John Adams: Vols are struggling, but SEC competition level has risen

John Adams
Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron (10) runs in for a touchdown against LSU during the first half of an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012 in Baton Rouge, La.  (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Photo by Butch Dill

Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron (10) runs in for a touchdown against LSU during the first half of an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012 in Baton Rouge, La. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Derek Dooley talks about getting a better pass rush

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Every week, the rankings come out, and Tennessee is reminded of what it's up against.

The SEC always has been a great conference for football. But now, after six consecutive national titles, it's threatening to lap the field.

Alabama is No. 1, and three other SEC teams are ranked ninth or better in The Associated Press top 25. Seven SEC teams are ranked 22nd or higher.

No wonder the Vols are having so much trouble making headway in their quest for football respectability.

It was so much different in the 1990s, but not just because the Vols had so many pro prospects. Consider the competition.

From 1995 through 1998, only Florida was comparable to UT in SEC stature. The Vols won 45 of 50 games during that four-year stretch, which also included a national championship and two SEC titles.

But look what was going on elsewhere in the SEC East, and at Alabama, UT's standing rival from the West. Then, contrast that with the current state of affairs.

Georgia was 30-17 in those four seasons during which coach Ray Goff was fired and Jim Donnan was hired. Now, it's 12 years into the Mark Richt era. All he has done is win 114 of 153 games.

From 1995 through 1998, South Carolina was 16-27-1 under coach Brad Scott, who wasn't asked back for the 1999 season. The Gamecocks haven't had a losing season since Steve Spurrier took over in 2005.

Even Vanderbilt has made an upgrade. From 1995 through 1999, it was 9-35 under coach Woody Widenhofer. Now, second-year coach James Franklin is on the verge of back-to-back bowl seasons.

Kentucky was 20-25 from 1995 through 1998 under Bill Curry. It's even worse now under Joker Phillips, who was fired Sunday. But in the four previous seasons, Kentucky was 25-26, and that's better than the Vols (23-27).

Alabama was 29-18 from 1995 through 1998. It also was 0-4 against the Vols.

Now, the Tide is making a strong run at a third national championship in four seasons under coach Nick Saban.

As good as the Vols were from 1995 through 1998, they were competing against a much weaker field. To their credit, they capitalized on it — both on the field and in recruiting.

In today's more competitive marketplace, it's drastically more difficult for UT to compete for the top recruits in South Carolina and Georgia, much less against Alabama. That's evident from the top 25.

It's also apparent in the most recent ranking of recruiting. ESPN lists nine SEC schools in its top 25.

The Vols aren't ranked there, either.

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.

© 2012 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 42

wononta writes:

Adams is correct. And who benefited the most from traditional SEC teams going thru transition?

Why our own Phillip Fulmer of course.

Thanks John, you made my case for me.

Rumblefish writes:

Rumblefish Says: "Adams is struggling, while the competition level of journalism has increased"

Adams....you clearly write articles to incite the fan base under the guise of simply stating that you are doing nothing but telling the "truth". Fact is....you are not telling anyone anything that they don't already know.

You're an outside linebacker jumping on the pile in hopes that you get credit for 1/2 of the tackle.

PUL4VOLS writes:

This does do one thing to make the average know better than the administration who should be head coach fan think. That is it shows it is not Just how far the Vols have fallen but how the other teams have made strides upward. That in no way is to excuse the pathetic efforts we have seen particularly by the defense but it needs to be included as a factor in how the struggle is tougher than many of us thought. Along with that is the fact that it will take longer to turn around. But our twitterized, fast food, facebook world demands much more much sooner.

10seVol85_Part_Deux writes:

in response to PUL4VOLS:

This does do one thing to make the average know better than the administration who should be head coach fan think. That is it shows it is not Just how far the Vols have fallen but how the other teams have made strides upward. That in no way is to excuse the pathetic efforts we have seen particularly by the defense but it needs to be included as a factor in how the struggle is tougher than many of us thought. Along with that is the fact that it will take longer to turn around. But our twitterized, fast food, facebook world demands much more much sooner.

"This does do one thing to make the average know better than the administration who should be head coach fan think. That is it shows it is not Just how far ..."

Please translate this for me. I don't speak gibberish.

BruisedOrange writes:

I will KEEP asking this question to all the Dooley-bashers: Playing our 2012 schedule, what would our National Championship team's record be?

REALITY CHECK! There are no "instant success" hires to be made in today's SEC! In this environment, success has to be BUILT, not hired.

Sure, Auburn caught lightning in a bottle for one season, but it's already obvious that even with a Nat'l championship, they STILL haven't built themselves a program.

lavolsfan writes:

ok we need to go after Bob Stoops, I know that he is not having a great year this year but look what he has done in recent years, look what he could do to our recruting class. He is like the Nick Saban in his confrence. We need a defense minded coach so we can stop geting scorched on defense. I think that he would make a great coach for the VOLS, we also need to get Chavis back from LSU, keep offensive line coach, and all the other coaches, get rid of DOOLEY, AND SAL SENCERI. If we were to get Stoops imagine where we could go next year or even the following year. Imagine the prospects that he would bring in from all over the country. We need to get him before Kentucky does.

jack4444 writes:

What a hire Kiffin was. Virtually any other selection would have hoped to retain Chavis as DC.

Go ahead and do that 3rd and Chavis stuff.

When CPF threw Sanders under the bus, bad things ensued.

Had Phil not succumbed to the pressure and helped refine Sanders, it'd be UT head coach, OC and DC.

Bigtime woulda coulda shoulda huh.

BruisedOrange writes:

in response to PUL4VOLS:

This does do one thing to make the average know better than the administration who should be head coach fan think. That is it shows it is not Just how far the Vols have fallen but how the other teams have made strides upward. That in no way is to excuse the pathetic efforts we have seen particularly by the defense but it needs to be included as a factor in how the struggle is tougher than many of us thought. Along with that is the fact that it will take longer to turn around. But our twitterized, fast food, facebook world demands much more much sooner.

If I was an arrogant, self-serving jerk, I'd have fun at PUL4VOLS expense and post things like:

"The trick is to take just enough painkiller to stay ahead of the pain."

"BTW, the preview button CAN be used more than once."

But I won't post things like that because fellow Vols deserve their share of grace and mercy.

Hope you get some relief from that pain, PUL.

Razor784 writes:

in response to jack4444:

What a hire Kiffin was. Virtually any other selection would have hoped to retain Chavis as DC.

Go ahead and do that 3rd and Chavis stuff.

When CPF threw Sanders under the bus, bad things ensued.

Had Phil not succumbed to the pressure and helped refine Sanders, it'd be UT head coach, OC and DC.

Bigtime woulda coulda shoulda huh.

Fulmer didn't throw Sanders under the bus, he had to fire him. That offense would have had trouble scoring on a middle school defense. Bad things didn't happen right after he fired Sanders, he hired Cutcliffe and we two nice years, it was after Cut left that bad stuff happened.

Clarkrm0706 writes:

Adams last article, "how could you not beat the rest of the SEC"?
This article "How could we beat the rest of the SEC"?
He is really independent or writes b.s. for comment purposes. You decide.

6972 writes:

Some teams in the SEC has risen, unfortunately some have declined. Not hard to figure out which is which.

Cobb_Webb_Attack writes:

Sigh. Is it too hard to do some actual comparative research instead of cherry-picking numbers? Spurrier, Terry Bowden, Jim Donnan, Jackie Sherrill, and the rotating cast at Alabama were not exactly chopped liver.

The difference now is that the bottom tier teams have significantly improved, and we have a coach who can't coach his way out of a wet paper bag.

VolzsFan writes:

This is where the people are ignorant. When you can go to the other states and get the players they want, they are playing for you and not them. That is what the great Hall of Famer did. Donnan would have been a great coach with Jamal, Deon Grant etc. LSU would have been better with Peyton. South Carolina lost a ton of NFL players to UT back then. The Lattimores and Clowneys of the world would have been playing here and not there. Sad how people just do not get it. A former SEC coach told me that Phil and Steve where the sole reason those programs where down. They never let them up.

Lets look at what Saban has to compete with. Chizik (without one player is horrible), revolving door at Ole Mess, dork at Arkansas, Le Hat at LSU, a down Miss State over what they where under Sherrill. It is not like he has to go through murderers row of coaches to win. Tenn has a loser, Florida has an un-proven guy, Georgia's coach is on his last leg and Spurrier is about 80. The best coach in the league outside of Saban might be Franklin.

It comes down to players. Tennessee does not make them and has to import them. The current guy cannot win those battles and no one in the future at UT will either. We had our glory days now move on already.

VolzsFan writes:

I know our writer/editor and most of you know nothing about sports, but just look at films of UT teams from just a few years ago compared to now. HUGE DIFFERENCE!!! Since 2007, UT is tied for 4th in America for the most first round draft picks. Before that UT had the most picks in the SEC and always right at the top nationally. You certainly do not see any of that except maybe Patterson. AJ might play on those past teams but he would have to sit behind other NFL players. UT Chattanooga would not trade us for our RBs and our d line would have been holding blocking dummies in practice in the past. You all keep searching for answers you cannot find. They are right in front of you. No players any of the big boys wants equals 500 football. Get used to it.

Oh yea, enjoy your change!!

arkyvol writes:

ah,that hamilton. the sec is getting tougher and what does hammy do? he goes out and gets a bargain basement coach on exactly nobody's short list and pays top dollar for him. and three years later where are we at? thanks again, hammy, wherever you are.

Razzle writes:

in response to lavolsfan:

ok we need to go after Bob Stoops, I know that he is not having a great year this year but look what he has done in recent years, look what he could do to our recruting class. He is like the Nick Saban in his confrence. We need a defense minded coach so we can stop geting scorched on defense. I think that he would make a great coach for the VOLS, we also need to get Chavis back from LSU, keep offensive line coach, and all the other coaches, get rid of DOOLEY, AND SAL SENCERI. If we were to get Stoops imagine where we could go next year or even the following year. Imagine the prospects that he would bring in from all over the country. We need to get him before Kentucky does.

Neither Tennessee or Kentucky would be able to get Stoops to leave Oklahoma.

hueypilot writes:

in response to Razzle:

Neither Tennessee or Kentucky would be able to get Stoops to leave Oklahoma.

Kentucky, having proved it has no filter when it comes to hiring anybody they think will help them win (See B. Gillespie and J. Calipari) and having gone 1 for 2 in that experiment (better than our last two shots at picking a football coach) will choose Bobby Petrino. If they liked Gillespie and Calipari, Petrino looks like a choirboy.

dvhill100 writes:

in response to lavolsfan:

ok we need to go after Bob Stoops, I know that he is not having a great year this year but look what he has done in recent years, look what he could do to our recruting class. He is like the Nick Saban in his confrence. We need a defense minded coach so we can stop geting scorched on defense. I think that he would make a great coach for the VOLS, we also need to get Chavis back from LSU, keep offensive line coach, and all the other coaches, get rid of DOOLEY, AND SAL SENCERI. If we were to get Stoops imagine where we could go next year or even the following year. Imagine the prospects that he would bring in from all over the country. We need to get him before Kentucky does.

while I agree with most, I don't want Chavis back. Yes, he fields a terrific defense except when he goes prevent. LSU outplayed Bama, but lost on the last drive when they went prevent defense and Bama rolled down the field. Prevent defense prevents you from winning. Chavis still has trouble with that.

Volalumnus writes:

Let see, all those teams had coaches. Fired their coaches. Got new coaches. Now are better.
We want to get better then we have to do the same.

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

in response to lavolsfan:

ok we need to go after Bob Stoops, I know that he is not having a great year this year but look what he has done in recent years, look what he could do to our recruting class. He is like the Nick Saban in his confrence. We need a defense minded coach so we can stop geting scorched on defense. I think that he would make a great coach for the VOLS, we also need to get Chavis back from LSU, keep offensive line coach, and all the other coaches, get rid of DOOLEY, AND SAL SENCERI. If we were to get Stoops imagine where we could go next year or even the following year. Imagine the prospects that he would bring in from all over the country. We need to get him before Kentucky does.

Chavis isn't going anywhere but I do like the Stoops idea..

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

No question our schedule this year was absolutely brutal..The games we are losing now are because we are losing in recruiting to 9 other SEC teams

quickslant writes:

in response to lavolsfan:

ok we need to go after Bob Stoops, I know that he is not having a great year this year but look what he has done in recent years, look what he could do to our recruting class. He is like the Nick Saban in his confrence. We need a defense minded coach so we can stop geting scorched on defense. I think that he would make a great coach for the VOLS, we also need to get Chavis back from LSU, keep offensive line coach, and all the other coaches, get rid of DOOLEY, AND SAL SENCERI. If we were to get Stoops imagine where we could go next year or even the following year. Imagine the prospects that he would bring in from all over the country. We need to get him before Kentucky does.

really dude?

15_counting writes:

in response to dvhill100:

while I agree with most, I don't want Chavis back. Yes, he fields a terrific defense except when he goes prevent. LSU outplayed Bama, but lost on the last drive when they went prevent defense and Bama rolled down the field. Prevent defense prevents you from winning. Chavis still has trouble with that.

With all due respect I disagree. I just watched it again I see no evidence of "prevent defense".

First play to Norwood, he was double covered and AJ threaded the needle.... Second play to Norwood it looked like cover 2 zone...... Third play to Norwood had man coverage with a linebacker blitz and he beat the defender with a great sideline route. The incomplete pass to Norwood in the endzone, LSU blitzed a linebacker and it was one on one cover on Norwood with safety help....... The touchdown play to TJ, LSU had a two linebacker blitz, plus Minter got sucked inside too far before he realized it was a screen and Warmack got in his way twice to give TJ a step on him..... After that, it was TJ alone with a couple of very good moves on two defenders with a little help from #80 at the goal.

killervol69 writes:

in response to VolzsFan:

I know our writer/editor and most of you know nothing about sports, but just look at films of UT teams from just a few years ago compared to now. HUGE DIFFERENCE!!! Since 2007, UT is tied for 4th in America for the most first round draft picks. Before that UT had the most picks in the SEC and always right at the top nationally. You certainly do not see any of that except maybe Patterson. AJ might play on those past teams but he would have to sit behind other NFL players. UT Chattanooga would not trade us for our RBs and our d line would have been holding blocking dummies in practice in the past. You all keep searching for answers you cannot find. They are right in front of you. No players any of the big boys wants equals 500 football. Get used to it.

Oh yea, enjoy your change!!

You, sir, need to change your username, as any true VFL would not write such phooey, dogging the true Vols fans on here. So, instead of spending your time on here looking like a fool, how's about getting out of your little alabummer pasted bedroom and go get a job?

TheStupidPolice writes:

The political talking heads on radio and TV have said that the American public wants to give President Obama 4 more years. If he were a coach, especially in Tennessee, the public would have been calling for his head. But his situation is much like that of Coach Dooley. Both inherited a bad situation. If our country can give Pres. Obama four more years, we can surely give Coach Dooley 4 more years and then see what happens.

JWilly writes:

Petrino is a jerk and no one argues that. He pulled some creppe that went way over the line and got caught big-time. However, he did not cheat (a la Jim Tressel) in his football program. At least, I don't know of any problems there. I think he could be hired and put on a short lease and do very well. His biggest problem for a while would be recruiting because of his not so family-friendly image. But, I still think he will be successful somewhere...why not at UT?????

pcorange writes:

Coach, win, recruit, repeat.

SummittsCourt writes:

How quickly people forget... here are some facts for all of you

Fulmer was primarly fired by boosters, fans and that idiot hamilton despite all of his success. When Cutcliff left for Duke, he hired an OC that was going to put in the spread offense - the first season was not good because UT didn't have the players to run it, but we'll never know how good it could have been at UT will we.

Why? because the weasel boy ran off Cam Newton and Tahj Boyd - they were recruited by Fulmer to run the spread offense, but you Fulmer bashers, loser boosters and idiot hamilton couldn't stand another 5-7 season.

Since then.
Weasel boy 7-6
Dooley 6-7
Dooley 5-7
Dooley 4-5

There is no way the football program would be going through what it is had the pressure to fire Fulmer not been so great. Sometimes you get what you deserve and the fans are getting what they deserve... well, at least some are.

Not one Fulmer hater can honestly say that UT wouldn't be in a better place right now had Fulmer been allowed to stay. He had it right in his hand. All Cam has done is win an National title with very little help and won Rookie of the year in the NFL. All Tahj Boyd has done is win ACC player of the year and won the ACC championship and is on the verge of winning another and playing in a second BCS game.

Now, the truth hurts doesn't it.

I have been supporting Coach Dooley since day 1 because I like what he is about and I still believe this team is getting better. Great teams are built, not bought.

It's time all fans stop the squabbling and the whining and get behind this team. It's disgusting to come on here and see the comments that so called "fans" are leaving on here.

mjaichele#464960 writes:

in response to pcorange:

Coach, win, recruit, repeat.

Close but wrong order.

JWC52 writes:

How are you going to get 4 and 5 star recruits to this program when for three years in a row you are having mediocre seasons? No big time recruit wants to come and play for this team when we keep going 5-7, 6-6 and maybe 7-6. The top recruits really dont even consider us anymore.

OwensboroVol writes:

in response to Razor784:

Fulmer didn't throw Sanders under the bus, he had to fire him. That offense would have had trouble scoring on a middle school defense. Bad things didn't happen right after he fired Sanders, he hired Cutcliffe and we two nice years, it was after Cut left that bad stuff happened.

Fulmer had the same problem other successful head coaches have, People hire his assistants for coordinator and higher paying jobs. The other problem he had, he was unsuccessful in hiring top notch assistants to replace those. The important thing being that the top notch assistants do top notch recruiting.

OwensboroVol writes:

How Long Oh Lord, How Long???The Troy game would have gotten any other coach in the SEC fired including Vanderbilt and Kentucky. How Long do we the University of Tennessee paying fans have to suffer?

PUL4VOLS writes:

in response to 10seVol85_Part_Deux:

"This does do one thing to make the average know better than the administration who should be head coach fan think. That is it shows it is not Just how far ..."

Please translate this for me. I don't speak gibberish.

THE AVERAGE KNOW BETTER THAN THE ADMINISTRATION WHO SHOULD BE THE HEAD COACH...anything more Einstein?

oldbasshead writes:

Isn't it odd that Dooley's old team, Louisianan Tech, is ranked 20th in the BCS poll. Were they ever ranked when Dooley was the head coach?

bigdisbig writes:

in response to VolzsFan:

I know our writer/editor and most of you know nothing about sports, but just look at films of UT teams from just a few years ago compared to now. HUGE DIFFERENCE!!! Since 2007, UT is tied for 4th in America for the most first round draft picks. Before that UT had the most picks in the SEC and always right at the top nationally. You certainly do not see any of that except maybe Patterson. AJ might play on those past teams but he would have to sit behind other NFL players. UT Chattanooga would not trade us for our RBs and our d line would have been holding blocking dummies in practice in the past. You all keep searching for answers you cannot find. They are right in front of you. No players any of the big boys wants equals 500 football. Get used to it.

Oh yea, enjoy your change!!

ALL it takes to turn any program around is a great coach. Saban could go to Kentucky and win the SEC and a National Championship dude.

IF Gruden were to come to Tennessee he would begin to recruit like Saban and in 2 years begin beating the top teams including Bama.

IF there is a great coach that will come to the Vols they will turn it around....but NO ONE wants to play for a loser like Dooley.

bigdisbig writes:

in response to SummittsCourt:

How quickly people forget... here are some facts for all of you

Fulmer was primarly fired by boosters, fans and that idiot hamilton despite all of his success. When Cutcliff left for Duke, he hired an OC that was going to put in the spread offense - the first season was not good because UT didn't have the players to run it, but we'll never know how good it could have been at UT will we.

Why? because the weasel boy ran off Cam Newton and Tahj Boyd - they were recruited by Fulmer to run the spread offense, but you Fulmer bashers, loser boosters and idiot hamilton couldn't stand another 5-7 season.

Since then.
Weasel boy 7-6
Dooley 6-7
Dooley 5-7
Dooley 4-5

There is no way the football program would be going through what it is had the pressure to fire Fulmer not been so great. Sometimes you get what you deserve and the fans are getting what they deserve... well, at least some are.

Not one Fulmer hater can honestly say that UT wouldn't be in a better place right now had Fulmer been allowed to stay. He had it right in his hand. All Cam has done is win an National title with very little help and won Rookie of the year in the NFL. All Tahj Boyd has done is win ACC player of the year and won the ACC championship and is on the verge of winning another and playing in a second BCS game.

Now, the truth hurts doesn't it.

I have been supporting Coach Dooley since day 1 because I like what he is about and I still believe this team is getting better. Great teams are built, not bought.

It's time all fans stop the squabbling and the whining and get behind this team. It's disgusting to come on here and see the comments that so called "fans" are leaving on here.

Yes, Hamilton fired Fulmer but only because Haslem and other boosters wanted him gone. I hope they are happy now. Fulmer must be laughing his head off with every loss.

Olddogsrule writes:

in response to Clarkrm0706:

Adams last article, "how could you not beat the rest of the SEC"?
This article "How could we beat the rest of the SEC"?
He is really independent or writes b.s. for comment purposes. You decide.

I've come to believe JA quit caring about sports long ago. It's just his job, and he probably hates getting up to go to work. So, he sits in his little sports editors office and comes up with things to pull real sports fans strings, and get more clicks, which gets more money from KNS advertisers. He's become an over the hill hack and I hate being drawn in to reading his articles, but I love my Vols. I wish there would be a groundswell of KNS readers who would demand JA be "laterally transferred" out of sports. Maybe he could head up the society page and make K-towns dilatantes as angry with him as a lot of us sports fans are. Since I cancelled my KNS subscription years ago because of JA, having him do the society column could possibly be a reason to re-subscribe. Can you imagine? "Dogwood Debutante Ball Organiser Can't Make Up Mind for Colors at this Year's Fete!" by JA ... The current Dogwood Ball organiser needs to be run off! Don't buy tickets to this year's ball so the the committee will have to make a change!

99gator writes:

in response to wononta:

Adams is correct. And who benefited the most from traditional SEC teams going thru transition?

Why our own Phillip Fulmer of course.

Thanks John, you made my case for me.

sometimes you have to be careful about your desire to be correct.

because if your argument is correct, it can be twisted another way.

it could also mean that, since integration, the only way for tennessee to be dominant is for everyone else to suck

TheStupidPolice writes:

in response to TheStupidPolice:

The political talking heads on radio and TV have said that the American public wants to give President Obama 4 more years. If he were a coach, especially in Tennessee, the public would have been calling for his head. But his situation is much like that of Coach Dooley. Both inherited a bad situation. If our country can give Pres. Obama four more years, we can surely give Coach Dooley 4 more years and then see what happens.

Forgetting to logout and thus allowing knuckleheads to post on your account, STUPID.

underthehill writes:

in response to TheStupidPolice:

Forgetting to logout and thus allowing knuckleheads to post on your account, STUPID.

Not a political site..and if a poster responds to such comments he also violates the agreement for posting..therefore I do suggest removal....

VolFanInTheBoro (Inactive) writes:

in response to 15_counting:

With all due respect I disagree. I just watched it again I see no evidence of "prevent defense".

First play to Norwood, he was double covered and AJ threaded the needle.... Second play to Norwood it looked like cover 2 zone...... Third play to Norwood had man coverage with a linebacker blitz and he beat the defender with a great sideline route. The incomplete pass to Norwood in the endzone, LSU blitzed a linebacker and it was one on one cover on Norwood with safety help....... The touchdown play to TJ, LSU had a two linebacker blitz, plus Minter got sucked inside too far before he realized it was a screen and Warmack got in his way twice to give TJ a step on him..... After that, it was TJ alone with a couple of very good moves on two defenders with a little help from #80 at the goal.

baloney, the db's were playing back

15_counting writes:

Just watched it again. We must be watching two different games.

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