Archive for the ‘The View From the Hill’ Category

Vols 63, Western Kentucky 7: The Day After

The View From the Hill | Gate 21

It was Western Kentucky and lawvol did an excellent job with his version of this post (as in better than mine’s going to be), so I’ll keep this relatively brief.

Judging by the atmosphere on campus before the game and during the game in the student section, you would in no way have thought Tennessee’s opponent was possibly the worst Division I-A team in the country. I found this out on the long walk from my apartment down the Cumberland Avenue “Strip” and through the heart of campus on my way to the Vol Walk. I managed to get an up-close spot fort the spectacle, and I’ll have a video from it at the end of this.

The new JumboTron is awesome, especially when they take the ads off and make it full screen (click to enlarge)

As for the game, I’ll start with Jonathan Crompton. Sure, the tipped balls are worrisome and the first interception he threw – though not his fault, said Lane Kiffin – was the awful kind of pass he would have made last year. Other than that, he really didn’t have that many incompletions.

He looked confident. He looked poised. He managed the offense very well (I can only remember one substitution penalty and procedure penalty). He was 21-of-28 and threw five touchdowns for goodness sakes. Sure, it was mostly the short passing game.

But if your quarterback struggles with making multiple reads (as Crompton did in 2008), you don’t make him do that. You let him take the snap and throw it to a wideout against a corner playing off the line and let the playmaker get some yards in space. You throw the short hitch. You get Crompton rolling out with options short, medium and long. Heck, Crompton even slid when he had to scramble.

The receivers played well enough to make you forget the injuries. Luke Stocker caught two scores. Marsalis Teague led the way as a freshmen and is going to be a great player. Quintin Hancock deserves a shout-out.

But this day belonged to the offensive line. Crompton had time to throw and that only helps him. And the line opened enormous holes and got great push on just about every play, as was evidenced in the stats. Hopefully they stay healthy throughout the year, because watching them open lanes for Hardesty, Bryce, Oku and Poole (let’s not forget about Toney WIlliams, either) could be really fun to watch if they are able to keep it up.

The defense was swarming and Western Kentucky had no time to do anything – at all. I thought the linebackers played pretty well, but we’ll have to see how they go up against stronger, faster opponents in the future. Janzen Jackson was the first freshman to see the field defensively, and, like Teague, he’s going to be a great player. I thought Wes Brown also played very well: well as in fresh, considering everything we’d heard about him all preseason were the bad condition of both of his knees.

To conclude, anytime you dominate a team 63-7 and outgain them by the margin Tennessee did, you feel good about it. But if nothing else, it’s a game where you get some confidence, especially on offense where those guys are trying to make us all forget last year’s atrocities. It’s a chance for the freshmen and new players to get some game action, as every little bit of experience helps. Western Kentucky was the perfect opponent for Lane and Company to open up with.

My view from Section F (click to enlarge)

Looking ahead, I think this team could be pretty tough to beat in Neyland Stadium this year. If the crowd was like it was for Western Kentucky – and those of you who were there hopefully agree with me on this – how will it be when Auburn, Georgia and South Carolina come to visit?

Which leads me to my next bold statement: I see absolutely no way UCLA comes into Knoxville next week and beats Tennessee.

There, I said it. First off, anytime you travel across the country to play, you’re at a disadvantage. See LSU last night at Washington, Maryland getting rocked at Cal, our own Vols the past two seasons and Cal coming here in 2006. Kevin Prince is UCLA’s starting QB. He was 18-of-29 for 176 yards, and threw two picks against one touchdown. That was at home, against San Diego State.

Next week he’ll be dealing with the Tennessee defense. In Tennessee’s stadium. Against a group of players and coaches and fans that want to right the wrong of last year’s embarrassing loss. And do it emphatically in front of a national TV audience on ESPN.

Yes, yes, I know we all said the same exact thing last year. But if not for horribly inept coaching (throwing 41 passes Dave Clawson and letting Kevin Craft dink-and-dunk you down the field John Chavis), Tennessee wins that game. UCLA has certainly improved, but this time they get the dubious honor of making the long trip. We all already are aware (boom, alliteration!) of the importance of this game to the rest of the Vols’ season. Tennessee absolutely has to beat UCLA next Saturday.

As soon as the Vols had the first couple of touchdowns yesterday and settled into the complete domination they displayed, my thoughts were already on UCLA. Hence why I’ve spent the last half of this post talking about next Saturday.

Anyways, here’s the video I took of the Vol Walk from yesterday (please know it’s long and my camera steadiness was lacking…you try holding your arm up that high for that long):

YouTube Preview Image

About Home Sweet Home... … to me.

It’s Depth Chart Time

The View From the Hill | Gate 21

Ladies and gentlemen, your 2009 Tennessee football depth chart for the season opener. Courtesy of the Chattanooga Times-Free Press. You can also see it on this interestingly-named site.

It’s just a depth chart, but it’s definitely something worth talking about. One thing, though, is clear: this staff wasn’t kidding with the whole competition mantra. Brandon Warren always seems to be hurt? Nu’keese Richardson gets to start as a freshman. Brent Vinson missing most of fall camp due to injury? He doesn’t start (though I assume he will when/if he’s healthy), and Antonio Anderson and Art Evans of all people get the nod. Montario Hardesty and Dan Williams, two seniors and two of the players we expect the most from in 2009? Listed as co-starters with a pair of impressive freshmen.

Like I said, it’s still just a depth chart. This of course doesn’t mean these guys that are listed as starters will necessarily play more snaps and start all 14 12-13 games this year. Nevertheless, it’s still interesting to see all the work these guys have put into camp and see who’s earned/not earned their share.

Just one more week people…

About Home Sweet Home... … to me.

Quick Scrimmage Thoughts

The View From the Hill | Gate 21

I was one in the fairly large crowd at today’s scrimmage, the final “preseason game” for the football Vols before the season opener against Western Kentucky in two weeks. I was at last week’s scrimmage and the practice the Thursday before that, but most of what I’ll hit on here will be about today. I only stayed for the first half, however, but I feel I saw enough…

First, Bryce Brown is a stud. It’s a real shame (and a load of BS) that he’s involved with this mess with the NCAA three years after-the-fact, but regardless he wowed the crowd today. He showed a scary-good combination of power and speed.

Three of his runs really stuck out to me. His first featured him getting stopped basically at the line of scrimmage, but he kept churning and moved the pile for a five-yard gain. Another carry he hit the hole full-speed and ended up with a 10-plus yard gain, breaking through to the second level of the defense. Finally, on his TD run, he tried to go up the middle, but bounced it back outside and had enough speed to get to the corner for six.

All of this on a bad hip. Who knows exactly how close to 100% he was, but if this was Brown at less than that, it’s exciting to think about.

Brown’s fellow freshman back David Oku also showed some ability, as he was effective in making one cut and getting through the hole. Add these two guys to Montario Hardesty and Tauren Poole, and these running backs could be a special group. Given the quarterback situation, I expect Lane Kiffin to run the ball quite a bit. Of course so will opposing defensive coordinators, so it will be interesting to see how the Vols handle stacked boxes.

Speaking of the quarterbacks, I still think Jonathan Crompton will be the guy. I know Kiffin said this week the race between Crompton and Nick Stephens was very close, but, based on the three times I’ve seen both guys play, Crompton’s been more consistent. Neither have been amazing, but Crompton has clearly been the better of the two. We’ll see if Lane thinks the same way later this week (he’s expected to name a starter by the middle of the week).

Gerald Jones played today, and had a couple of nice catches. Quintin Hancock caught a touchdown after catching a short pass and breaking a tackle. The Vols also ran this route a number of times: with one-on-one coverage on the outside, the receiver runs a go route up the sideline, and the QB throws it on a line to the wideouts back shoulder, catching the cornerback with his back turned to the play. They tried this play three or four times, completing one of them.

That looks to be the extent of the downfield passing game. Much of it was shorter stuff: rollouts with open guys in the flat and over the middle, quick slants, hooks, outs, etc. Expect the running backs to a big part of the passing game as well. Swing passes, for example. Also, Crompton scrambled and hit fullback Kevin Cooper for a long gain that setup a score (a pass down the field to the fullback? what is this?) I’m not saying Tennessee won’t ever go deep, but they haven’t all that much in the three times I’ve seen them.

Defensively, Brent Vinson didn’t play, but fellow cornerback Art Evans did. A number of freshman – linebackers Jerod Askew, Greg King, Nigel Mitchell-Thornton and Robert Nelson and defensive backs Janzen Jackson, Mike Edwards, Eric Gordon and Darren Myles – got work with the first and second teams. To me it’s always hard to really judge the defense in these scrimmages, because they are probably somewhat familiar with Tennessee’s offense having practiced against it for three weeks now.

They bounced back last week and pretty much dominated after getting basically shredded in the first practice, but today they weren’t as dominant. I don’t think it’s an area of concern – ie, if there’s something to worry about on this team, it isn’t the defense.

Wes Brown played a few series at defensive tackle, which was good to see. I didn’t see much from the guys behind Brown, Dan Williams and Montori Hughes – Marlon Walls, Rae Sykes and Victor Thomas. I’m not sure if that’s because they weren’t making any plays or because I just couldn’t tell.

A couple of other things: first, Lane wasn’t in the huddle today, as the first and second team offenses used signals, wristbands and play cards attached to their belts. The defense also had their plays on their belts as well, and the coaches on the sidelines were all wearing headsets, so I assume we had coaches in the press box. Secondly, on every third down, the intro to AC/DC’s “Hell’s Bells” began to play. I have no idea why. Finally, both teams were on the sideline closest to the fans, and between each possession they had short breaks – probably to give the guys a quick breather, but also to simulate TV timeouts.

Either way, we’re just two short weeks (although they’ll be the longest two weeks of the offseason) from Football Time in Tennessee.

Oh, and more thing…


About Home Sweet Home... … to me.

Are All USC Team Meetings Like This?

The View From the Hill | Gate 21

With the obvious connections between the Tennessee coaching staff – Lane Kiffin and Ed Orgeron – and the USC program, I feel like posting this video is relevant. However the real reason I’m posting it is because I think it’s awesome. You may have already seen it, but in case you hadn’t…

YouTube Preview Image

Doesn’t that just look really fun? If you ever wonder why recruits pick USC, this – and the winning doesn’t hurt either – is why. Pete Carroll is just a cool dude. He’s got his own channel on YouTube with almost 100 videos of a wide variety, including some of pranks they’ve played in practices the past years.

I had an assignment in my sportswriting class this past spring (I’ve debated posting parts of it) where I had to right a long (2,500 words or so) profile story. I chose Carroll, and in my researching the guy I have gained nothing but respect for him as coach (yes, I’m aware of the Reggie Bush incidents). I used to really dislike the Trojans, but thanks to that story and the connections between Kiffin, Coach O and Carroll, I have changed my stance on USC.

You might also be thinking, “Why aren’t they watching film?” or something like that. Well, when you have those kind of players, you can fudge a team meeting or two right?

If there’s a program to model yours after, it’s USC – we’ve got a couple of coaches who helped build it.

About Home Sweet Home... … to me.

Vols Start Second Week of Practice

The View From the Hill | Gate 21

One week down, just three more to go.

Tennessee wrapped up their first week of practice with a full-on scrimmage Saturday afternoon in Neyland Stadium following the NCAA-required “acclimation” period of practice first in helmets and shorts and then in shoulder pads and shorts. This week features two-a-day practices Monday, Wednesday and Friday of this week as the season opener September 5th against Western Kentucky approaches quickly.

I’ve enjoyed getting to go to the sites I normally go to for UT football coverage and reading accounts of the practices, and those accounts – mostly VolQuest and the News Sentinel – are what this post is going to be based off of, so I won’t go through linking stories you have more than likely already read. I haven’t had the opportunity to catch one in person myself, but I plan to change that this week, thanks to the precedent set by Hooper from Rocky Top Talk.

So here’s a short recap of week 1, with my thoughts and reactions from what I’ve read and watched…

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New UT Student Ticket System

The View From the Hill | Gate 21

With football season right around the corner, the University of Tennessee has made a second change in as many years to the system of selling and distributing tickets to its students. They just released the information on it today, and I just wanted to share some quick thoughts on the changes, because it’s fairly different from last year’s system.

The highlights and lowlights of the new system and a brief history of my own student tickets experiences after the jump.

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Recruiting, Recruiting, Recruiting

The View From the Hill | Gate 21

Tennessee’s quarterback situation is no secret. As of now, Nick Stephens is the only scholarship QB slated to be on the roster this time in 2010, pending the likely addition of junior college QB Nick Lamaison, who would join the Vols when practice opens up in a couple weeks. This is what happens when you fail to recruit a QB for a couple of consecutive years, and obviously it’s certainly an uncomfortable situation.

Adding even more discomfort are two things involving this year’s QB class: first, by most accounts it’s a “down” year – as in there’s no true standout(s). Second, UT has swung and missed on a number of QB targets up to this point, almost to the point where frantically pressing the big red panic button becomes an acceptable behavior.

Nevertheless, Tennessee has one last – and slightly fading – glimmer of hope in Jesse Scroggins. As you probably know, Tennessee’s been in the mix with Scroggins for quite awhile, and all that work will come to a conclusion sometime tomorrow, when Scroggins is slated to announce his decision between USC, the hometown school, Tennessee and Florida. Most feel Scroggins is a Trojan lock. I accepted this as the outcome about a month ago, when SC offered him a scholarship following an impressive camp performance.

TUESDAY NIGHT MINI-UPDATE: Jesse Scroggins has pushed back his announcement to Thursday at noon Pacific, 3 p.m. Eastern time, according to VolQuest and VolNation message boards, which are getting this information from Scroggins’ MySpace page. It seems to me that if he was going to USC, he would have just come out and done so already, or done so with his teammate, safety Dion Bailey, who committed last week. I still think he’s a Trojan, but I’ll just say this: if he commits to Florida, I’ll literally throw up.

Jesse Scroggins announces tomorrow Thursday

After Scroggins, I have NO IDEA where Tennessee will turn next in their search for a QB.

Looking at the bigger picture, however, the following of recruiting has blown up in the last decade or so, thanks in large part to sites such as Rivals and Scout. Some of you may have have dived head-first into the phenomenon, others of you may not have even heard of Jesse Scroggins or may not even be able to name a current Tennessee commitment.

As for me, I didn’t really begin following the year-round recruiting season until I went to college back in 2006. But since then, I’ve probably procrastinated more time by looking at recruiting sites and following the various message boards rumors and what-not than I should have. Why? Because it’s addictive.

However, I’m a relatively glass half-full type of fan, so amidst all the hoopla surrounding the college choices of high school seniors, I try not to get caught up to much into it all. So, as it relates to this year’s class and more importantly tomorrow’s Scroggins decision (and the likely impending meltdown), I’ve offered five reasons why fans shouldn’t be losing any sleep over recruiting at this point in time.

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