Right after SEC Media days, Ryan and Jim talked for a segment or two about the things they were already tired of hearing in this young college season. I too have a couple of things that I am going to scream if I have to talk about or listen to in conversation about this years Tennessee Vols. The season is so young, we are just in our first week of full pad contact, yet it feels like we need to be teeing it up on Saturday. Three weeks are all that stand between us and the beginning of what seems to have all of the components of a truly perplexing season to predict.
When we started the conversation about the 2008 Vols, the one thing I have heard in almost every conversation is "They are returning one of the Best Offensive lines in the nation, they only allowed four sacks all of last season." As true as that statement is, it is also very deceptive. The 2007 season was supposed to be Erik Ainge's time to shine. A four year starter (well for the most part) with the controversies behind him, Offensive Coordinator David Cutcliffe had taught Ainge to be more efficient, more productive and more selective in his passing game. The most important asset that Cut brought to Erik's bag of tricks was something that he used with Peyton, he used with Eli, and good many NFL quarterbacks already use every week. TIMING. Let me say that again, TIMING. Set....Hut...Hut Ball is snapped, thousand one, thousand two and pass. Whether it is down field, dumped off to a running back in the flat, or out of bounds, the pass is gone out of the quarterbacks hand in no more than two and a half seconds. That is why there were only four sacks. It is hard for anyone, and I mean anyone, to make a sack in two seconds. Now don't get me wrong, I know the big boys did a great job in the trench, We had some good rushing yards behind them, but let's not throw all of the credit their way.
I am not going to spend a ton of time talking about my second pet peeve. It is a simple one. "The Tennessee Defense is soft. They do not have the talent they have in years past." How can someone say that? Have they seen them play. The only time anyone has seen anything you can grade them on is the annual "Tennessee Drill" that pits offense versus defense, one on one, to see who can block who, and who can beat their offensive counter part. Was anyone talking about how strong Georgia's running game was last August? No. But Everyone wants to talk about Moreno. And if I remember correctly the "Soft" defense we had last year shut down the phenom. the Same way they shut down the two headed running attack of Arkansas. Look coach we brought that wood! Week three after the Florida game if you want to talk about our defense and their strengths and weaknesses then we can sit down over a Diet Coke and talk, otherwise, shut your mouth.
Let me change gears for a moment and talk about something that I think is not getting the airtime nor the talk they deserve. I have already stuck my neck out and said it, so let me say it once more, "I really think everyone is sleeping on Ole Miss!" I really do believe they can be the third place team in the West. With Coach yo-yo-yoo-yo they were in some games they should not have been on talent alone. Now they have someone who believes in them, and is teaching them to believe in themselves. I believe Snead is the real deal. I and ALL of you Aubuies thought the world of Enrique Davis when you thought he was to wear the ORANGE and blue. With a recognized returning offensive line and big time strengths returning on defense, WHY ARE THEY NOT GETTING ANY LOVE?? I think Sports Illustrated had them going 2-6 in the conference. I really do believe this team is going to turn some heads!
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Saturday, August 2, 2008
There have been a lot of talk and rumblings around the SEC this year about the new offensive systems that have been implanted this year. Jim has dubbed Auburn the "Spread Heads," and Ryan seems to think Arkansas is going to be an Air Show. At SEC media days Arian Foster, the returning running back for my Vols, said that the new offense at Tennessee will be more of a West Coast Offense. So I guess we are actually taking a step or two back when it comes to what is popular in the SEC, but would still be a step forward for UT who has been a traditional running team. Before we can get to know the new offense, I want to take the time to introduce you to the new offensive staff. It is almost a totally new staff, with last years staff going the way of the road, to either Duke, Oklahoma State, and various other sub-Vol programs. Almost as different as the new staff who comes from division 1-AA, to National Champion Florida Gators, to the NFL, this new staff is as diverse as the talent they coach.
Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks coach Dave Clawson has spent his career in the minor leagues. An assistant at schools such as Albany Buffalo and Lehigh and Villanova, His head coaching career has been at Fordham and Richmond. A young coach that has only been coaching for just under twenty years, he played football and basketball at Williams College in Massachusetts where he graduated in 1989. Needless to say his resume is not "star studded." He has made a name for himself as a coach that turns programs around as an offensive expert. Hey no complaints from me, but why take a step backward from a head coach to a Coordinator? I will let Coach Clawson tell you himself. " Tennessee has one of the best traditions, and I think is one of the best names in all of college football. The challenge of coaching in the SEC was appealing, and I think also the opportunity ti work for and learn from a man of Coach Fulmer's status made the job very attractive." Dave has been calling plays for about fifteen years, and he said this about his upcoming duties. "My job is to oversee the enitire implementation of the offense from how we install plays to game planning to working with the other coaches, to helping organize practice and everything to do with the offense with the head coach. Everything I do i run through Coach Fulmer. Coach Fulmer is the head coach, and he needs to know everything we are doing. Ultimately, he is responsible for everything that happens."
Coach Clawson is also the quarterbacks coach and will help out with recruiting. He is responsible for recruiting southern Ohio, some private schools, and quarterbacks nationwide. His system is not really a spread, and not really West Coast. He uses his "Own System." It is flexible enough to fit the available talent and adapt to the strengths of his play makers. His success has been attributed to his close attention to detail. "Our offense will have a sense of urgency and attention to detail. And if I expect that from them they should expect that from me."
Stan Drayton absolutely loves coaching running backs. Loves it so much he left the National Championship he won at the University of Florida and came to Tennessee, a school more known for the running game. Coach Drayton said " The environment is very similar in a lot of ways. You are talking about two major, national schools that play in the SEC. They play on national television, and they have huge stadiums and have huge fan bases and support systems. For me it was just an opportunity to coach at a place here at Tennessee and has a rich tradition in running backs. For me it was an opportunity to be a part of something that I think is very unique and special in college football, and I took advantage of it."
For three years Coach Drayton was the offensive quality control and assistant special teams coach with the Green Bay Packers. With a total of twelve years coaching in college football, he was most recently with Florida for three years, and Mississippi State for one year prior to that. He was an All-American running back for Allegheny College.
A very respected recruiter, Stan was named one of the nations "Top Twenty-Five Recruiters" by Rivals.Com following the 2007 Gators top recruiting class. Coach Drayton also coached with new Coordinator Dave Clawson for three years at Villanova during the late 1990's which helped him make the decision to come to Tennessee. "Working with a guy like Dave Clawson that I had an opportunity to work with before makes it a very comfortable situation for me. I understand his style, and what he expects from his assistants.
Wide receivers coach Latrell Scott was an All-American tight end as a senior at Hampton in 2001. He came to UT highly recommended by Coach Clawson, having served under him as wide receivers coach for the Spiders of Richmond, moving up to the assistant head coach and recruiting coordinator for their last year there. After his experience with Clawson, it was a no-brainer for the up-and-coming Scott to move to the Orange. "Recruiting is one of my strengths, I feel that I have the ability to develop personal relationships with these young men and let them know that i am there for their development. I am going to recruit metro Atlanta, the state of Virginia, and central Florida."
As for his job on game day, Scott says "I'll handle all of the wide receiver substitutions and all of the personnel groupings on game day. Coaches Fulmer and Clawson trust me to substitute my guys freely, and we are going to get the best ones on the field. We want to be a physical group of wide receivers in the run game. I think we have some guys that get after you in the run game. One of the rules in our meeting room is that you can't block you can't play. We are not going to be the reason that a seventy yard touchdown does not make it."
The final new face on offense will be the tight ends coach Jason Michael. Jason will also be a big contributor in coaching the Special Teams as well. After coaching in the NFL the last three years as a quality control coach and tight ends with the raiders and the last two years with the Jets. A quarterback at Western Kentucky where he had a 1-AA national championship in 2002, he was actually a graduate assistant for Tennessee working with the defense and special teams after leaving the Hilltoppers. Jason feels that their is not a lot of difference in coaching Tight ends in the Pros, or here at UT. "It is still blocking, it is execution and fundamentals no matter what level you are playing at. All of these guys want to play in the NFL. I coached at that level and know what it takes to play and sustain a career at that level and how hard you have to work. I felt that having insight on all those things help me relate and coach." Jason's primary areas to recruit will be his home state of Kentucky, western Tennessee including Nashville and Memphis. He will also dip into parts of Virginia, Louisiana and Texas.
Greg Adkins is the anchor of this offense. He is the lone returning coach, and a good one he is. His Offensive line only allowed four sacks all of last year which ranked them number one in the nation. All five starters are returning, but this is a new system. The biggest reason for the success last year was the timing offense Cutcliff was known for. The ball was out of the quarterback's hand in under two and a half seconds. Not much time for sacks in two seconds.
Well there you go, a new influx of coaches to guide the Orange. Maybe this helps you know who the new faces are. Lets hope in a few weeks when we leave southern California, the whole Nation will be talking about the jobs the "new Blood" is doing for the Vols.