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!