Tuesday, August 24, 2004

SEC Preview: Tennessee

It's football time in Tennessee!

Well folks it's that time of year, so lets get down to it. After going 10-2 last year the mighty Vols look a little vulnerable. Beware. Looks can be decieving.

Two true freshmen are have been named co-starters. Ainge, the architypal white QB has shown rediculous pocket presense. The kid seems unfazed by pressure. He's been solid as a rock. Schaeffer on the other hand is the model black QB. He's flashy. He's got moves that most of us wouldn't believe, but he's also turned the ball over a few times. Look for the Macho Man Randy Sanders (offensive coordinator) to develope different packages for each kid. I'm sure we're going to have a few flashes of brilliance, and I'm also sure that once or twice we're gonna want to wring their damned necks. They are freshmen after all.

UT is loaded here. While Cedric Houston has dreams of replacing Travis Henry as UT's all-time leading rusher, those of us in the real world know that junior Gerald Riggs, jr is the baddest horse in the stable. He's the whole package, a slasher with knock-you-on-your-ass power. Plowing the road for Riggs will probably be Jabari Davis. The Denver Broncos have probably been scouting Davis since he was 10 years old. He's right up their alley. He's a one move, then up the field runner. Look for UT to platoon these guys in up to a 4 man rotation with scatback Larkin. This group is going to have to produce big time to take the pressure of the rookie QBs.

Offensive Line:
Not a lot to say here. The big eaters from last year remain largely intact for 2004. Its true that the Defense pushed them around pretty good in a few early scrimmages but lately they have fought to a draw and have even begun to open some good holes. This is a strong group and the early domination by the defensive line is more of a testomy to it's own strength, than it is a detrement to the offensive line.

Wide Receiver U is back baby! The Vols are as loaded at wideout as they have ever been. Playmakers abound, from proven threats like James Banks (suspended for three games) to the 6-4 rookie who recently ran the 40 in 4.28 seconds. By the way, that performance broke UT's record for the 40-yard dash. When you consider then NFL players who've come from UT (stallworth, wilson, washington) that's pretty freakin' strong. Given the depth at the position, it's unlikely that we'll see a 1000 yard reciever, but without question, we will see some playmakers making plays. If this group can make some tough catches, UT will definately have a deadly offense.

Defensive Line:
This group is lead by a junior-college transfer who stepped up to the plate and benched 565 pounds. He wanted to try 585, but the trainers wouldn't let him. Plates won't be the only thing this group shoves around this year. The O-linemen in the SEC are often between 300 and 330 pounds, but the Vols definately have the guns to get the necessary up-field push. With atheletes inside and out, this group will pressure the quarterback.

The deepest position on a team with an aweful lot of depth. Some big hitters returned last from the unit that was largely responsible for shutting down Miami, in Miami. They will bring the hurt. Nuff Said.

Young group, with a ton of talent and speed. If there is a weekspot on the Vol D, it's right here. These kids have been burnt a few times in the scrimmages. Of course, going up against those WR's, you expect that. The safteys are as fast as any in the SEC though, so run support is good. They come hard, and they have bad intentions.

This is the big question mark. Two years in a row now UT has phoned in their bowl games. It's hard to blame a team that went 10-2 and beat Miami on the road though, for being down about going to the **AHEM** Peach Bowl. Whatever. They got bitchslapped by Clemson, and that's just not acceptable. The Macho Man Randy Sanders is on the hot seat, but there are those in Vol country who are looking a little more skeptically at Fulmer than they ever have before. Chavis is seen as a golden boy around Rocky Top, but no one has forgotten how many games his pathetic prevent defense has cost the Vols over the years.

The Outlook:
You heard it here first: The Reports of the Death of the Vols have been exajurated. Neyland Stadium is the toughest place to play in the SEC. There are well over 100,000 fans, and Rocky Top blares over 40 times per game. While the faithful sailors in the Volunteer Navy wring their hands and fret over the possibility of an unthinkable 3 loss season, the Vols are quietly putting together a 10-2 monster. The Vols have to get over their Georgia plague. Even if they don't though, a BCS birth is still realistic for this team. Despite the hand-wringing down at the docks.

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