Archive for the ‘Flashback’ Category

Remembering John Ward: Ten years since “Give Him Six!”

Tennessee Football Regardless of how things turn out for the Tennessee Volunteers this fall, the 2009 season represents so very many milestones—it really isn’t even worth the trouble to try and count them all.  There has been so much change lately and so very many new looks and faces that everything seems as if it is in flux.  Some feel this near c-change is long overdue, others decry it as a loss of tradition, others still reserve judgments and simply point to the inevitable movement of the hands of time.  Still, no matter how great the changes may be, the echoes of years gone by still ring in the air around Neyland Stadium.  Thankfully, this will never change.

Vol Network In addition to all of the “obvious” landmark events that have or will occur as part of the 2009 football season, there is one more that may go unnoticed by many.  Though it hardly seems possible, the 2009 season marks Bob Kesling’s tenth year as the “Voice of the Vols.” Since the kickoff of the 1999 football opener against the Wyoming Cowboys, Kesling along with color-commentator Tim Priest, and sideline reporter Mike Stowell (who succeeded Jeff Francis in 2007), have brought the sounds of Big Orange football into our homes via the “Statewide Stadium” that is the Vol Network.

As have I pointed out in previous posts, since I was a child, I have always been a dedicated fan of live sports radio broadcasts.  I learned at an early age that television broadcasters, no matter how good they may be, simply cannot match the style, flair, color, or excitement that a gifted radio sportscaster can bring to a game.  There are few on television that come close—Ron Franklin and Mike Gottfried being pretty much the best—but even they cannot quite stay in step with the great radio broadcasters of the game.  Of course, for every Franklin and Gottfried, there are a bevy of lackluster talking suits which do little more than get in the way of the game rather than actually improving your understanding of what is taking place.

Thus is the curse of television…

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Flashback: The Great Games — Kentucky 1997

The Great Games |

Last year, during the off-season, I began a series on the Great Games played by the Tennessee Volunteers football team over the many years as seen through my eyes.  As I am wont to do, I seem to have lost my focus and have not exactly done a capital job of keep that series going.  Imagine that.

Since the off-season is once again upon us—paired with the fact that I have been coming up pretty spare in terms of ideas lately—I’ve decided it is time to once again take a walk down memory lane and re-live some of the greatest games in Tennessee history.  For those of you who missed the 2008 installments of this series, here are the ones I’ve covered thus far:

In addition to my list, Will, one of the sages over at RTT has been counting down the top-50 games of the Phillip Fulmer era in grand style.  Predictably, some of his favorites are on my list as well.  Trust me, his list is worth a look (and is far better researched, far more thoughtful, far better written, and … well … just far better than my little foray into the ghosts of games past).  Since I don’t want to be accused of stealing his thunder, I will be citing to his accounts of his favorite games liberally.

In fairness, it might be best to just skip this article altogether and just go read his work.  Lord knows I would but for the fact that I have to write it…

22 November 1997

Tennessee Football vs. Kentucky Football

(5) Tennessee 59 •    Kentucky 31

Commonwealth Stadium  •  Lexington, Kentucky

Some folks might think I am crazy for including the 22 November 1997 contest between Tennessee and the Kentucky Wildcats on my list of great games.  I can understand why they might question my thoughts on this (or my sanity).  This game was anything but a flawless game for the Vols and was hardly the Tennessee defense’s finest hour.  In fact, the game as a whole was pretty darn sloppy, as was the weather.  Still, for reasons which I will attempt to explain (a feat I will likely fail utterly to accomplish), this game still ranks as one of the great games in Tennessee football history.  The short answer as to why can be summed up in two words:

Peyton Manning

I make no bones about it.  I am a huge fan of the guy  who wore No. 16 for the Vols from 1994 to 1998.  As many have pointed out, both Andy Kelly (1989-91) and Heath Shuler (1991-93) could—in their own right—claim to be the greatest Vol quarterback in the history of the program during the time they wore an orange shirt.  Then, starting only a few snaps into the 1994 game against the UCLA Bruins in the Rose Bowl, everyone in Orange Nation began the process of forgetting everything they ever knew about quarterbacks at Tennessee, as true freshman Peyton Manning took the reins from senior Jerry Colquitt, who quite tragically (and downright depressingly) suffered a career-ending injury in the first series of his first start at quarterback.

The rest, as they say, is history…

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I Didn’t Miss Anything, Did I? A Month in Review

The View From the Hill | Gate 21

Yep, I’m still here. Lawvol hasn’t kicked me out of the site yet, despite my laziness and lack of posting this spring. I literally haven’t posted anything in a month and two days. My last post focused on Tyler Smith declaring for the NBA Draft and his prospects for that draft. Since then, I’ve had to finish up the spring semester, haul through a three week min-term class, and, probably most importantly, looked for and found a place to intern for the fall in efforts to further my career. After all, I am now a senior and hopefully I’ll have graduated this time next year (yes, it’s kind of scary).

I sure haven’t missed too much the past month…

If you’re like me, you’ve long been counting down to August and football season already, and only the NBA and NHL playoffs have been offering a real distraction from that. It’s been a rather action-packed month for the Tennessee program, as there seems to be something come up just about every single day, especially this past week.

J.C. Copeland

Recruiting: This new staff obviously spends an incredible amount of time evaluating and going through the process, and that has reaped some results the past two weeks. After this season, the offensive and defensive lines are going to be particularly thin, so those two positions without a doubt are the biggest needs in the 2010 class.

So Tennessee goes out and gets some big people. Yes way yes way Jose Jose started it off, followed by JUCO defenders Pat Harris and Bruce Irvin, Georgia J.C. Copeland, and Miami linebacker/d-end Ralph Williams. Now I must admit I hadn’t heard of any of these guys. Additionally, Jose needs to drop some weight and Harris didn’t even play football in high school. Obviously we fans have to simply take our coaches’ words for it when it comes to recruiting because it’s so hit-or-miss, but I think we need to understand that this is likely going to be a big class numbers-wise and size-wise, as in there’s going to be some beef in these commitments. I also don’t find much surprise in taking some junior college players who have the potential ability to come in and contribute right away. Then again, those guys are even more hit (Gibril Wilson) or miss (Kenny O’Neal).

Jake Heaps...

The QB situation: In addition to the needs along the lines, the other big recruiting story line is of course the QB position, where the Vols expect to sign at least two in the 2010 class. Jake Heaps and Jesse Scroggins (their Rivals profiles are linked at the end) are the two big names, and Andrew Hendrix has been another guy whose name I’ve heard alot. I’ll keep my opinion on this simple: if Tennessee were to get Heaps or Scroggins and Hendrix or another guy, then I think you can be happy with that.

or Jesse Scroggins?

Now that is where having the situation with Robert Marve not work out hurts a little, because now after this season you’re down to Nick Stephens and Mike Rozier, the former baseball player. That’s also where B.J. Coleman bailing doesn’t help either, but the way he handled that situation of going to the Chattanooga Times-Free Press first and throwing the coaches under the bus makes me not miss him. Good riddance and enjoy playing for a really bad UT-Chattanooga program. Nevertheless, we should know something on Heaps and Scroggins soon, because Heaps has said he wants to make his decision in June and Scroggins may very well be waiting to see what Heaps does.

The exodus: OK, players leaving is a part of any program where there’s a turnover of coaching staffs, so this was sort of expected. It happened at Alabama when Nick Saban was hired and it’s happened now with the Kiffin regime. What does it mean, exactly? Well, really outside of the Coleman departure’s effect on the QB depth, the collective contributions of the 11 leaving players isn’t much, outside of Lennon Creer and Dee Morley. Creer saw the writing on the wall with Toney Williams, Bryce Brown and David Oku joining the stable, and Morley had been walking a tight line for awhile. Losing some lineman hurts depth, but overall, how bad have the 11 departures really been? Hey, if a player isn’t going to cut it or doesn’t want to do the work that will cut it, then see ya later.

Even the new coaching staff has had a member leave this week in strength and conditioning coach Mark Smith. Obviously the AD and Kiffin had mutual disagreements of some kind with Smith and it’s unfortunate and probably a negative event, but I think Tennessee will be OK in the end. Aaron Ausmus seems like the likely replacement, but Lane needs to find one soon, since summer workouts start next week.

Hokey Pahokee: Much. Ado. About. Nothing. No, Lane shouldn’t have said what he said and he apologized well before this got brought up again. The principal of the school and whoever else had a hand in drawing this out to the point it got to came across as desperate for some attention. The problem I had was the administration of a school denying access of specific schools to their students. In other words, if I’m a stud recruit at that Pahokee and there’s mutual interest between me and Tennessee, should the school have the right to deny UT access to me? Fortunately it’s apparently all good down there now, so hopefully UT can get another player from that talent-rich area.

Yes or no?

Twitter-gate: Who cares? Secondary violations don’t mean a thing…unless Tennessee does it. Lane didn’t even “tweet” it, so I don’t even blink an eye to this nonsense.

On another note, what’s the deal with Twitter? I’ve been back-and-forth on whether or not I want to give in and join the craze and following some of the various athletes’ accounts would be cool, but what’s the big deal? If you’re on there, please tell me…

Daniel Hood: This got a great deal of attention as well as it should have, so I won’t spend too much time on it. It’s a touchy subject as well, and I was skeptical at first about it. However, I feel much better about it now than I did when I first got the news the Hood was getting a scholarship. Tennessee still will have a convicted rapist on the team and opposing fans will use this against the Vols from now until the end of time, but that’s part of the consequences. The bottom line for me is that everyone who commented in stories I read who are and were much, much closer to Hood and the situation than any of us said nothing but positive things about Hood. I mean, the victim of the whole ordeal vouched for Hood. What more does it take? I think Lane and the staff and Mike Hamilton did their work on this one, so I can handle their decision.

That’s it for now. I’ll probably post something about the awesomely exciting (or “amazing,” if you agree with the slogan) NBA Playoffs. Also, this is probably old news, but if you haven’t already checked it out, Will over at Rocky Top Talk is getting into the nitty-gritty (ie, top 15) of his countdown of the 50 best games from the Philip Fulmer era. This is probably old because they started way back in January, but it’s really good stuff – the writing and story-telling is so good it might even be better than the nostalgic feelings of the good ‘ol days.

About Home Sweet Home... … to me.

Images Courtesy of: VolQuestRivals – Jake HeapsRivals – Jesse Scroggins

08-09 Tennessee Basketball: An Epilogue

The View From the Hill | Gate 21

The Story of the Season…In a Week

Now that it’s over and done with, I think it’s time to take a look back at this past basketball season. As is with seasons in most sports, this year’s Vols had quite a number of ups and downs and everything in between over the course of a long season stretching from November to mid-March.

But this year’s ups and downs (more downs than ups really) seemed to be more prevalent this season, since this team showed a numerous occasions it’s ability to be terribly inconsistent. At times you thought that this team might still be playing at this point of the season. Other times you wondered what the hell the Bruce and the players were thinking and why they looked like they didn’t care and if they would even make it into the Tournament.

The last week of the season was the story of the season in a complete and total nutshell. A nutshell that interestingly enough was paired up with Tennessee’s spring break and my trip to New York.

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Flashback: CBS Sports and the NCAA Tournament

Flashback | Gate 21

Yes, friends and neighbors the NCAA Tournament is upon us.  Thus, we all get ready for the mayhem that accompanies that grand old tradition.  For what seems like forever, that has included watching endless hours of basketball courtesy of CBS Sports.  Now, generally, I am a huge fan of CBS Sports, and I favor their web presence when it comes to sports content on the internet. **

All that said, last year’s NCAA tournament almost drove me mad.  Actually it wasn’t the tournament, but the way that CBS covered the tournament on television.  That led me to fire off at the mouth a bit.  Since it is that time again, I figured it would only be appropriate to take a stroll down memory lane and look back on what I had to say about CBS’s coverage.  I do this for two reasons.

First, this seems relevant as we all get ready to become couch potatoes for a month.  This may be minimized a little bit due to the fact that CBS will be broadcasting all games online free of charge once again, but the fact remains a big flat screen is infinitely better than even the best computer monitor.

Second, I have been so busy that I haven’t yet gotten a chance to finish up my thoughts on the Oklahoma State Cowboys…

Thus, without further adieu, we go back in time to my post entitled simply:

CBS = Complete Bull Sh*t


I intentionally waited a few days before airing this complaint, mainly because I didn’t want my vitriol to be mistaken as nothing more than “sour grapes” over the BasketVols loss to the Louisville Cardinals.

Trust me, this has nothing to do with Tennessee, Louisville, or any other specific team…

CBSFor the past … well, it seems like quite a long time, now … CBS has been the exclusive home of the NCAA Tournament. I vaguely remember ESPN covering first and second-round games during the 1990s, but CBS is all we have had for a while. Either way, CBS has held a stranglehold on the Final Four since Billy Packer conned James Naismith himself into signing over the rights some time during the 1920s — back when Billy Packer was in his 50s.

First of all, I do want to applaud CBS Sportsline — CBS Sports’ internet division — for their ambitious decision to broadcast every tournament game for free on the web. Similarly, the CBS “Game Center” on the internet for each game — displaying myriad stats and information in real time — is amazing. It is as artful as it is impressive. Any fan can get up-to-the-second information on every facet of the game — including points, fouls, assists, shooting trends, whether a player is taking bribes to throw the game, which boosters the cute little cheerleader next to the basket is sleeping with, and so much more — via one of the best interfaces I’ve ever seen for statistical information of that kind.

Despite the minor fact that the bandwidth draw for the “March Madness on Demand” service has been so obscenely high that it has — at times — nearly crashed massive trunk lines on the web, I salute these efforts of CBS’s internet division. For reasons which will become clear in a second, in the future I may choose this as the only way I’ll watch the tournament — even if it is in a 5″ x 5″ low resolution streaming window.

Continue Reading >>

**Disclosure: While lawvol is a voting member of the CBS Sports Football Blog Poll and the CBS Sports BasketBlog Poll, neither this site, its editor, nor publisher receives any payment or other compensation of any type or kind in return for participation. Furthermore, neither Gate 21 nor lawvol received any benefit of any kind for this article, which was neither requested nor solicited by CBS Sports. This article represents the actual opinion of the author (for what that is worth) and was in no way influenced by any other person(s).

The Sweetness

The View From the Hill | Gate 21

To many of you and to many Vols fans, Saturday afternoon is just another basketball game. Sure it’s a big one: national TV, against a cross-state rival who’s reloading after nearly winning a national title last season with a coach who’s easy to dislike. But for me, it’s different. It’s the Memphis game. Probably the single game I want to win this season.

So why is Saturday afternoon not just another Tennessee basketball game, you ask? What is the big deal with Memphis? Well for one, as you may know I’m from the great city of Memphis. I grew up in the Memphis/Shelby County area and have been around that university and athletic program and their fans my entire life. That’s the easy answer.

But it’s more than that. Sure, I could now go into my reasons for really really not liking the Tigers (and almost did), but they don’t get a post like Alabama did. You see, Memphis (the university) and I have a history. We go way back. To 1996…

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Signs of Improvement

The View From the Hill | Gate 21

Thanks Kentucky?

After the utter embarrassment of watching one guy score 54 points on you in your own arena – something that won’t stop being talked about this year, so get used to it – Tennessee has made a bit of a bounce-back. Now beating South Carolina was pretty much expected. Last night though? Keep in mind last year’s team – the best in school history – lost in Memorial Gym.

I know Vandy lost Shan Foster and they are lacking in athletes, but I never got the feeling watching the DVRed game (intramural hoops game at 10 pm…) late Tuesday night that the Vols were going to lose. Perhaps the Kentucky loss truly was the wake-up call that can get this team playing to its potential…

No doubt Wayne loves playing Vandy

From the hot start courtesy of Wayne Chism to the constant answers to any signs of a run that Vandy made, that was a very solid win for Tennessee last night. Much was made of the players’ only meeting following last week’s loss to Kentucky during the ESPN telecast, and I think it’s safe to say it’s had some sort of effect on this team.

Now there have been moments of poor play. Many will point out nearly blowing a 15-point lead to South Carolina late. I don’t get too caught up in games like that where one team dominates and the team trailing makes a late run to make it really close. If not for Teddy Valentine and Co., the Chickens probably aren’t within 20 at half anyways. Wayne has as many points as I did, and I was in the student section.

Speaking of Wayne, Vanderbilt and softy A.J. Ogilvy are his biotches. 20 points, 7 boards, and a sweet T last night, and he was really the spark plug, even though he didn’t start. Kudos to Bruce (yes, he can actually coach people) for realizing Wayne’s recent history of early foul trouble in Nashville and not starting him. Brian Williams filled in nicely in both games, as Carolina had nobody big enough to keep him off the glass and Ogilvy might be softer than the softest of the softy big-men, Pau Gasol. Going back to Chism’s technical, if Vandy was normal and put their benches on the sidelines like everyone else, I really highly doubt he gets T’ed up. Plus, he was just yelling in Kevin Stallings’ face…Stallings deserves it…

Tyler Smith has had slow starts in each of his last two games, but has been dominant in the second half of the past two games. That’s good to see from the team’s leader – it was mentioned during the ESPN telecast that Tyler had made a point that he needed to watch his facial expressions/body language, aware of its effects on his teammates. I thought that was interesting and it’s good to see.

More of this please, Mr. Hopson

The two biggest stories from these past two outings have undoubtedly been the improved defense and Scotty Hopson gaining some confidence. I believe Devan Downey had four points at half in that game, and most of Carolina’s points came from the foul line (as I mentioned before, that was a poorly officiated game). Vandy couldn’t throw it in the ocean from the beach last night, but Tennessee’s defense had something to do with that.

You may have also noticed that Tennessee hardly pressed either Carolina or Vandy. I know it’s a Bruce Pearl staple and all that, but given this group’s past defensive issues, if not pressing continues to help improve the halfcourt defense, I’m not sure we’ll see the press this year – at all.

I had said on numerous occasions that Hopson had been settling too many times for an outside shot and needed to attack and do what he’s clearly the best at doing – getting to the rim. He has done that these past two games, and you can see him gaining some confidence offensively. His development is crucial in the ceiling of this team, so hopefully he can build on these past two performances going forward.

The Vols now get set for a big week – Memphis, LSU and Florida, all home games (which of course I love). The Memphis game is always one I personally circle every year – for reasons I’ll explain tomorrow – and LSU is rolling, having won three SEC games in a row in routs, and Florida is Florida. Obviously these three games are all crucial, and they won’t be easy. Hopefully, however, the glimpses of improvement the guys have shown the past two games will continue.

There’s More!

Shame on me for neglecting the exciting things that have been going on with Tennessee football the past however long it’s been since I posted about them last. Obviously the staff has now been completed, as you are very well aware of by now. I won’t go too in-depth on each of the new coaches, but what can you say? Lane Kiffin told us to be patient – and he delivered.

Stealing Lance Thompson from Nick Saban and Alabama was quite the joy, because (a) he can recruit and (b) we stole him from Alabama. The recruiting ability of this staff is without a doubt just ridiculous. Whether or not these guys – outside of Monte – can actually coach is still to be seen, but I see absolutely no reason for any Tennessee to not be absolutely excited about the future of Tennessee football with this staff.

I saw him! I finally saw him!

The recruiting work these guys have put in in just a couple of weeks is something I have never seen before. And the scary and exciting thing is that they have been making waves as well – getting visits from committed prospects and getting in on players who had been unknowns under the previous staff. Give these guys a full year to do this? How can you not be pumped out of your mind about the future of Tennessee football?

On a bit of a side note, I did actually see Lane Kiffin at the South Carolina game – with the rest of the staff and the recruits as they paraded in during first half media timeout – and can confirm his existence. Prior to that I honestly wasn’t even sure if the man existed, seeing as I had never seen the guy around campus or introduced at basketball game I attended – at all. Seriously, he could have been an imaginary puppet figure for all I knew. But hey, when he’s busy traveling all over the country recruiting, I can take never seeing the guy.

These next two weekends of official visits will be just amazing. Quite possibly the two biggest weekends that I’ve remembered since I began following recruiting a few years ago. Hopefully the hoops guys can win and make the atmosphere leave an impression on these guys. They think the crowd is passionate about their basketball team? This is a football school after all…

All of that said, amidst the excitement, let’s temper things a bit. I’m expecting at least a consensus top 15 class this year, and anything would be gravy, given the coaching change and getting in late with most/all of these prospects. As for next season, yes, I know the schedule’s manageable: the four non-conference games should be gimmes, add in the annual November punching bags (Dores and Cats) and winnable home games against Auburn and South Carolina and you have 8 wins right there. Yes, I’m getting WAY ahead of myself…

Eight wins seem pretty doable, but we know we have a ways to go and that it’s going to take time. Lane asked us to be patient in the hiring of his staff and he delivered. I suggest we be patient in letting Lane and Co. build this thing back to a championship level. Can they do it? I think they can and I certainly don’t think I’m in the minority – but it’s going to take time.

Let’s just let them do their work, heaven knows they’ve been doing it tirelessly the past few weeks…


About Home Sweet Home... … to me.

Images Courtesy of: Mark Humphrey / (AP) DaylifeAmy Smotherman Burgess / KNS
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