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Big Orange Roundtable: Week 5

Check out This Week's Roundtable Round-up hosted by Your Mother Slept With Wilt Chamberlain

Big Orange RoundTable-5(GRY)

Back in the Saddle

After my attempts at steering the ship last week, this week’s Big Orange Roundtable is hosted by Thomas the Terrible from Your Mother Slept With Wilt Chamberlain.

Here are my mindless thoughts for the week

Week 5

(Questions in Sort-o-Teal-like color)

1) One former VOL made the brave choice to testify against some Bammers and has to enter witness protection with a whole new identity, but that also gives him 4 more years of eligibility. Which VOL would you pick and why?

John Henderson: I'd take Big John Henderson mainly because he was such a force on defense.  I loved watching him play and -- as far as I am concerned he could continue doing it until the end of time.  As an interior lineman -- a position that some seem to think is less important than the so-called "skill" positions -- he managed to always make his presence felt.  Oh yeah, there was also that Outland Trophy thing he won in 2000 -- minor point.  His pre-game warmup routine is pretty intimidating too:

My Runners Up Would Include:

Al Wilson: One of the best leaders Tennessee ever had on a team.  A tenacious tackler who never quits is always a huge boost to a team.  When that same player also happens to be a great motivator and one of the most outspoken members of your squad, then their stock rises even higher.  One of the all-time greats from Tennessee.

George "Bad News" Cafego: Another one of the all-time greats from Tennessee, but from a decidedly more distant era.  As a halfback and a punter under General Neyland, Cafego was a two-time All-American (1938, 39).  Cafego was an integral part of the Vols squad which went 71 consecutive quarters without allowing a single point -- which is ... well ... completely inexplicable.  On top of all that he is just one of the damn scariest looking men I think I've ever seen in my life.

George Cafego (circa 1938)

2) Alabama has been given the death penalty and is forced to leave the SEC, at the same time South Carolina decides it can win a lot more in the Sunbelt conference and bolts the SEC. Two teams have to take their place who would you like to see take their place?

For me this one is difficult.  My gut tells me I should go with somebody like Florida State, but I'm going to go with my heart.  Still, I don't know that I can limit it to just two teams, so I'll give you a short list, and let the president of each school battle for the right to re-join the conference in a no-holds barred death match on pay-per-view -- the current member schools of the SEC would get to split the revenue, of course:

  • Georgia Tech: The Jackets were a charter member of the SEC, and were obviously high as a kite on something when they decided to leave.  I'm sure they would be more than happy to re-join the fold.  This would make the SEC East all the more interesting, and would add further respectability in that Tech is traditionally a winning team.  Furthermore they have tradition, and a good location.  Also, anything which yanks the chain of the ACC is fine by me.
  • Appalachian State: I know, I know, the Mountaineers aren't even a Division I Bowl Series team at present ... but I believe they could be.  With all of their titles in the last few years, and their victory over Mee-che-gunn this would be a great way to get an up-and-coming program which already has nationwide name recognition.  After all, they are already better than Vanderbilt most years.
  • Marshall: Tennessee has regularly scheduled the Thundering Herd over the last few years, so at least then we could count beating them as a conference win.  The other advantage is that the addition of Marshall to the SEC would propel the Herd to the forefront of sports in West Virginia -- further marginalizing West Virginia University's claim to anything other than ... well ... coal.  Besides, the SEC doesn't have any green teams -- I like green.
  • Kansas: Mark Mangino has done a great job of turning the Kansas program around.  That paired with their basketball program make them a likely candidate in my book.
  • Oregon: They win a lot.  The road trips would be a royal pain, but it would advance the conference.  Furthermore, with the Ducks in the conference, no one could ever say anything about any other team's uniforms being ugly.
  • Florida State: Yeah, yeah, I said that I wasn't going to include the Seminoles, but I just can't leave them out.  They have won to many games and had too much success to ignore them.  They would be a major draw for the SEC.  Again, bringing the Noles into the fold would further erode the ACC to the point that it would again look like the Big East with more arrogant fans.

Now as for what teams ended up in what division?  Well, that's a discussion for another day...

3) What will be the toughest road game to win and why?

Well, my natural inclination would be to say the Auburn Tigers, which are essentially loaded, and extremely well coached.  I do believe that the War Tigles Eagers ... uh ... Auburn is beatable -- I just don't really think that the Vols are the team to do it.

Since I'm already on record predicting a loss versus Auburn, I'll remove that game from contention for this question.  Thus, I'd have to say that Tennessee's 11 October match up against the Georgia Bulldogs will be the toughest challenge for the Vols on the road this season -- at least in terms of wins.

I am both a believer and a doubter when it comes to Georgia this season.  I do believe the hype, and think they have both the talent and experience to to start "kickin' ass and takin' names" this year.  They are loaded.

On the other hand, Georgia hardly has the most forgiving schedule.  In fact by my mind, Georgia has one of the top 3 toughest schedules in the country -- if not the toughest (as MoonDog previously concluded).  It will be very difficult for Georgia to finish the season unscathed.

Strike one...

The Dawgs also have a 20+ year-old habit of being completely incapable of consistently beating the Vols -- even when they ought to give them the backside of their hand.  I mean no disrespect by this and freely acknowledge that much of this trend occurred during the eras of Jim Donnan and Ray Goff -- which are not particularly well remembered in the minds of many of the Georgia faithful.  Still, the Dawgs are 12-5 versus the Vols since 1989.

Strike two...

Along these same lines, the Dawgs have been notoriously inconsistent for more than a generation -- a fact made abundantly clear by their having played in only 3 SEC Championship Games since its inception in 1992.

Strike three...

For these reasons, I think the Vols can beat Georgia this year -- but it won't be easy...

I am expecting that the Big Orange will be unpredictable on offense (and not in a good way) at least through the Florida game, and likely through Northern Illinois.  This is largely a due to the changes at both quarterback and offensive coordinator.  In short, it will take them some time to get comfortable with their new look.

The Georgia game, however, does not roll around until October -- a bit later than in some years past -- which is essentially the midpoint of the season.  Tennessee will have had time to settle in to their offense and will have faced several high quality opponents.  Thus, I think the Orange will be moving purposefully toward a mid-to-late season peak (as they so often -- and so frustratingly -- do).

I think the keys to this game are -- predictably -- going to be offensive consistency and efficiency, paired with a strong performance by the defensive line.  Obviously, there are some real questions in both of these areas, which make it as likely that the Vols will run from the field screaming like little girls, as it does they will make it all click.

This is one of those games where the home crowd really may have the ability to substantially influence the outcome of the game.  I just hope that all the Dawg faithful are too drunk to realize this fact.  If Tennessee can find a way to take the crowd out of it, then they have a real chance.

In the end, I may be very wrong on this one, but I feel the Vols win this one -- albeit in a nail-biter.  To do that, however, Tennessee will have to come prepared to face Georgia's worst, and will have to put any early-season stumbling behind them.

4) Could have the great Coach Fulmer handled himself better at the SEC media event when he was asked about the subpoena instead of asking what subpoena?

No.  As a lawyer, the worst thing you can have a client do is publicly acknowledge they were served when either: 1) they weren't served or 2) you want to be able to challenge service despite the fact that the papers ended-up in their hands.

From a non-lawyer perspective, I still stand by the Great Punkin -- if he hadn't gotten the subpoena or hadn't had the chance to look at the crap some process server flung at him while he was trying to get out of the car, then he was being honest.  Despite the fact that everybody in the room at the time already had a copy of the subpoena -- everyone but Fulmer, that is -- if he hadn't gotten yet, then he hadn't gotten it yet.

Furthermore, in case I didn't make myself clear, the unprofessional ambulance chasers that Wendell Smith hired to represent him are morons.  If they walked into a courtroom in the region where I practice, they'd probably also be sanctioned.

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):

Now that you've read all of that, don't you actually feel dumber?

-- Go Figure …Email lawvol

Image Courtesy of: The Volunteer Information Bureau

Big Orange Roundtable: Week 4 Round-up

It’s Official, I’m a Blowhard!

All of the Roundtable bloggers agreed on this one point in their answers to this week's questions as posed by yours truly.  What’d they expect from a lawyer?

Anyway, aside from that revelation, here’s what Ye Mystic Knights of the Roundtable had to say in response to my ridiculous inquiries:

1) Thus far we’ve made a number of predictions for the 2008 Vols. Now, let’s take the next step: What are your pre-season predictions for each of Tennessee’s regular season games this year (along with any explanations you feel are needed)?

Fulmer’s Belly with acronym madness, Loser With Socks (with the exception of calling Auburn a tossup), and the SouthEastern Sports Blog took the hard line by making it clear that they cannot pick against Tennessee. I can completely relate with this and fully concur in Will thoughts:

For one, I think the vast majority of us in Vol Nation still believe that Tennessee is good enough to win every game they play.

* * * * *

The phrase I’ve used most often in the two-plus years of this blog’s existence is some form of "The SEC is good enough that anybody can beat everybody. And Tennessee is still good enough to beat anybody every single week."

* * * * *

... so what you’re most likely to get from me every week is something like "How the Vols can win this week" instead of "Will the Vols win this week?" throughout the year.

I like that kind of optimism, and in reality that is exactly what I will be doing each week. That said, the rest of the Roundtablers generally agreed that the Vols would go 10-2 this season (with the exception of YMSWWC who picked the Vols to go 9-3) generally agreed on the games where Tennessee was most likely to fall a bit short, here’s how they fell:


Gate 21


Rocky Top Talk


Power T










































































Season Record







So, there you have it. Hopefully, Will, Jai, and Jon are right, and Tennessee does go undefeated...

2) Gameday routines, we all have them. What are your gameday rituals, especially those that are completely irrational, grounded in baseless superstition, or otherwise defy explanation?

Well, the answers here were as varied as they were interesting.

Will from SouthEastern Sports Blog bemoaned one of my least favorite parts of gamedays at Tennessee -- traffic. Despite his angst, however, he waxed sentimental on us all as he talked of anticipating Bobby Denton’s proclamation of "It’s Football Time in Tennessee!!!" before watching pre-game warm-ups. More disturbingly, he mentioned something about having a hog’s head stowed somewhere in his parent’s basement. Yuck!

Doug at the Power T apparently spends his gamedays working as both a chef and a maid -- tying every act on a gameday to either cooking or laundry. The All-knowing MoonDog watches objectively, but shows clear signs of inner turmoil in his admission that "after a Vols’ win, I’m less inclined to take a trip to the Memphis Zoo and work over the baby seals."

For Thomas over at YMSWWC, gamedays take on a religious connotation, and his invocation of the football gods includes true ritual:

For home games I get up at 3:30 AM and slash the tires of my neighbors’ car since they are Bama fans. If it’s a road game then I want good karma that day so I only scratch the fender of the car. Then I retire back to bed. Around 7:00 AM I get back up a sacrifice a live cow on the alter of Smokey.

Meanwhile, Joel at RTT, told the tale of "summoning the oracle" known as Jackson the Mule -- widely known for his sports prognosticating skill -- through the clever use of apples, body paint, and pizza. I thought that sort of thing was illegal in Tennessee?

Cincy Vol and Jai Eugene, however take the gameday display to all new levels by either running around the yard madly waving a Tennessee flag to the point of injury, or yardwork, Tennessee style:

I live deep in the heart of Dixie, where the temps range upwards in 80s during the fall. I typically like to mow my lawn on College Football Saturdays but I do it a bit differently. As I mow, weedeat and edge, I wear a full Tennessee Football Uniform (home or away Jersey depending on the schedule), replete with a helmet (with a ‘T’), shoulder pads,receiver gloves black cleats and a tinted Oakley face shield. ... This way I can become one with the current players and the Ghosts of Tennessee past that have had a hand in the rise of the mighty Vols to gridiron glory.

3) Crompton vs. Tebow? Discuss…

Apparently, I just missed the boat on this one. My goal with this question was to compare the two running quarterbacks and get thoughts on how they stack up against one another.

Perhaps I should have used more than four words to pose this question...

Anyway, the answers to this one were ... well ... interesting.

Joel, in trying to figure out what the question was even about, had this to say:

Perhaps you mean "with sharp implements," in which case my first inclination is to trust Tebow over Crompton because Crompton, being a more rural-type guy is probably more used to wethering goats than preparing young men for, well, lives as young men. Then again, you could view Crompton as more "thorough" in that regard, so perhaps he’s got the edge. Heh. Edge.

Perhaps you mean "in tights and a headband, shirtless," in which case I hereby resign from the Roundtable and unsubscribe from your newsletter.

Hmmmm... that last one is an image I could have lived my whole life without.

The rest were pretty much in the same vein -- including an impressive answer in song from Loser With Socks -- but all seemed to conclude that I was a moron for asking this question before we’ve even really had a chance to see Crompton play.

Mea culpa, Mea Culpa, Mea Maxima Culpa...

4) Will the Vols manage to make it to the SEC Championship Game again this season - either outright, or through the backdoor? Why or why not?

MoonDog, led the doubters pointing to defensive uncertainty. Doug from the Power T offered this sage insight, which could very well prove to be true:

The real question is: will we be ahead of Florida? Sadly, I think because SO much weight is put on preseason polls, it will be hard to jump ahead of them, even though we have the harder schedule. So, no, I think we will be a few plays short of winning the East, and thusly, a few plays short of winning the SEC. The SEC East winner will undoubtedly win the entire SEC.

Joel, Thomas, and I brought up the rear when it came to naysayers.

Fulmer’s Belly rode the fence saying:

As long as the team gels as a cohesive unit, the SECCG is within reach. Lose another one however, and fans will grumble like mofos.

On the other hand, SESB asked pointedly, "So really ... why not?" Cincy Vol agreed, based upon talent and the Vols’ "under the radar" pre-season rankings. Loser With Socks, however, takes the cake in explaining why the Vols will not only make it to the SEC Championship Game, but will win it:

The Vols in the Championship again, It’s because it’s what we love. It is who we were born to be. And here you sit, thinking. Well, Tennessee Football is not for thinkers. We are players and hitters. We are the doers. And that’s what we need to do. We don’t need to think. We need to win. We need speed. We need to go out there, and you need to run like hell. We need to fire it up. We need to grab a hold of that line between speed and chaos, and we need to wrestle it to the ground like a demon cobra! And then, when the fear rises up in our belly, we use it. And you know that fear is powerful, because it has been there for billions of years. And it is good. And we use it. And we ride it; we ride it like a skeleton horse through the gates of hell, and then we win...

I really don’t know what you say in response to that...

5) Of all the coaches in the SEC who do you currently consider to be the best? Why?

Well, I was in the definite minority on this one, picking Sly Croom of Mississippi State. I know that’s a surprise to everyone.

MoonDog took Mark Richt, due to the fact he has really turned the program around at Georgia, and has consistently found his way into BCS Bowls. Joel, despite feeling dirty for having done so, chose The "Ole’ Ball Coach," Steve Spurrier. Thomas the Terrible took Tommy Tubberville (what amazing alliteration)

Both SESB and 3SIB took Urban Meyer with Cincy Vol noting:

I’m the Wes Mantooth to his Ron Burgundy. He just deserves respect, no matter how much I hate him. (And oh do I hate him) He pulled in a national championship and has put the beat on people in the SEC and around the country. The guy is good.

Jai Eugene, along with Jon at Fulmer’s Belly picked the Great Punkin. Jai noted "Fulmer’s masterful play calling, rock hard discipline policy, on the field demeanor, and grasp of the english language during press conferences," as being the deciding factors in his mind. While Jon as part of his acronym-ical approach to things had this to say:

This isn’t even an question for us. Of course it’s Fulmer. It doesn’t even compare. Just look at his accolades. The best winning percentage, the biggest coat size, the most desserts eaten. Little can take away from our coach’s awesomeness. Except stupid Urban and Steve of course.

Up Next...

So there you have it folks. We’ve learned that you should never pick against the home team, that demon cobras need wrestling, and that -- no matter what -- we all feel good about this season.

Oh yeah, we’ve also learned that I will never be given the chance to write the questions again...

Up next is Thomas the Terrible with week 5 of the Roundtable, which will also feature a new member, Patrick from The View From the Hill. Be sure to check it out at the top of the week.

Next time I think I’ll just ask what everyone’s favorite color is ...

-- Go Figure …Email lawvol

Big Orange Roundtable: Week 4

King for the week!  This week's Roundtable is hosted here at Gate 21

Oh, to be in Camelot!!!

Having, as Joel put it, taken the the sword from Rocky Top Talk -- pointy-end first -- and due to a complete lack of standards, this week’s Big Orange Roundtable is being hosted here at Gate 21.

At present the roundtable includes: 3rd Saturday in Blogtober, Fulmer’s Belly, Gate 21, Rocky Top Talk, Loser With Socks, the World According to MoonDog (a/k/a MoonDog Sports), The Power T, Your Mother Slept With Wilt Chamberlain, and the SouthEastern Sports Blog. If you’d like to join, feel free to let us know.

In furtherance of our quest for the answers to life's burning questions -- at least respecting the Tennessee Volunteers, here are this week's questions -- courtesy of your truly -- along with my particularly meaningless answers.

Week 4

(Questions in Sort-o-Teal-like color)

1) Thus far we've made a number of predictions for the 2008 Vols.  Now, let's take the next step: What are your pre-season predictions for each of Tennessee's regular season games this year (along with any explanations you feel are needed)?



(Home Games in Bold)

Win or Loss


1 Sept



Tennessee leads for majority of game.  Wins easily after Eric Berry shreds UCLA offensive threats.

Final Score:  28 - 7

13 Sept



UAB stays close until mid-way through 2nd Quarter.  Vols stretch their legs in 2nd half.

Final Score:  41 - 14

20 Sept



Florida scores early in the 1st and quiets the crowd.  Vols close the gap, but turnovers kill them in the 2nd half in a close game.

Final Score:  28 - 24

27 Sept



Teams stay close throughout first 3 quarters.  Auburn makes key stops in fourth and capitalizes to win in defensive struggle.

Final Score:  13 - 9

4 Oct

Northern Illinois


After 2 tough losses, Vols enjoy beating up on a less talented team.

Final Score:  38 - 3

11 Oct



Despite pre-season talk of national championship.  Vols "upset" Georgia.  It will not be the Dawg's only loss.

Final Score:  21 -14

18 Oct

Mississippi State


Scrappy Miss. State team fights to the wire.  Vols come away with a victory -- barely -- thanks to Daniel Lincoln's foot.

Final Score:  20 - 17

25 Oct



Tide comes out raring to go, but so does Tennessee's defense.  It is close at halftime, but not at the end of the 3rd quarter.

Final Score:  28 - 10

1 Nov

South Carolina


Vols use South Carolina's lack of discipline on offense to kill the Gamecocks.  Spurrier wears a pink tu-tu in the 2nd half as a motivational tool -- it fails.

Final Score:  35 - 17

8 Nov



Vols give Wyoming's unconventional offense a lesson on why it's called "unconventional" -- because it only works on rare occasions.

Final Score:  31 - 7

22 Nov



At halftime, Tennessee leads by 3 points.  When Vols score in the 3rd period, both of Vandy's fans leave.  From there the Vols widen the gap.

Final Score:  21 - 10

29 Nov



It's cold and nasty as Kentucky takes one in the chops.  Unfortunately, their fans realize the whole "wait till basketball season" thing simply doesn't work anymore.

Final Score:  28 - 7

Those are my pre-season thoughts, and like all pre-season predictions, they are utterly meaningless...

2) Gameday routines, we all have them.  What are your gameday rituals, especially those that are completely irrational, grounded in baseless superstition, or otherwise defy explanation?

Well, as I recounted in Week 2, my gameday ritual is one which includes a lot of driving, and little time for tailgating.  Thus, I suppose my gamedays are a little less "ritualistic" than some.  Still, I have my tried and tested routines which I tend to stick to closely.

Since Sam & Andy's closed, I generally eat my pre-game meal at Smokey's in the University Center -- It's not grand faire, but at least the lines aren't that long.  As a general rule, I don't eat much before a game -- especially big games -- due to the fact that I'd just as soon not end up spending my time in the Neyland Stadium bathrooms, remodeled or not.

As a general rule, I rarely drink any alcohol on gamedays -- not because I'm a teetotaler, but because I find it is generally ill-advised to show up to the stadium "overcome by a multitude of circumstances."  I have never favored drinking before a game -- mainly because I want to be able to remember the game.  There have, however, been a few games which have made me wish I had gotten knee-crawlin' drunk before kickoff, if only to dull the pain, and to encourage explosive projectile vomiting on opposing fans.

My biggest tradition is that I smoke a big nasty cigar before each game, and -- if we win -- one afterwards.  This is really the only time I smoke at all.  I do realize that they take years off your life, but they are the ones at the end, and they aren't any good anyway.  Besides, people tend to get out of your way and run for cover when you have a flaming stick protruding from your mouth which smells like smoldering death.  I guess I blame Doctor Julian, and his constant cigar smoking for that one.

Oh!  What's that Hell you're playing?

Dr. W.J. Julian, Director of Bands Emeritus

After I have incinerated my taste buds, I usually wait for the Pride of the Southland to do their "Salute to the Hill" and enter the stadium.  I waited for the Vol Walk once -- in 2002 -- but after seeing Casey Clausen come pimp-strutting by wearing a suit the color of something that came out of a baby's diaper, immediately before getting annihilated by Florida, I've skipped it.

Once inside the stadium, I loudly heckle Bobby Denton as he announces the line-ups.  It is interesting how skillfully he can butcher some of the names -- despite the fact there are printed pronunciations in the media guide.

Then I settle back and enjoy watching inattentive fans take footballs in the head as the kicking team warms up, before settling in for a 4-hour battle -- my lucky towel always tucked in my belt.

Since they added them to the concessions at the game, I usually eat a Petro at some point in the game, mainly because I love those things...

Hmmm, now that I think about it, I'm pretty white-bread...

3) Crompton vs. Tebow?   Discuss...

This is naturally one of the hot topics this year as the "Straight Outta Crompton" era begins.  The similarities between these two quarterbacks are striking -- both have the ability to throw on you, and both have the willingness and the skills to run straight at opposing defenses.  Obviously, Tim Tebow has experience on his side, and a trophy which -- according to some -- has elevated him to the status of deity.  By the same token, Jonathan Crompton has a fearlessness which Tebow has never really seemed to demonstrate.

Tebow managed 20 rushing and 20 passing touchdowns in 2007, and broke pretty much every record for running quarterbacks.  I question, however, whether that was as much a function of his innate abilities as it was Florida's willingness to sellout on a new offensive scheme which, at the time, was somewhat unconventional.  As their final 9-4 record for 2007 shows, the Florida Gators were very beatable (apparently just not by Tennessee).  The biggest weakness for the Florida offense last year was the running backs -- they really didn't have one.  Tebow, who runs like a fullback, is at his best running when in close quarters, either up the middle, or on sweeps and draws.  As we all know he has exhibited great speed and elusive moves, and is a serious threat on any play.  Still, at times his decision making has essentially rendered Florida's offense one-dimensional.  Saint Tebow versus the world.  Furthermore, while Tebow ran like a madman throughout the season, he did so at a price -- suffering several injuries which hampered his production.

Crompton, on the other hand, is still somewhat of an unknown.  As he made clear while filling in for Erik Ainge in 2006, he has a cannon of an arm.  Like a cannon, however, sometimes his aim is ... well ... not what it could be.  That said, with an extra year of experience under his belt, it would seem likely that his throwing abilities could have only improved.  As I said previously, I have some concerns about his mental game -- whether he has the discipline to make smart decisions in choosing his receivers and his routes.  By the same token, Crompton has a running style which really defies explanation when it comes to running quarterback.  at 6'4", 220", he has the size of Fullback, but runs more like a traditional running back.  His absolute lack of fear while running -- including his complete willingness to drop his head and plant a helmet in the chest of tacklers, makes him seem more threatening in the open field than Tebow.  The speed and agility he has shown in the past makes him a serious threat in the open field, albeit less so between the tackles.  If, Crompton has stepped up to the next level and is mentally prepared, he could be an absolute terror this season -- especially under the tuteledge of new offensive coordinator Dave Clawson.  Furthermore, thus far it has seemed that Crompton has a greater potential to burn defenses with the long ball while passing than Tebow, but -- again -- his track record is limited and it is hard to say for certain.

In the end, we probably don't have enough information to make a fair comparison between the two ... yet.  Hopefully, Crompton will come out full force from the start.  That said with both a new quarterback and a new offensive coordinator, it is likely that there will be some miscues in the early games.  By the midpoint of the season, however, I strongly believe that Crompton has the potential to be every bit as good as Tebow.

Needless to say, I am seriously looking forward to seeing them go head-to-head when they meet on 20 September.

4) Will the Vols manage to make it to the SEC Championship Game again this season -- either outright, or through the backdoor?  Why or why not?

Well, in all honesty, the Vols probably never should have been anywhere near Atlanta for the SEC Championship game last year.  Still, when it came down to it, they earned the trip and were one boneheaded pass away from potentially beating the LSU Tigers.  Thus, I guess they were better than most gave them credit for.

Be that as it may, I think it is highly unlikely that the Vols make the return trip this year.  Though it pains me to say it, I have Florida picked to go to the Championship from the SEC East to play either LSU or Auburn.  I believe that Tennessee -- being the perpetual bridesmaid -- will finish second, just ahead of a 2-conference loss Georgia (with the tie going to Tennessee due to a head-to-head win).  If the Vols manage to somehow beat Florida or Auburn -- or miraculously both of them -- then that would change things dramatically (as if that were not self-evident).

In the end, I simply think that the offense will be too new this year, and thus will have a difficult time during September.  With new starting quarterback Jonathan Crompton, and a new offensive scheme under Dave Clawson, I simply think it will take the Vols at least half the season to find offensive consistency.  Unfortunately, the Vols schedule (as always) is heavily weighted to the front end.  That means the chance of two early-season conference losses which will effectively knock them out of contention for the SEC East.

That said, they could be hell-on-wheels by 2009...

5) Of all the coaches in the SEC who do you currently consider to be the best?  Why?

I know a lot of folks will say Les Miles, Tommy Tubberville, or maybe even Urban Meyer.  For me, however, I have got to go with Sylvester Croom who has coached the Mississippi State Bulldogs for the last 5 years.  When Croom took over, the Bulldogs were awful -- they just plain sucked.  After 3 years of winning only 3 games, however, Croom finally seemed to turn the corner in Starkville in 2007 finishing 8-5 (4-4 SEC) for the season -- the first winning season for Miss. State since 2000.

While I realize his win / loss record is not what it could be (17-30 overall) managing to bring the Bulldogs back to respectability is, in my book, a major accomplishment.  Let's be frank here, it's called "Stark"ville for a reason.  Recruiting for the Bulldogs is probably as challenging as any other school in the SEC, perhaps with the exception of Vanderbilt.  Yet, somehow, Croom has managed to right the ship and bring the program back from the bowels of football hell.

What's more, this year's team returns 14 starters -- all of whom were recruited by Croom -- and looks to be set to make another strong showing this year.  They should be even better than they were in 2007, and I'd be highly surprised if the Bulldogs don't end up in a bowl this year.  I have real fear when it comes to the Vols game against the Bulldogs this year.  My only hope is that the boys in orange don't "overlook" the cowbell clan -- if they do, they will lose.

I sincerely hope that Croom keeps building on his successes from 2007 and continues to bring Miss. State back to the forefront of the SEC West.  It's one thing to win at LSU, Florida, or Auburn -- if you can win at Mississippi State, you can win anywhere.

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.  I'll be updating the links as each new post comes up -- that is, unless they all refuse to answer my asinine questions.  Assuming that they do answer the questions and that you do not value the lining of your stomach, feel free to come back on Friday to see the round-up of what everyone had say (In no particular order):

It's nice to be king, well, at least until they behead you...

-- Go Figure …Email lawvol

Images Courtesy of: • The University of Tennessee

Big Orange Roundtable: Week 3

Check out the Roundtable Round-up with Joel's Thoughts on our efforts (or lack there of) for this week...

This Week’s Roundtable Host: Rocky Top Talk

Onward and Upward!

This week’s Big Orange Roundtable is hosted by Joel over at Rocky Top Talk.

At present the roundtable includes: 3rd Saturday in Blogtober, Fulmer’s Belly, Gate 21, Rocky Top Talk, Loser With Socks, the World According to MoonDog (a/k/a MoonDog Sports), The Power T, Your Mother Slept With Wilt Chamberlain, and the SouthEastern Sports Blog. If you’d like to join, feel free to let us know. If you want more information on how the roundtable works, you can check out Ghost of Neyland’s wonderful introduction over at 3SIB.

Anyway, here are my thoughts for the week:

Week 3

(Questions in Sort-o-Teal-like color)

1) For some inexplicable reason, Phillip Fulmer invites Urban Meyer, Mark Richt, Steve Spurrier, Nick Saban, Les Miles, and Tommy Tuberville over to his palatial estate for a dinner party. At 2:00 a.m. the next morning, The Papa discovers that Smokey IX has been murdered. Who did it, with what, and where? Think Clue. You know, Mr. Mustard in the parlor with the candlestick?

After dinner, Fulmer gave Smokey a few hot dogs from his private stash before heading upstairs with his bride, Vicky. After making it to the bedroom, Phillip decided that he wanted to grab a quick doughnut from his other private stash. While heading back toward the kitchen, he was confronted by the ghost of Bear Bryant who warned him that Smokey was in danger.

Shocked and frightened, Fulmer rushed downstairs to find Smokey lying on the floor, a half-eaten hot dog left lying by his side. Fulmer immediately called Lieutenant Columbo to investigate (after he ate the rest of the hot dog).

Once on the scene, Columbo began interviewing the others. Mark Richt claimed to be admiring himself in the mirror in his favorite bright red thong. Tubberville said he was adding another coat of shellac to his hair before retiring for the night. Saban claimed to be counting all the money he had fleeced from Alabama donors in his room. Meyer stated that he was siting with his legs crossed offering a burnt offering before his statue of Tim Tebow.  Les Miles had been carefully placing his hat in its protective case for the night. Finally, Spurrier claimed that he had been on the phone with a local sports-talk show under the pseudonym "Homer from Sequatchie County."

At first Columbo was stumped considering that all the alibis checked out. Then the case turned. Columbo discovered that Nick Saban had accidentally left his webcam running while counting his money on the bed. It had recorded sounds in the background which, at first seemed unrecognizable, but then when played at 300 times normal speed became understandable as a human speaking.

Columbo rushed downstairs, the others right on his heels, to find Ed Orgeron hiding in the bushes pretending to be a Maple tree. Fulmer grabbed Orgeron while Tubberville tied his hands, and Saban stole his wallet. Columbo put it to him straight.

"So, it looks like we caught you..."

"I say, I say, I say, it war an assidunt. I’s was a jest a’chomin heah to talk to dis heah fine group ah koaches whahn I come up-pon da little puppah. I’s was ah jest a talkin’ to heam and a scrahathin’ heahs eaahs whan alla-da-suddin’ heah just collapsas. I say, I say I dohn’t know whaht heppened!"

All of the sudden, Vicky Fulmer screamed... "Look!"

"Hey now, I wasn’t taking any money from anybody. I mean I was just standing here minding my own business..."

"Not you, Nick, look, Smokey’s back up and walking!" Vicky pointed to a dazed and groggy Smokey staggering from side to side.

"Hallelujah, Tim be praised!  The omnisicent Tebow has looked down on this animal's plight and blessed him. He has been raised from the dead!" Meyer exclaimed as he fell to his knees.

"I don’t think so sir. Exactly how long were you talking to the dog, sir?" Columbo asked

"Wheall, lessee... I’s ah’suhppose it was abaht fie-to-tenh mannutes. Yehsir." Orgeron replied.

"I think I’ve solved the case." Columbo nodded to himself. "Mr. Foghorn ... Orgeron here came to see about getting a job with these here coaches, but got distracted by the cute dog, and set upon lamenting his tale to the pooch. At first, Smokey was enjoying the attention, but then things started to get fuzzy and he collapsed. You see, all of the hot-air coming from Orgeron caused Smokey to temporarily lose consciousness from lack of oxygen. He wasn’t actually dead. His body just entered a state of suspended animation to avoid any more damage to his brain from what Ogeron was saying. There was no murder here..."

"Well that’s a relief, I had just assumed it was some of my players, and was trying to think up a lie to tell the media." Spurrier chimed in.

"Well, how do you explain the ghost of Bear Bryant that I saw upstairs?" Fulmer asked.

"That was no ghost, that was Johnny Majors. He’d polished off a bottle of bourbon and was -- well, overcome by a multitude of circumstances -- which led him to think he was Bear Bryant. I’ve seen it before. Likely as not, he was just looking for some eggs to throw on your car." they all nodded to themselves knowing this to be true.

"Well, I suppose that wraps up my business here. You folks have a nice evening." Columbo said as he shut his notebook.

"Thank you so much Lieutenant, is there anything we can do to repay you?" asked Vicky Fulmer.

"Just one thing ma’am -- tell your husband to leave a few in the racks next time he and the coaching staff hit Krispy Kreme. The beat officers would appreciate it..."

2) Who between Eric Berry for the defense and Gerald Jones for the Clawfense will have the biggest impact for the Vols in 2008?

Well, it is hard to say on this one at present, mainly because Gerald Jones is still somewhat of an unknown in terms of his ability to perform over an entire season. Be that as it may, Jones impact will definitely be felt as the season progresses, especially with Jonathan Crompton running the offense. I expect great things from these two on the "Clawfensive" side of the ball. By the end of the season, it would not surprise me for the phrase "Crompton to Jones" to take on the same character as "Manning to Kent," "Martin to Price," or "Clausen to the Sidelines" (okay, maybe not the last one...).

All that said, I still think that Eric Berry has the potential to be the single most significant contributor on the 2008 Tennessee Volunteers Football squad. Berry is a holy terror on the defensive side of the ball, and I simply don’t think there is anyone with more talent than he across the board. I could try and explain why I feel this way, but the fact is that Will over at SESB has already done a much better job than I could.

Suffice it to say, I agree with him wholeheartedly ...

3) You devise a way to harness the Lost island’s temporal displacement properties. The island will allow you to change one thing, but one thing only, in the history of the Tennessee Volunteer football program. What do you change? By the way, Ben warns that if you try to say "2005" or any other entire season, the mysterious clicking black smoke will sound its wailing siren, shoot from the earth, grab you by the ankles, and pound you to a pulp against a palm tree. So change only one thing. Unless, of course, you like that sort of thing.?

Well, I hate to be a bum and flame a bit, but my "do-over" selection would be easy. Four words:

Randy Sanders, Offensive Coordinator...

Now I don’t mean to imply that I wish Sanders had never been affiliated with the program because he was a longtime quarterbacks coach, and was as loyal as anyone when it came to the Tennessee Football program -- I wish him nothing but the best in his current endeavors.

That said -- in my opinion -- the biggest mistake ever made by the Great Punkin was promoting Col. Dandy Sanders to offensive coordinator. Therein lay the genesis of all of the problems of the early-to-middle part of this decade. While I appreciate and respect Coach Fulmer’s desire to "dance with the one who brung ya" and promote from within -- rewarding those who have stood beside you, when David Cutcliffe left to take over the Ole Miss Rebels in 1998, he should have let Sanders coach the National Championship game, and then started looking for a new coordinator outside the program.

Col. Dandy Sanders

It took Cutcliffe the better part of two years to begin re-building the offense after Sanders left. Considering the hiring of Dave Clawson, it appears that Fulmer has learned from the mistake.

4) What about the future? What is your worst fear for this upcoming season, the turn of events that would send you into a blind rage?

Injuries, plain and simple...

While Tennessee has some great potential this season, there are a few key positions where an injury could spell disaster. Most notably at quarterback and defensive tackle. The quickest way for the Vols to go from hopefuls to hopeless would be injuries in these key positions, where there is remarkably little depth.

Thus, I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed and hope for the best...

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):

Yeah, yeah, I know -- Don’t quit my day job...

-- Go Figure …Email lawvol

Big Orange Roundtable: Week 2

This Week’s Host: The Power T

Week Zwei

(That’s German for "2")

This week’s Big Orange Roundtable is hosted by none other than The Power T, who has served up a heapin’ helpin’ of questions for we "Volggers" to consider. Being that I am all about riding the coat-tails of others (and the fact they haven’t kicked me out of the Roundtable ... yet) here are Gate 21’s thoughts on all that is this week in the world of Tennessee Football.

(Questions in Sort-o-Teal-like color)

1) A position of strength for the Vols this fall should be wide receivers. Which 2 guys will emerge from the pack to start the opener against UCLA alongside Lucas Taylor? Why?

First of all, I think that Lucas Taylor is going to be a starter -- probably from start to finish. He is the most tested and reliable of the receiving corps this year. As for the other spots, well, it gets more difficult there.

The conventional wisdom would be to go with Austin Rogers and Josh Briscoe (not to be confused with Briscoe Darling) -- both have had significant playing time and key catches. They were solid down the stretch (especially in the overtime win against Kentucky, where Rogers saved the day with a huge 2-point conversion catch), however, they both had a few key weaknesses which hampered their overall production. Both had some big drops at key moments, and both appeared to have some shortcomings at times when it came to field awareness. That said, both of these upperclassmen now have an additional year of experience under their belt, and will no longer have to live in the shadow of the amazing and talented Robert Meachem.

The "Other" Briscoe

That said, I really like what I saw from Gerald Jones in his limited playing time last season, and something in my gut tells me that this talented sophomore will secure -- at a minimum -- 50% of one of the remaining starting spots. Based upon what I understand Dave Clawson’s offensive model to be, it seems that Jones would make a perfect fit -- especially when it is time to go deep.

I am a huge fan of using the Tight End as an additional passing threat (something that I have a feeling we may see under Dave Clawson’s tricked-out-offense), and I hope that we end up using Jeff Cottam more in that role to complement and build upon the strengths of this year’s receivers -- thereby making the Vols less one-dimensional and tougher to defend against. Either way, it seems to me that -- despite losing a gamebreaker like Meachem -- the receivers will be much stronger as a unit this season on the whole, largely due to experience and having more than just one go-to receiver. I feel this is especially true considering that, with Jonathan Crompton under center, it is fair to assume that opposing defenses will now have to honor the possibility that No. 8 may come running at them "Straight Outta Crompton" as well as throw to one of the wide-outs.

2) Which game on the schedule do you, as a fan, need Tennessee to win for your own sanity and happiness? Why?

For me, it’s a matter of whether the question is "Which game Tennessee simply cannot lose?" or "Which game Tennessee most needs to win?" While those appear to be the same, they really are quite different.

In terms of not losing, the choices are obvious: UAB, Northern Illinois, Wyoming, Vanderbilt and Kentucky. With the exception of the game against the Kentucky Wildcats, lose any of these games, and it is probably a sign that Tennessee is in serious trouble for the rest of the season. The Kentucky game is more a matter of keeping Tennessee’s 22-game winning streak -- dating back to a 12-17 loss in 1985 -- against the Wildcats. Kentucky is a good team, as they proved last year, so that one is hardly assured. Of this group, I think the game Tennessee can least afford to lose would be the game against Northern Illinois -- if the Vols lose that one, well ... they suck (I just call ’em like I see ’em).

In terms of games Tennessee most needs to win, as my last post made clear -- by my mind Tennessee’s biggest rival has always been and will always be the Alabama Crimson Tide (yeah, call me old-school). Thus, that one always matters. The other candidates would be the Florida Gators, Auburn Tigers, and Georgia Bulldogs.

From my perspective, not having the benefit of yet seeing whether the Vols actually know what they are about or simply lay down and die when you look at them sideways, I think there’s a strong chance that Tennessee loses to Auburn regardless of what I hope for. Having lost 3-in-a-row versus the Tigers, I’d like to see this year's contest end in a win, but that might be a stretch.

As for Georgia, well, they look to be hell-on-wheels this year, but they have an absolutely brutal schedule -- a fair part of which occurs before the 11 October game in Knoxville. I think Tennessee will have to bring it versus the Bulldogs, but I think that one is winnable. That said, though I do not want to see the Vols drop one to the Dawgs, I wouldn’t curl up in a fetal ball and drool for days if we lost.

As for Florida and Alabama, that’s a tough one. Since these two represent the Vols’ biggest rivals in my eyes, losing either one of these would rank right up there with having a colonoscopy with a fire hose, I’d just as soon win them both. Losing to the Gators -- especially after last year’s 59-20 annihilation -- will unquestionably ruin my sunny and pleasant disposition. This is especially true since I’ll have had to listen to those god-awful Florida fans for 4 hours, which in itself is enough to cause a body to lose the will to live.

That said, since Tennessee is inching closer and closer to evening the all-time series versus Alabama (currently Tennessee is 38-44-7 all-time), and the fact that I think Bama is beatable this year, I would have to say that a loss to Alabama would be a much greater disappointment. Losing to the Tide would make it that much harder for the Vols to even things up versus the Bammers any time soon. Thus, predictably, it’s Bama by a nose.

3) What are your thoughts on the 8-win clause in Coach Fulmer’s new contract that automatically rolls his contract over another year if he wins 8 games in a season?

Well, I am a homer. I like coach Fulmer, and I always have. Until someone can show me a the coach that they think is going to do a better job, I am not inclined to try and replace Fulmer just because people are getting tired of his tenure as coach. That being said, an automatic renewal of the contract is a bit much in my book -- especially at the 8-win level. If the contract provided for an automatic extension at 11 wins, or maybe even 10, then I suppose it would make more sense to me. Of course, if you just had a 10 or 11-win season, it would be unusual for you not to get an extension automatically.

I can understand why Coach Fulmer would feel a bit threatened and uncomfortable -- especially after John Adams’ piece earlier this year calling for his head. Thus, he asked for some security, which Mike Hamilton provided. No revelations there.

My gut tells me, however, that there is a story behind the story here. I think it is reasonable for Fulmer to ask for some guarantees, I also think it is reasonable for Hamilton to ask for some in return -- which I bet he got, but only via a personal promise from Fulmer. My guess is that Fulmer probably gave Hamilton the 2 magic numbers -- the number of years and/or wins after which he plans to retire. Let’s be honest, Phillip Fulmer is not exactly a young buck, and I don’t see him trying to be the next Joe Paterno. My guess is he told Hamilton his exit strategy, and Hamilton agreed to that idea by giving Fulmer enough security to make that happen. If all of my speculation is accurate then I have less of a problem with the deal.

Again, purely speculating, I’m willing to bet that Fulmer has his eyes on General Neyland’s all-time wins record at Tennessee, and then maybe a year or two more, but not much more. I honestly think that Fulmer is growing weary of the dog-and-pony show which revolves around the football program and is generally expressed most vociferously by those who scream for his head if the hot dog they order at the stadium doesn’t have enough chili on it. I think the hiring of Dave Clawson plays into this. I strongly believe that Coach Clawson was hired not just as the Offensive Coordinator at Tennessee, but potentially as the next Head Coach at Tennessee. That hire has all the marks of Fulmer taking steps to name a successor.

From my perspective (which, in case you haven’t noticed, is worthless) and based upon what I’ve seen so far, I think that Clawson has the potential to be the next head coach, but who knows what will happen down the road. I can say that, of all of the staff coaches Fulmer has had during his tenure, Clawson is the only one that I could ever see as assuming the mantle as head coach at some point in the future.

There are a few ironic things about this deal though. Most notably, all of the whiners and complainers who have moaned and yelled to have Fulmer fired for the last 400 years, can thank themselves for this contract. Had they given Fulmer a little more credit (and thus a little more comfort when it comes to his job security) then I doubt Fulmer asks for this deal. More importantly, unless there is something that Fulmer can point to which makes his feelings of peril credible, I doubt that Mike Hamilton agrees to it.

Thus, all of you who have been caterwauling to have Fulmer fired can pat yourself on the back -- you just got him a sweetheart of a deal!

The other ironic thing is that, again all of the anti-Fulmerites (you do realize that they chased Moses and the Israelites through the desert and all ... oh yeah, it’s in the Book of Hank, Chapter 41) have been de-crying this new contract as a travesty -- the worst thing since the free substitution rule, akin to stealing babies in the night, sleeping with pigs, and worshipping a statue of Bear Bryant. The fact of the matter is, however, this contract actually makes it more likely that Fulmer actually could get the axe.

For the first time in his career at Tennessee, there is a benchmark in his contract. The contract simply speaks of an automatic-extension if he wins 8 games -- it is silent with regard to what happens if he does not. Failing to hit that mark -- as a practical matter -- would make it nearly impossible for Mike Hamilton to defend Fulmer, because in that situation Fulmer would have failed to meet the only quantifiable benchmark in his contract. While I realize that the extension does not call for him to go if he wins 7 or fewer, the reality is that his departure would likely be the result.

So, everybody lighten up a bit...

In the end, I am neither angry nor elated at the new contract -- mainly due to my speculative suspicions. It is not what I would have agreed to if I were Mike Hamilton, but it is not un-thinkable.

Of course, Mike Hamilton never really asked my opinion...

4) What is your favorite gameday recipe, whether for tailgating or in your own kitchen? Explain why in delicious detail.

My trip to any game in Knoxville consists of: 1) Driving from Eastern North Carolina to Asheville after work on Friday; 2) Driving from Asheville to Knoxville with my Father on gameday morning; 3) Returning to Asheville immediately after the game (which is late for those 8:00 p.m. kickoffs); and 4) Driving back across the State of North Carolina on Sunday. Considering I travel about 6 1/2 hours each way to come to the games, I don’t get to spend a lot of time tailgating and so forth. Thus, like Will at SESB, my gameday fare is somewhat less grand than that enjoyed by others.

Up until the pretentious jackasses that run McAlister’s Deli closed it down, I used to go to Sam & Andy’s religiously on gamedays and enjoy a Kielbasa Sub on dark bread with spicy mustard, mayo, and provolone. They’d steam it up for me and throw a pickle in for good measure, until it was a work of art. Those sammiches were a Vol fan’s greatest dream -- and a cardiologist’s worst nightmare. Of course, once the Carpertbaggers hit town, that all ended.

Be that as it may, there is one recipe which jumps out to me as being particularly appropriate for stank-nasty football gamedays:

The Magna-rita:

I suppose most folks enjoy a good margarita every now and then -- especially when celebrating with friends. Mixing up a batch of the good stuff, however, takes time, effort, numerous bottles of mixers and tequila, cups, ice, salt, and a sombrero. The "Magna-rita" solves all these problems and is great for gamedays. Even better, it’s super-easy to make and -- most importantly -- dirt cheap. To make one of these beauties up, you simply:

  • Take one 40 oz bottle of of your favorite Malt Liquor -- the distinguishing whino gentleman generally prefers "Magnum," but feel free to use you own favorite brand, such as Colt .45 (just like Billy Dee Williams) or Schlitz Malt Liquor Bull. Actually, now that I think about it, you could use any kind of alcohol you can find: from a 1972 Dom Perignon to a 3-week old half-empty bottle of Ripple -- heck, if you got enough of those little alcohol wipes and squeezed them hard enough, you might even get enough sauce that way.
  • Next take one large bag of Skittles candy, and pour them out on a table, in a bowl, on the floor -- wherever, but make sure to save the bag.
  • Now pick out all the lime flavored Skittles and put them back in the bag, securing the bag tightly.
  • Jump up and down on the bag for about 3-4 minutes, or bash the hell out of the bag with a tire iron until the lime Skittles are broken into pieces.
  • Now pour the sort-o-lime flavored dust into your 40, and give it a swirl or two with a straw, a pocket knife, a coat hanger, stick, or whatever you can find.
  • Drink and enjoy.

  • Optional:
    • for a "Big Orange Magna-rita" substitute orange Skittles for lime
    • for those of you craving the salt around the edge of your Magna-rita, simply steal a few salt packets from McDonalds (or an actual salt shaker from McAlister's) and rub them around the mouth of the bottle after licking it a few times.

Most "Magna-rita" drinkers find that they enjoy this drink more if they drink 5-6 of these in rapid succession -- such as over a period of approximately 30 minutes or so.

5) You have a tag team championship match against the Legion of Doom coming up. Which current Volunteer do you choose as your tag team partner? Why?

Well, this one is a tough one. I’d have to say that -- if limited to the current members of the team -- I’d go with either Tennessee Center, Josh McNeil (6’4" / 280), or Defensive Tackle, Dan Williams (6’3" / 310), both of whom are some serious specimens when it comes to the smackdown. I’d take that action any day of the week.

If not limited to current players, then I’d take the Great Punkin himself -- who has been known to mix it up in the wrestling ring in the past -- against even the most dreaded Mark "the Man Beast" Mangino.

Phil Battling it Out!
Of course, I know absolutely nothing about wrestling (which is about the extent of my knowledge when it comes to football as well).

The Rest of the Roundtable:

Having wasted your time on my largely meaningless, juvenile, 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):

Don’t you wish you’d just stood in bed?

-- Go Figure …Email lawvol

Images Courtesy of: TV • LSU Freek

Big Orange Roundtable: Week 1

Be sure to check out the Roundtable Roundup for Week 1 over at 3SIB!

Vol for One! One for Vol!

Ah yes, the age-old cry of the roundtable ... well ... something like that. Not to be shown-up by the folks from Bama, or elsewhere, we happy few, we band of brothers making up the Vol Blogosphere have united under the "Seal of the T" and declared ourselves in one accord (and, no, not the car made by Honda). We have pledged our loyalty and publicly professed our oath of allegiance to the "Order of the Orange" at any cost. Simply awe inspiring isn’t it?

It’s a shame that it really didn’t happen like that, because that would be really cool -- I bet I’d get a sword, a helmet, a horse, or something...

Anyway, as you may have noticed, Ghost of Neyland over at 3SIB gathered all of us together and talked us into starting our own roundtable for the Vol fans of the blogosphere. Since I am all about the group mentality -- probably due to all the time I have spent in Neyland Stadium -- I said that sounded like a great idea.

The way this works is that each week one of the blogs in the roundtable posts a series of questions which each of the others answer. The weekly "hosting" blog then links all the responses and gives a nice and tidy little re-cap at the end of the week. This includes looks at the comments from those of you that actually read what we have to say. Furthermore, if there are any questions you’d like to see discussed, feel free to add them in the comments section on any of the roundtable blogs or via email to any of us blowhards writers.

At present the roundtable includes: Fulmer’s Belly, Gate 21, Rocky Top Talk, Loser With Socks, the World According to MoonDog (a/k/a MoonDog Sports), The Power T, Your Mother Slept With Wilt Chamberlain, the UT Vols Football Blog, and the SouthEastern Sports Blog. If you’d like to join, feel free to let us know. If you want more information on how the roundtable works, you can check out Ghost of Neyland’s wonderful introduction over at 3SIB

Predictably, this is the first week and I am already running behind (sigh). I was supposed to post my answers yesterday, but -- alas -- here I am a day late and a dollar short. Be that as it may, I am always willing to pontificate, so here we go!

Week 1 (Questions in Sort-o-Teal-like color)

1) How good/bad do you think Jonathan Crompton will be in his first year as a Tennessee starting quarterback and what makes you think that?

I’m not quite sure what to think as we prepare to usher in the "Straight Outta Crompton" era. Based upon his performance when filling in for Erik Ainge in 2006, it is obvious that Crompton has some real skills, and is probably the most athletic starting quarterback we have had since Tee Martin. I have a feeling that new offensive coordinator Dave Clawson will find a way to help make Crompton productive. When you’re reassessing the entire offense, it’s no biggie to massage the system to meet the needs of the horses you have in the stable. It is possible, under Clawson’s more aggressive offensive system, that Crompton could come out of the gates blazing, and really put on a show for the Orange-clad faithful. He clearly has the ability to be the "guns and guts" sort of quarterback who can kill you both in the air with his passing ability, as well as by dropping his head and giving you a helmet in the solarplexus.

My real question when it comes to Crompton is not what he can do from a physical perspective, but rather what he can do from the mental side of the game. I realize that he came in under less-than ideal circumstances in 2006. He was a true freshman, and barely knew the offense. He was operating -- more or less -- on little more than pure instinct and ability. That said, I do worry a bit about whether he will try to be the maverick style player who has the ability to do amazing things on the field, and refuses to let the stuff between his ears get in the way -- thereby making colossal mistakes from a decision-making perspective. Again, I am not presuming this about Crompton, but it is a concern given his 2006 performance.

All that fretting aside, I am really excited about Crompton. He has serious talent, some real-game experience, and has to be chomping at the bit to have his day as the lead dog. Most importantly for me, however, I just like the fact that he represents something new for Tennessee Football -- a completely new offensive model. If he can get the mindgame down, I have a feeling that he is going to be one we will talk about for many years.

2) This question was posed on our site a few weeks ago by the Bama boys, and it brought some good discussion, so given UT’s rich history of scheduling home-and-homes with top-shelf BCS programs, what school would you most like for the Vols to play in the future and why?

Well, I have always been glad that the Vols avoid scheduling patsy’s like Tyrone’s North-Central Florida University of Animal Husbandry and Interior Design like some schools do (ahem ... Florida Gators ... cough, cough ... the entire ACC). Still there is one school which I so wish would make the jump to Division 1 - Bowl Series (formerly Div 1), and that is Appalachian State. Given App State’s proximity to Knoxville, I would think that would be a great series to begin -- I mean they have won three Division 1 - Championship Series (formerly Div 1-A) National Championships in a row, and knocked Meee-che-gun off in the Big House last year. That’s my atypical suggestion.

In terms of more traditional powers, I am a fan of keeping the West Coast schools on our schedule for recruiting purposes and national standing. Thus, I would favor having a regular series with any of UCLA, Cal, USC, and maybe even Washington. The other schools which immediately come to mind are some of the Big 10 schools. While I know we have heard the "SEC Speed kills Big 10 Strength" argument till we are blue in the face, I still believe that the Big 10 is the other "real" football conference in the country. I would try to set up a regular Big 10 opponent in most years -- my favorites in that regard would be Ohio State, Penn State, and maybe even a team like Purdue.

Under no circumstances should we ever waste our time on teams from the ACC, especially -- and I know there are those who disagree with me -- Virginia Tech. I would say the same for the Big East ... unless you just want some easy wins.

3) A lot has been made of our lack of depth at defensive tackle. With Demonte Bolden, Dan Williams and Walter Fisher pretty solid, what other player do you think makes a big move toward becoming dependable?

I’m probably not the best person to analyze this question, but I agree with the other round-tablers that Donald Langley looks awfully promising, but he is untested. There are a few others who have shown some promise (such as Chase Nelson as MoonDog pointed out). So I guess I am hopefully optimistic that Coach Chavis will find ways to effectively fill the defensive tackle slots. That is probably a lot of faith to put into the defensive staff, but Chief has always impressed me with his ability to be flexible and make something out of nothing.

4) Neyland Stadium has undergone some wholesale external and internal renovations during the offseason, updating and improving the overall appearance. If you could change one thing about Neyland, what would it be?

There have been some major improvements at Neyland in just the last few years under Mike Hamilton which are as welcome as they are overdue. Apparently, the Big Dickey didn’t really care whether fans actually enjoyed themselves at the game -- just whether they paid for tickets.

The main things I would like to see are, another Jumbotron at the opposite end, better parking (and parking allocation) for games, and a continued re-development of the concourses. I would also like to see a statue of General Neyland outside the stadium.

In terms of the seating, I would like to see more seating, but also better seating. This would mean not so much that the bleachers be replaced with chairback seats, but that the seats be widened so your butt can fit between the lines. All that said, I will mirror the sentiments of others that I would like to see the total seat-count exceed 109,000.

Other ideas I think could be cool would include:

  • I would can the fireworks after a touchdown or a win, and would instead light up the sky each time by setting off an atomic bomb over at the old US Department of Energy Proving Grounds in Oak Ridge -- trust me, you’ll see it.
  • In the interest of adding seats maybe the athletic department could consider doming the stadium and adding seats on chains hanging from the ceiling, or use EDSBS’s suggestion that Tennessee allow treestands in the lighting support structures.
  • In line with the old Mercedes Benz symbol at Legion Field (owing to the Mercedes plant in Alabama) I suppose we could put a great big Saturn sign over the Jumbotron to salute the Saturn plant in Spring Hill.  Neyland Stadium could be the "Saturn Vue of College Football" or something along those lines.  Of course, since they closed the plant in 2007, maybe we are a bit behind the curve.

Now those are some fireworks!!

Oh yeah, I also think the renovation of the real Gate 21 plaza outside the stadium should include paving the plaza with gold, platinum, and diamonds, and that the "21" sign should be approximately 100 feet across and illuminated 24 hours a day ... but that’s just me.

5) Different UT fans have different opinions on last season. Was it a success? Was it a failure? Why do you think so?

I would call the 2007 Season a successful failure. I say that because the Vols were not expected to be all that great last year. Based upon Tennessee’s performance versus both the Florida Gators and the Alabama Crimson Tide the Vols were not very good -- in fact they were lousy. That said, somehow the Vols managed to make it to the SEC Championship Game, and were one botched throw away from potentially defeating the LSU Tigers -- who won that whole National Championship thing.

The end result is that the 2007 Vols probably accomplished more than they should have. The question is whether the expectations should have been higher? From my perspective -- year-in-year-out -- I care less about winning championships than being consistent. In that regard the 2007 Vols fell far short.

Of course, hope springs eternal, and 2008 is a new year. As the addition of Dave Clawson makes clear, "times they are a changin’ " so at least I’m hopeful for the future.

So, those are my thoughts for this week, be sure to check out what the other roundtablers as well (in no particular order):

Oh yeah, next week I’ll try to be on time...

-- Go Figure …Email lawvol

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