John Adams: Building depth on offensive and defensive lines will be crucial for next UT coach

John Adams
Tennessee offensive linesman Antonio Richardson (74) blocking Alabama linebacker Adrian Hubbard (42) during their 44-13 loss against Alabama Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012 in Neyland Stadium in Knoxville. (MICHAEL PATRICK/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Michael Patrick, copyright © 2012

Tennessee offensive linesman Antonio Richardson (74) blocking Alabama linebacker Adrian Hubbard (42) during their 44-13 loss against Alabama Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012 in Neyland Stadium in Knoxville. (MICHAEL PATRICK/NEWS SENTINEL)

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The lack of seniors on Tennessee's depth chart could be appealing to a coaching candidate. But if he's competent enough to be the next football coach at UT, he also should be able to figure out how misleading that same depth chart could be.

I'm not just referring to the possibility that quarterback Tyler Bray and wide receivers Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter could all declare for early entry into the next NFL draft.

That's a short-term concern. There's also a long-term concern regarding both lines.

And that underscores the importance of a new coach salvaging as much as possible from the 2013 recruiting class. He soon will have two lines to rebuild.

The offensive line likely will be the strength of UT's next team, just as it was this year. Four starters will return, as will No. 1 backup Alex Bullard, who started 12 games in 2011.

Bullard will join fellow veterans Zach Fulton, James Stone, Ja'Wuan James and Antonio Richardson in the 2013 starting offensive line, which should be one of the best in the SEC. The concern relates to the line after that.

Seniors Fulton, Stone, James and Bullard will have to be replaced after next season. Also, given all the promise Richardson showed in his first season as a starter this year, you might wonder if he would go pro early.

You can imagine where that would leave the Vols in 2014. That's why building depth in the offensive line will be crucial next fall.

Sophomore Marcus Jackson started five games in 2011 as a freshman. But the others — Alan Posey, Mack Crowder and Kyler Kerbyson — in UT's second-team offensive line don't have that kind of experience.

The situation is similar on the defensive front, which wasn't nearly as acclaimed as its offensive counterparts this fall. At least, it won't lack experience in 2013.

Again, the season after that will be the problem.

UT's top two returning players at both defensive ends and nose tackle will be seniors next fall. That's good for next year. But it raises concerns about 2014 — especially for a new coach.

Most coaches get a pass in their first season with a downtrodden program. Progress is expected in Year 2, though, which helps explain why UT's most recent coach began his third season on the hot seat.

Derek Dooley's second season was worse than his first and was capped by an embarrassing lost to Kentucky.

Dooley and his staff tried to expedite the progress through junior college recruiting. As bad as the recently completed 5-7 season was, it would have been worse without junior college transfers.

Patterson became the best player on the team. He caught passes, returned kicks and bedeviled defenses on occasional runs as well.

Three other junior college transfers — Darrington Sentimore, Daniel McCullers and Maurice Couch — started on the defensive front.

Sentimore led the Vols in sacks with five. McCullers led UT down linemen in tackles with 37, and Couch was just three behind him.

All three — and their backups — will be gone after next season. So don't be surprised if the new coach addresses that with more junior college recruiting.

Dooley improved UT's talent level in his three seasons on the job. But he also left holes to fill for his successor.

Look closely enough at the depth chart and you can find them.

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 » 52

Rock85 writes:

We have a need for speed....

agarn writes:

Whoever it is will have to take chicken s#@t and make chicken salad!

TKO writes:

A secondary would be nice.

ACWLY writes:

in response to TKO:

A secondary would be nice.

Our number one need, how could Coach Adams ever missed that?

ElizabethtonvolnNC writes:

in response to agarn:

Whoever it is will have to take chicken s#@t and make chicken salad!

Sure you are trying to be cute, but not working. The offensive line performed well all year, bozo. While there were major defensive breakdowns, this has to be attributed to the 3-4 more so than the chicken @$@$& you exclaim. How can I say this, better talent and size this year than last and we were ranked 26th in total D last year....so something was amiss and not necessarily lack of talent.

But thanks for the......insight.

rockypop writes:

The biggest short-term concern any candidate will have is the pent-up expectations UT fans will have for the next coach. The new guy won't even have the unbelievable short leash Dooley had. It'll be a win now deal for the next coach - none of this honeymoon stuff.

It's a career-changing decision for Hart. Make the wrong hire and the Tennessee athletic program goes into nuclear winter. Make the right hire and save the rest of Tennessee's teams. It's really that simple.

How many of you would want to sign up for that in your personal careers?

orange_eVOLution writes:

in response to TKO:

A secondary would be nice.

Darn right.

orange_eVOLution writes:

in response to rockypop:

The biggest short-term concern any candidate will have is the pent-up expectations UT fans will have for the next coach. The new guy won't even have the unbelievable short leash Dooley had. It'll be a win now deal for the next coach - none of this honeymoon stuff.

It's a career-changing decision for Hart. Make the wrong hire and the Tennessee athletic program goes into nuclear winter. Make the right hire and save the rest of Tennessee's teams. It's really that simple.

How many of you would want to sign up for that in your personal careers?

I would if I was Jon Gruden.

rockypop writes:

in response to orange_eVOLution:

I would if I was Jon Gruden.

Give me a break. You need to do a little more research on Jon Gruden. Tennessee needs a head coach, not a scarecrow.

SouthTexasVol writes:

To h3ll with Gruden hire Bobby Petrino while we have the chance.

rockypop writes:

in response to SouthTexasVol:

To h3ll with Gruden hire Bobby Petrino while we have the chance.

Are you ready to say to recruits that Gruden was not good enough to continue coaching at Arkansas, but is just fine with Tennessee?

tnoutlaw2001#228008 writes:

John the sky is falling Adams at it again.

College players typically play 3 yrs and graduate. Some Freshman if talented start 4 years but not that many.

That means every 3 to 4 yrs college teams have to rebuild, it's nothing that any coach doesn't expect going into a job because it kind of normal. So thanks John for wasting more of my time with your sky is falling BS article.

keepitreal4vols writes:

in response to rockypop:

Give me a break. You need to do a little more research on Jon Gruden. Tennessee needs a head coach, not a scarecrow.

Troll

tnoutlaw2001#228008 writes:

Petrino is a scum bag that could never be trusted if things went south. And how could you ever trust him to stay after what he has done time and time again.

Hiring him would be the worst thing UT could do ever, win or not, if he starts losing he will have his eyes on the door, you can bank it. Just ask Louisville and the Falcons, and maybe give Auburn a call while your at it.

vut5686#1405392 writes:

What an insightful article; who would have thought of that?

orange_eVOLution writes:

in response to rockypop:

Give me a break. You need to do a little more research on Jon Gruden. Tennessee needs a head coach, not a scarecrow.

Done plenty of research on Gruden, PoppyCock.

Instant recruiting buzz and fear in the SEC.

orange_eVOLution writes:

in response to vut5686#1405392:

What an insightful article; who would have thought of that?

You took the words right out of my post. LOL.

born2ride writes:

Hunter is projected to be the first WR selected in the draft and Patterson is amazing offensive player. They are both heading to the NFL and going early in the draft.

Bray will be back only if Gruden is the coach. He will go in a later round.

rb4346 writes:

in response to SouthTexasVol:

To h3ll with Gruden hire Bobby Petrino while we have the chance.

Agree. With Gruden we would have good recruting but can he still coach at the college level. With Petrino we will have good recruits and great coaching. The man knows how to coach and win IMO!

Razor784 writes:

in response to rb4346:

Agree. With Gruden we would have good recruting but can he still coach at the college level. With Petrino we will have good recruits and great coaching. The man knows how to coach and win IMO!

Petrino is an awesome coach, but I gotta wonder how well he'll be able to recruit after the mess at Arkansas.

jack4444 writes:

Anybody question whether things are better now, as bad as they are, is dead wrong. When Kiffin left, the question was who right now? Now the question is who 2014.

oldster writes:

in response to rockypop:

The biggest short-term concern any candidate will have is the pent-up expectations UT fans will have for the next coach. The new guy won't even have the unbelievable short leash Dooley had. It'll be a win now deal for the next coach - none of this honeymoon stuff.

It's a career-changing decision for Hart. Make the wrong hire and the Tennessee athletic program goes into nuclear winter. Make the right hire and save the rest of Tennessee's teams. It's really that simple.

How many of you would want to sign up for that in your personal careers?

Dooley got $11 mill for 3 years. This guy will get even more. I would be more than happy to sign up for that in my personal career.

Colliervol writes:

Reported on Channel 3 in Memphis last night that Gruden has contract in hand. Part ownership of Cleveland Browns involved but there may be a conflict with him still receiving payments from contract with Tampa. Details still being worked out. Not sure how they found out but this may be getting interesting. It would explain where the money is coming from to interest him. If it flies, it's very innovative. Guess we'll have to stay tuned. KNS asleep at the switch again? One would think they could get a scoop in their own hometown, couldn't they?

chattbud writes:

Adam’s is an idiot! Fire Adam’s! SPEED is what we NEED! Our secondary can’t run with a tight End much less a SEC wide out. We need a 5-star 235 lb downhill running back & a couple Defensive ends like SC’s Clowney’s at rush end. And All we get?,… is a Clown for a Sports Editor! John Adam’s is the curse on UT. Adam’s must Goooooooooo back To Alabama!

BuckFama writes:

How fortunate we are to have such a deep thinking, cutting-edge columnist as John Adams to cut through all of the gobbledygook and arrive at the conclusion that the Vols football team needs depth on the offensive and defensive lines.

Maybe next week Mr. Adams could look into the circulating rumors that the team could use strong, fast running backs, and that receivers with good speed and the ability to catch a football are valuable, too.

txvolsfan writes:

in response to rockypop:

The biggest short-term concern any candidate will have is the pent-up expectations UT fans will have for the next coach. The new guy won't even have the unbelievable short leash Dooley had. It'll be a win now deal for the next coach - none of this honeymoon stuff.

It's a career-changing decision for Hart. Make the wrong hire and the Tennessee athletic program goes into nuclear winter. Make the right hire and save the rest of Tennessee's teams. It's really that simple.

How many of you would want to sign up for that in your personal careers?

at 2-4 million a year and 5 million if I get let go!!! I'm in
GO VOLS
TXVOLSFAN

Sir_Spanky writes:

Nice article, John. Relevant to something the new hire must address.

6972 writes:

As others have posted, I couldn't believe he didn't mention an improved secondary who apparently can't run or tackle or take good angles.

And oh yes, John, thanks for reminding us of the Ky loss last year. I wonder if you bring up your wife's (if you have one) mistakes she made over a year ago. How's that working out for you?

CrankE writes:

So to sum up:
UT has some talented juniors who are now seriously thinking about going to the NFL. It they stay, then UT-led by even a mediocre coach, could win 8 or 9 games in 2013. If they leave, then presumably it's much harder for the incoming coach to win.

Let me try a different angle;
Had UT fired Dooley on 11/26/11, then those talented rising juniors (rising juniotr = not eligible for the NFL draft) would not be going anywhere (except by transfer), the 2012 campaign would have been an 8-9 win season instead of a total bust, and 2013 would have looked a lot brighter as well.

UT's administration and leadership deserve as much blame for the 2012 debacle as Derek Dooley. They had the ample justification and sufficient fan backing to fire him and did not. As a result, 2012 has been a wasted year.

I hope that UT's leadership has learned this lesson; When a head coach has demonstrated himself unfit for the job, FIRE HIM. Not later but NOW!! Giving Dooley more time to "turn things around" sounds nice, but it also gives him more time to drag things lower. Which is precisely what happened.

formervol1950s writes:

in response to Sir_Spanky:

Nice article, John. Relevant to something the new hire must address.

Absolutely right on .

jowemedo writes:

in response to tnoutlaw2001#228008:

John the sky is falling Adams at it again.

College players typically play 3 yrs and graduate. Some Freshman if talented start 4 years but not that many.

That means every 3 to 4 yrs college teams have to rebuild, it's nothing that any coach doesn't expect going into a job because it kind of normal. So thanks John for wasting more of my time with your sky is falling BS article.

I understand what you are trying to say but would disagree that "all" college teams rebuild every 3-4 yrs. "Good" programs recruit well year in and year out and when a starter moves on, there's someone nearly as good or as good to take their place. Ever heard the phrase that some teams don't rebuild, they just reload? They recruit to their specific needs but also to avoid having future senior dominated teams.

budd#207344 writes:

in response to ACWLY:

Our number one need, how could Coach Adams ever missed that?

Games are won or lost on the line of scrimmage. The DB was fast enough last year but because of NO PASS RUSH the QB had ALL DAY to find a receiver. And the holes opened by the opposition enabled their backs to run wild. The O line did great this year but you are going to lose one and possibly two starters. Need to find their replacements this year because it will take a year in the weight room for them to become SEC lineman.

Colts_VolFan writes:

in response to Razor784:

Petrino is an awesome coach, but I gotta wonder how well he'll be able to recruit after the mess at Arkansas.

It will depend on the parent. If integrity matters to them then he won't get the recruit. Even if you take out the Arkansas circus, you still have his past behavior. Great coach but not a quality person.

quickslant writes:

Petrino is a POS person. He has proved it everywhere he goes.
No way I'd even let him in my living room to talk to my kid.
And I promise I wouldn't be the only one...

HighPlainsVol writes:

in response to tnoutlaw2001#228008:

John the sky is falling Adams at it again.

College players typically play 3 yrs and graduate. Some Freshman if talented start 4 years but not that many.

That means every 3 to 4 yrs college teams have to rebuild, it's nothing that any coach doesn't expect going into a job because it kind of normal. So thanks John for wasting more of my time with your sky is falling BS article.

It's not normal for the top programs, which unlike the Vols (of recent years), recruit at a high level every year and reload instead of rebuild. Adams point is very valid.

murrayvol writes:

in response to Colliervol:

Reported on Channel 3 in Memphis last night that Gruden has contract in hand. Part ownership of Cleveland Browns involved but there may be a conflict with him still receiving payments from contract with Tampa. Details still being worked out. Not sure how they found out but this may be getting interesting. It would explain where the money is coming from to interest him. If it flies, it's very innovative. Guess we'll have to stay tuned. KNS asleep at the switch again? One would think they could get a scoop in their own hometown, couldn't they?

Gruden denied this (sort of) on Mike and Mike today. I believe him because people never lie in situations like this.:{)

Lizardgrad89 writes:

in response to orange_eVOLution:

Done plenty of research on Gruden, PoppyCock.

Instant recruiting buzz and fear in the SEC.

Fear of what? This guy hated rookies. He only wanted veterans on his pro teams because he hated "teaching". He might be able to flash his super bowl ring and get a couple of QB's in camp, but that's about it.

Let me just say that Jon Gruden at UT would make this Gator VERY happy.

brokendownoldvol writes:

The defensive line was the worst in the history of the SEC . How can losing them be a problem? All they did was stand straight up and grapple with the guy in front of them without even worrying about where the ball was. That's why they made one tackle a game each.

fan_for_life writes:

I don't understand why so many readers hate John Adams. He writes his opinions and you can take them or leave them. They are usually insightful and correct. Would you want him to sugar coat everything?

brokendownoldvol writes:

in response to quickslant:

Petrino is a POS person. He has proved it everywhere he goes.
No way I'd even let him in my living room to talk to my kid.
And I promise I wouldn't be the only one...

Didn't Pearl cheat on his wife and no one cared because he won?

SignalMtnVol writes:

in response to vut5686#1405392:

What an insightful article; who would have thought of that?

In other news: Food is essential to preventing starvation.... ;)

BigOrangeRock writes:

in response to 9willbesofine:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Thanks Forest Gump. I am glad things worked out well for you. I know you miss Bubba's quivering lip. You deserve it.

BigOrangeRock writes:

Getting 11 men on the field will be crucial for the next coach.

VolunteerLifer writes:

in response to Razor784:

Petrino is an awesome coach, but I gotta wonder how well he'll be able to recruit after the mess at Arkansas.

Bingo.

6972 writes:

in response to SignalMtnVol:

In other news: Food is essential to preventing starvation.... ;)

LMBO Signa. Struck my funny bone. Thanks I needed that. Maybe you should write the new coaches acceptance speech.

sameolvolalum writes:

'Gotta' love all you sinless characters who so clumsily toss bricks in glass houses. The singular sure-fire coach who'd definitely....and no maybes here....produce a winning season from the get-go is Petrino. Hey. I'm a redeemed sinner who's done some REALLY boneheaded things in my life. However, I've learned from my mistakes and the better for it. How about you? It's a given that Hart has to produce a winner, or he'll be eating hammy burgers should he wind up with a lame hire. Petrino can coach our current talent and his recruiting capabilities are well known. He's got the SEC down! The parents of these recruits want trustable coaches, but they also want their kids to receive their educations and hopefully play on Sundays, once college days are over. Petrino has a great track record at doing exactly those things. People are remembered the most for what they've done last. I can assure you all, 10+ game winning seasons and BCS bowls will make forgetters out of all you prudies.

backtobasics writes:

I am new here. I have read numerous posts about how Gruden would be the savior of our beloved program. My question is this for the ones that say Gruden is the answer. Give me one good reason why Gruden is the right choice. And I don't want to hear because of his name. He has not recruited one day in his life so what makes you think he can do it in the most competitive conference in the nation? His NFL career was mediocre at best. I know he won a Super Bowl but look at his complete record. That being said I believe we need a proven college coach or a proven defensive coordinator that has been with a successful program or programs for several years. That is all I have to say for now so let's hear all the comments.

backtobasics writes:

in response to orange_eVOLution:

I would if I was Jon Gruden.

This is a question to all of the "Gruden is the answer" people. Why is he the answer? He has never recruited and he probably doesn't want to. Do you honestly think that the top recruits are going to fall under some kind of spell because some guy that won a Super Bowl years ago comes into their living room? I don't. We need a proven college winner that knows about recruiting and what it takes to win in TODAY'S game.

Theo writes:

in response to 6972:

As others have posted, I couldn't believe he didn't mention an improved secondary who apparently can't run or tackle or take good angles.

And oh yes, John, thanks for reminding us of the Ky loss last year. I wonder if you bring up your wife's (if you have one) mistakes she made over a year ago. How's that working out for you?

I think Adams and Climer should both just go ahead and start every article with the following sentences -
Tennessee lost to Ky in 2011 losing the longest winning streak in college football. Kentucky was quarterbacked by a converted receiver. This loss was the nadir of the past century for the Vol football program.
Inserting this at the beginning of every article would save them the trouble of trying to find new ways to say it and finding places in the article to insert it.
KNS and Tennessean staff should feel free to use my draft.

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