley is the guy we need to build a classy program. And bring UT back to where it was, and do it the right way. Dooley is the right guy people need to give him time

AugieDog writes:

Good morning guys! Let's give coach Dooley the resource's that he needs in order to build this program back to it's earlier luster.There is no way that he's going to get the best coach's without better pay,up-graded facilities ; the whole nine yards of support . The building of a program takes patience which we don't have in these (I want it right now times)there is no way we can put the wagon before the mule. In finality Give his program the support that you gave " Pat Summit's " lady vols program and then an only then will he be successful. P.S I'm a tiger fan,but right is right and wrong is wrong.

BigVolinCarolina writes:

in response to DwayneElizondoMountainDewHerbertCamacho:

Wasn't that a "Dumb and Dumber" quote?

Thank you, Dewayne--I stand corrected.
Not sure how I made that mistake but I did. Nice call!

GR82BaTennesseeVOL writes:

in response to orangecountyvols:

Vols,

This is Adams' moment of glory. He can't wait to get to the typewriter after this one.

Wonder if he'll wear his purple and gold to the stadium?

Adams and so many have essentially written the Vols off already. They may be right, but we still have to play the game.

We might be playing the eventual National Champion this Saturday.

If we're not playing the eventual nat'l champ this saturday, then we certainly are the next...

snakeplissken writes:

in response to Navalorange:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Dooley will get 4 years. But your definition of "success" may differ from that of Dave Hart's and most Vol fans.

SecondCityVol writes:

in response to BigVolinCarolina:

Adams always needles UT, but that's what comes with trying to sell newspapers.

Anyone who gets mad at Adams for publicizing UT's decline several years ago is foolish. It was obvious long before Fulmer's last few seasons that UT was gradually falling behind--all it took was to "watch the film".

Odds are we'll lose to LSU, 'Bama and SC. But, as the old saying goes: "That's why they play the game". It's not likely we'll win but, like Ace Ventura, Pet Detective once said, "You're telling me there's a chance?!?"

wrong movie, that was "Dumb and Dumber" not Ace Ventura

brokendownoldvol writes:

Who knows? TN has always had LSU's number.

Theo writes:

in response to AllVol311:

I love MY Vols. I support them no matter what...win/lose and good times/bad times. We are in a bad place right now and more than likely will get absolutely destroyed this coming Saturday. Will I be there? You bet I will. Will I be praying for an act of God to upset LSU? You bet I will!

Bray going down (I feel) was the nail in the coffin for our season. Do I hope I'm wrong? OH YES!

I just hope that if I am right and our season stays in "the tank" that people arent calling for Dooley's job....I think hes the guy we need to build a program with foundations of being a classy program. And bring UT back to its former glory.

GO VOLS!

Here, Here!

johnlg00 writes:

in response to snakeplissken:

Dooley will get 4 years. But your definition of "success" may differ from that of Dave Hart's and most Vol fans.

If at the end of four years the Vols are still where they are now, I don't think anyone will deny that Dooley probably needs to go. I think even Dooley would say that. What trips me out is the number of people who claim to be Vol fans who think Dooley needs to go after THIS season. As if the program wouldn't look worse than it already does nationally if it went after our fourth coach in five years! There are those who argue, both at the time and now, that Dooley shouldn't have been hired in the first place. That was perhaps a reasonable argument to make at the time, but he is already here now. All I'm saying is that he should be given a chance to show what he can do. Two years is not enough time for ANYONE coming into THIS situation, and anyone who doesn't see this situation as darned near unique either has another agenda or they don't understand much about present-day college football.

snakeplissken writes:

in response to johnlg00:

If at the end of four years the Vols are still where they are now, I don't think anyone will deny that Dooley probably needs to go. I think even Dooley would say that. What trips me out is the number of people who claim to be Vol fans who think Dooley needs to go after THIS season. As if the program wouldn't look worse than it already does nationally if it went after our fourth coach in five years! There are those who argue, both at the time and now, that Dooley shouldn't have been hired in the first place. That was perhaps a reasonable argument to make at the time, but he is already here now. All I'm saying is that he should be given a chance to show what he can do. Two years is not enough time for ANYONE coming into THIS situation, and anyone who doesn't see this situation as darned near unique either has another agenda or they don't understand much about present-day college football.

Anyone suggesting Dooley be fired after this season has an agenda. I hope he makes it if for no other reason that I don't want to see another coaching change even if it is in 2013. Plus, if he makes it, then it means the Vols are winning!
Second hand information has it that Hart will wait until after the season to sit with Dooley with his (Hart's) expectations for 2012 and 2013. I don't know what the expectations are for 2012, but apparently Dooley will have until the 2013 season to get us in the SEC championship game - or else. I would guess if we only win 7 or 8 games in 2012, Hart won't give Dooley and extension or pay increase? If these things are true (I wouldn't have posted if it wasn't from someone who heard it first hand) I think it's fair for both Hart and Dooley, and us fans.

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