2009 Big Orange Roundtable: Week 3

This Week’s Roundtable is hosted by:

Your Mother Slept with Wilt Chamberlain

This week’s Big Orange Roundtable is hosted by Thomas the Terrible over at YMSWWC.  As you may have noticed, I have been a bit scarce this week, while HSH has been burning it up with his awesome series of 2009 SEC Football Previews (which, by the way, are now linked and accessible via the links on the countdown widget in the sidebars).  Given the fact that he has done yeoman’s work this week already (and the fact that I have been so un-helpful due to a spate of pesky depositions), this week I am flying solo on the Big Orange Roundtable.  Which pretty much means that this set of responses will suck more than usual.

At any rate, here are my thoughts for the week:

Week 3

1) Now that we have covered the receivers & QB’s, let’s get to the running game.  Just how much improved do you think the running game will be??

bullet Lawvol: Every time I make predictions about how good someone is going to be, how many games someone will win, or how likely it is that Charlie Weiss develops a gravitational field and causes opposing coaches to go into orbit, I look like a fool.  I am awful at this sort of thing.

I suppose that Niels Bohr got it right when he said “Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.”

All that said, I do think that the running backs this year have the chance to really do some special things … or fall flat on their faces.  We really have no choice but to lean on them.  My gut tells me that Bryce Brown will be great someday, but that it is simply unreasonable to expect him to come exploding out of the gates from day one.  While he might end up factoring-in significantly by mid-season I don’t see him being the cure-all for the Vols offensive woes from last season immediately.

For this reason, I see Montario Hardesty as the man on which the Vols’ early-season offensive hopes hangs.  If he can stay healthy and stay focused, I think he has the potential to really put up some gaudy numbers behind the re-tooled offensive line with its zone-blocking scheme.  Of course, no matter how good Hardesty may be, if Tennessee cannot improve its passing game at least a little, then defenses are simply going to stack-up to kill the run all day long.  As a result, I think whether Hardesty is able to actually make things happens depends a great deal on whether the quarterback under center can play his role effectively.  If so, then I think that Tennessee’s backs should be more than strong enough to score some points.  If not, then the scores may be low—and the risk of injuries to the running backs great—as opposing defenses pound away at the Vols ground attack.

Still, I am hopeful and optimistic that running backs, now coached by Eddie Gran, are up to the challenge.

2) During the SEC media days, Kiffin made the comment “Do I love every single thing I’ve done my (first) seven months?  No, I haven’t loved having to do it.  But it needed to be done, in my opinion, for us to get where we needed to be.”  What do you think he was talking about??

bullet Lawvol: Well, it is fairly well documented that there are any number of things he could be referring to.  It’s not like he hasn’t had plenty of attention as a result of his statements and actions.  If, however, I had to guess (and it would only be guessing), I would imagine that Lane Kiffin would most like to have a “do-over” on the ESPN “Outside the Lines” fiasco where, in the process of talking about secondary violations at Tennessee, he committed another secondary violation by allowing ESPN to film him talking to recruits.

I imagine that he was not to pleased with ESPN after that little gambit, and may have even had a few harsh words for Bob Ley.  Still, getting the program’s name out and about to the world beyond Knoxville is important, and probably makes the end benefit worth the cost.

Of course, he could be talking about the evening he shared martini’s in the bathtub with SEC Commissioner Mike Slive, but it is hard to say.

3) Do you think giving Mike Hamilton a big raise and extension is a mistake before seeing how Kiffin performs as a head coach?

bullet Lawvol: Well, I personally think that Mike Hamilton (a/k/a “Smiling Mike) has earned an extension irrespective of what happens this year in football.  Hamilton has completely reshaped the face of Tennessee athletics in a positive way.  Some would say that he has money first—which is not necessarily unfair—but he has not forgotten the fans along the way.  Smiling Mike has made everything related to Tennessee more enjoyable and more polished than it was in the past.  You need only look at the Neyland Stadium Master Plan Renovations, or the recent renovations to the Tommy Bowl (f/k/a “The Big Brown Box”) to see this in real terms. Unlike his predecessor, the Big Dickey (for whom I have no love lost), Smiling Mike does seem to understand that without the fans and their money Tennessee athletics goes no where.  Hamilton has done more to show some appreciation to the fans than anyone at Tennessee ever.

Furthermore, independent of how Lane Kiffin’s first team performs on the field, Hamilton has made some superb moves in the personnel department—namely hiring Bruce Pearl.  I personally believe that Kiffin was also a good hire but—as we all know—the proof will come on the field.  Either way, Hamilton has re-energized the Tennessee Athletic Department and the fanbase in ways which still amaze me.  Let’s be honest, Tennessee’s fans have always been loyal, but for a long time the pulse of the program was faint at best.  Now, people are excited about Tennessee athletics—and not just football.

Has all of this come at a price?  Sure, it costs more to watch the Vols play; the program requires more and more money each year to operate; and the “Good Ol’ Boys” club is not as important as it used to be.  I would suggest, however, that the first two are simply a reality of life if you want to field a competitive program.  I would also contend that the death of the Good Ol’ Boys club is a good thing and was long overdue.  Sports at Tennessee are a business, plain and simple.  Mike Hamilton was smart enough to realize this and to make the commitment to putting the customer—the fans—first.  I think that earns him a feather in his cap.

Thus, I say keep Smiling Mike, while he may not always make everyone happy, he has a vision and has focused on making that a reality.

4) What is the one game Tennessee needs to win this season?

Western Kentucky's Bizarre Mascot

bullet Lawvol: Well, as much as it would be easy to say that the Vols must beat the Kentucky Wildcats, the Vanderbilt Commodores, or the Western Kentucky Whatever-the-hell-that-little-red-blob-of-a-mascot-is-supposed-to-be’s because each of these teams are clearly weaker than the Vols, I have to agree with Thomas over at YMSWWC and say that the Vols must—emphasize MUST—defeat the Thunderchickens this year.  With Alabama and Florida both being long shots at best, and Georgia being a toss-up, The South Carolina Gamecocks are the only solid team in the SEC East that the Vols should beat and get to play in Knoxville.  Thus, a loss to the Cocks would be a bad thing.  In other words, lose to the Gamecocks and it sends the signal that the Vols are still slipping in the SEC East.

In my opinion (which is worthless, really) the South Carolina game is really what it all comes down to.  It is a milestone game in front of a home crowd.  It is a must-win game


The Rest of the Roundtable:

Having wasted your time on my largely meaningless and insignificant thoughts for this week, go check out what the other roundtablers (who actually know what they are talking about) have to say (in no particular order):

– So it goes …Email lawvol No McAlisters



About the Author: "Lawvol" -- I'm just a guy living in North Carolina who has an unnatural fascination with the color orange. Just because I'm a Tennessee alum and die-hard Volunteer fan doesn't mean that I can't poke a little fun at the Big Orange and anybody else for that matter. Feel free to complain all you want. >> Read more from this author

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