Those of you who normally visit us here at the Gate will obviously noticed that, well, I have been non-existent since Thanksgiving. No lawvol did not ban me, change my password and lock me out of WordPress, and I have not quit blogging or anything else.
Simply put, I've had to finish up this semester with finals and studying and all that nonsense. Then there was the painting of our apartment, which is more than likely what I was doing when I wasn't studying. As it is, I'm back in Memphis for the between-semester break.
Quite a bit has gone on since my last posting, and I'm sure I'll have more on these things and others as they come about over the next however long. As it is here's what I'll touch on right here and right now with Vols football and hoops:
1. Farewill Philip Fulmer and hello Lane (and Monte) Kiffin.[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="350" caption="Some Vol fan might have shed a tear or two, but I was all smiles of happiness watching Fulmer go out the way he did and the way he should be remembered: a winner"][/caption]
First off, an absolutely great performance in the season finale for the Vols as they beat Kentucky 28-10. The defense finished off an excellent season and the offense actually scored four touchdowns, running left, right, up the middle, around the end, all over the Cats. Even Jonathan Crompton completed that beautiful touchdown pass to Denarius Moore.
If there was a way for Coach Fulmer to go out, that might have been it: being carried off the field by a pair of seniors going out as a winner.
Honestly, that seems like a distant memory now, because these last two weeks have been all about new head coach Lane Kiffin and (a) the speculation of the staff he might/is assemble/ing and (b) the Sherman like march of recruiting. I think the guy finally returned to Knoxville a couple of days ago after tearing through the state, the West Coast, Ohio, and who knows where else. He's gotten a commitment from Eric Gordon, some visits from guys who weren't probably planning on it, and consideration from guys who might have had Tennessee out of the picture.[caption id="" align="alignright" width="157" caption="I am convinced Lane Kiffin did not sleep during his two week recruiting tear..."][/caption]
It's obviously been two weeks as Tennessee's coach, but so far so good if you ask me. He said at his press conference that he was going to try and outwork other coaches, and so far you can't really say he hasn't done that. And we're still waiting on the completion of his staff, which won't happen until after the NFL season most likely. Of the last regime coaches who are still in limbo, I would expect Latrell Scott to be the most likely to stay. And of course I think it's all-but-official on Monte Kiffin as the defensive coordinator, which is great. Still awaiting word on Ed Orgeron and the rest of the staff. Lane was given an extra million for staff salaries, and Tennessee fans are being kept waiting on the potentially all-star staff Tennessee could have next year.
Finally, as fans, let's give this guy a chance. If you watched the SEC Championship game, you realize we are quite a bit behind Florida. In fact, I firmly believe that the SEC going forward will be an Urban-Saban world that the rest of us will be living in. To be competitive, Tennessee was going to have to hire someone who could compete with those two guys in recruiting and X's and O's. Is Lane Kiffin that guy? Only time will tell. Some are skeptical (you know who you are), but I'm not. He's young, he's energetic, and I think he has a chance to be great.
Also, a shout-out to former offensive coordinator Dave Clawson, now the new head man at Bowling Green. Seriously, I wish him much success at his new place, and I'm glad he landed very much on his feet. Now I just hope he doesn't take Latrell Scott with him...
2. Eric Berry gets Manninged
Someone explain to me how Eric Berry didn't win the Thorpe award over Ohio State's Malcolm Jenkins. I know Jenkins is like a no-brainer first round NFL pick and whatever and it's harder to make a statistical impact at corner because you don't get thrown to blah blah blah but that's pure robbery.
It's crap like that gives me plenty of reason to not care about any of the postseason awards, including and especially the Heisman. Call me a homer, bitter, whatever, but just like much of the rest of college football, it's quite political.[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="230" caption="Playing a DECEMBER road game against a team with a guy named Christmas: bad idea"][/caption]
3. Not sure any of us expected that...
My last basketball related words were of the high-praise variety, following the Vols win over Georgetown in the Old Spice Classic semifinals. Since then, Tennessee lost to a good Gonzaga team, sleep-walked by UNC-Asheville (mad props to Tyler Smith for turning the first triple-double in Tennessee hoops history), and got smoked by a Temple team playing at a high level at home.
Now I'm an optimistic guy, so here's why Vols fans shouldn't be totally freaking out: first, J.P. Prince was out and, though he gets a bad rap at times, he is quite a valuable guy for Tennessee. In addition, this was Tennessee's first true road game with a number of new guys, Temple is no slouch, it's still December, and Bruce Pearl is the coach. Remember two years ago when Tennessee went to South Carolina in mid-February and got run out of the gym similar to Saturday? Yeah, that team had less athleticism and they reached the Sweet 16. Let's not get too bent out of shape here...
That said, things aren't all hunky-dory. Defense is an issue. The press has been for the most part ineffective especially against Gonzaga and Temple, both of whom have experienced guards. Wayne Chism has yet to continue the growth and progress he made last year, and the platoon of him and Brian Williams have struggled the last couple of games. The three-point shooting has also been inconsistent.
It doesn't get easier, as Tennessee faces off against Marquette in Nashville Tuesday night. The Eagles also have experienced guards in Dominic James, Jerel McNeal and Wesley Matthews. It will be interesting to see how Tennessee will bounce back from Saturday's loss.
I will be in the house for that game, and if for no other reason, Tennessee should win because I've seen Tennessee lose in person all of twice in my most immediate past: LSU in the SEC Tournament two years ago and the loss at Memphis State in Bruce's first year. I'll have my camera, so hopefully I'll get some quality photos and/or video and get to share them with you, the wonderful readers of Gate 21 (no guarantees, however...)
As it is, I'm glad to be back posting again and lawvol and I should have some good stuff going this month.
Images Courtesy of: Michael Patrick / KNS • Michael Patrick / KNS • H. Rumph Jr. / AP (ESPN.com)
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