Posts Tagged ‘Rich Brooks’

2009 SEC Preview: Kentucky

2009 SEC Previews | Gate 21

Three years, three bowl games, three bowl wins.

The last time Kentucky football had seen a similar stretch of success, they had Tim Couch throwing the ball all over Commonwealth Stadium in the Fun’N’Gun-on-steroids offense of Hal Mumme.

After Jared Lorenzen became the school’s all-time career passing leader and a combined 5 wins in Rich Brooks’ first two years, Andre Woodson came in and by his senior season had not only made the Wildcats a competitive team that couldn’t be taken lightly by the SEC heavyweights, but had Kentucky ranked in the top 10 in the country after knocking off top-ranked LSU.

However, the bottom fell out on the rest of that 2007 season, and after Woodson graduated, along with a trio of targets currently on NFL rosters (Keenan Burton, Steve Johnson and Jacob Tamme), many – including myself felt Kentucky was going to fall back a little bit into their normal role of fighting with Vanderbilt to stay out of the SEC East cellar.

But, despite averaging only 18 points a game in the conference, Kentucky managed six wins (the Wildcats went just 2-6 in the SEC) and capped it off by beating Conference USA champion East Carolina in the Liberty Bowl. However, with the departure of the majority of the defense Kentucky relied and the struggles of the offense, can Kentucky reach a fourth straight bowl, something they’ve never done in 120 years of playing football?

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The Blazer Chronicles: A “Quotetastic” Look at the SEC

Well, after failing to get my Oklahoma State preview up in time for the game, and given the quick end to the BasketVols‘ run in the NCAA Tournament, I really haven’t had a lot to offer these past few days.  Of course, when you set the bar very low—which has always been the policy of Gate 21—it takes extra effort to fail in grand style.  I guess I am running behind in my running behind…

In the meantime, here’s a little something that is worth giving a look.  I’m a bit behind in getting this up, but this is pretty funny if you ask me (which I realize you didn’t).

Here is a pretty hilarious look at the various coaches of the SEC in a way that I don’t think I have ever seen before.  As always, this comes courtesy of VolzRChamps and, with a Tennessee All-Sports Update.

The Blazer Chronicles: A “Quotetastic” Look at the SEC

That Bobby Johnson quote is simply priceless…

– So it goes …About Lawvol

Video Courtesy of: VolzRChamps / You TubeBlazer Chronicles

Theories about Lane Kiffin’s jab at Urban Meyer…

Headlines, Links & Lies | Gate 21

Rusty over at RTT has offered up 5 theories for Lane Kiffin‘s (a/k/a the Blackjack General) barb to Urban Meyer yesterday.  They are worth a read.  Rusty’s theories started a rather interesting discussion on the subject.

Anyway, here are my two cents worth, which I originally posted over on RTT as a comment (with the addition of the video and image):

The comment on Meyer is simply a comment made to a closed group being taken out of context.  That is, Kiffin said “cheating” in the sense of “man, that’s some slimy stuff” but is was taken as “violation of codified NCAA and SEC rules and regulations.” In other words, he was speaking like a normal person and not like some degenerate lawyer (I can say that, I are one).

In the big picture, I think that there is a method to Kiff’s madness.  I think he realizes that the Tennessee fans need something to help rally them to “the flag,” which a little controversy will accomplish.

Furthermore, I think — rightly or wrongly — he perceives a belief among the fans that Tennessee has been the “nice guy fuddy-duddy” type for a long time and have never really stood its ground the way it could (See Charlie Brown).  I think that there is a definite feeling of this sort among many in the Big Orange fanbase.

I also think he believes that the opposite it true — that other coaches (especially Urban Meyer) have gotten used to walking on Tennessee and now feel an entitlement of sorts.  I think this is also true.  I think Kiff realizes that he has to stop that, and that the fans will gladly support him in this.

I also think — given who he has attacked and who he hasn’t (See Mark Richt, Houston Nutt, Rich Brooks, Les Miles, etc.) — that it is a calculated move to agitate those who simply cannot stand being agitated and love to agitate constantly.  Steve Spurrier was the master of this in the 1990s — and it was very effective.  Kiffin wants to try and begin to get in the heads of others who believe themselves to be mighty, but has notably spared the friendly sorts. (Oh, and for the record, Spurrier can take being agitated. In fact it often seems to make him respect others more. Plus, he was pretty affable in response to the whole recruiting test discourse.)

I think Kiff probably understands that the team might not fare well at first, but he is showing that he’s not willing to be pushed around now.  It’s the proverbial “knock me down, and I’ll get back up and say it again, so you can knock me down, so I can get up and say it again, till I get strong enough that you can no longer knock me down” approach (man what a run-on).

I also think that Kiffin is simply not the kind of guy who shirks from a challenge, and the staff he has assembled bears that out. (Compare Mr. Edward Orgeron and … the World)  Call me crazy, but he almost has me believing that he can pull it off as well.

To be able to win, you have to first believe that you can win.  To take on the invincible, you have to believe you are invincible. (See This is Sparta)

Video:  300 – “This is Sparta

Of course, I also believe that Elvis Presley is living in Vonore, Tennessee under the assumed name “Leyland T. Vegas” and that Plate Tectonics is all part of some nefarious Communist conspiracy

Viva, Baby... Viva!

Viva, Baby... Viva!

At its basic level, however, Kiffin is accomplishing something — getting the fans and team ready for a fight and getting the media interested enough to show up and document it all.

•  HT to / via:  Five theories about Lane Kiffin’s jab at Urban Meyer | Rocky Top Talk

I suppose it all comes down to Jules Winnfield / Samuel L. Jackson’s statement: “Oh, well allow me to retort…

At any rate, the conversation has been interesting over there, and is worth a look (and perhaps a comment).

Image Courtesy ofElvis Impersonators Blog

An Open Letter to the Vol Nation: A Manifesto on Past, Present, and Future

No Pass Out Checks | Gate21
[Note:  This post is exceptionally long—even for me—and I apologize for this.  I simply felt that a lot of these things needed saying, and I really haven't heard them elsewhere.  Thus, if you'll forgive my long-windedness,  I promise there is a point to this.  I just felt this that this isn't a simple issue, and thus I needed to explain.  -Lawvol]

Of all the posts I have ever written as a blogger, all the comments I have ever posted on message boards and other blogs, all the public professions I have ever made regarding the Tennessee Volunteers, this one is by far the most difficult one for me.  I’d really rather not be in the position of feeling it necessary to write this.  To fail to address the issue, however, would be to ignore the giant looming cloud over the heads of all of the Vol-faithful, regardless of their thoughts or position., I am talking about the “situation” with the Tennessee Football coaching staff.

For the record, I am a Phillip Fulmer fan.  I believe that he has done more for the Tennessee program than anyone else over the last fifteen years.  I credit him with taking Tennessee from the mish-mash of the middle tier of college football and propelling the Vols to the very pinnacle of success.  I credit him with bringing the program into the modern era.  I credit him with making many of the things to which we as Tennessee fans have become accustomed possible.  I like Coach Fulmer, or the “Great Punkin” as I routinely refer to him (with no slight or insult intended).

I guess that makes me a homer

To the best of my recollection, the only time I have ever openly criticized the Tennessee coaching staff was during the past off-season when off-field incidents involving Vol footballers were escalating alarmingly, by my mind calling into question the integrity of the program and the University of Tennessee itself.  Aside from that, I have always refrained from going after the coaches like so many seem to want to do.  I wrote a little about this after the UCLA game, stating:

… I would say that I am more appropriately a Homer for all coaches across the landscape of college football who are constantly questioned, rebuked, and derided by tens of thousands of come-lately armchair geniuses.

It is a peculiar characteristic of so many fans that they believe that simply being a follower of a team for a given length of time makes them an expert on how things should be done.  Make no mistake, as a sports blogger, I am as guilty of this offense as anyone—at least to some extent.  There are things that anyone with a brain can assess and analyze based purely upon common sense, life experience, and the fluff that resides between our ears.

* * * * *

These sorts of basic truths are fairly and frankly within the grasp of us all, and thus the rightful ability to comment on such profundities resides with each and every person who follows college football.  In much the same vein, I think it is reasonable for many (note, I did not say “all”) long-term fans of the sport to comment on what a given team does, or in most cases, did.

Beyond that, however, it seems to me that trying to profess what the best way to coach a football team—a team to which most have no access except through their televisions—is an endeavor which necessarily makes the speaker feel smart and important, while simultaneously making them look foolish and arrogant.

I have absolutely no idea about what it takes to coach a major college football team.  I’m completely clueless.  Furthermore, I have no idea what it is like to play on such a team.  Again, clueless.  I am also willing to bet that most who are attacking Phil Fulmer and the Tennessee coaching staff at present share my level of experience and insight.  So, at a minimum, I guess I am among equally-ignorant equals when it comes to assessing the coaches.

Unlike many others, however, I am not going to attack the Great Punkin, Dave Clawson, John Chavis, or any of the other coaches.  I am simply going to speak about what I do know and speak from the heart:

Though I first watched Tennessee under Coach Majors, most of my life as a Tennessee fan, student, and alum has been during the tenure of Coach Fulmer.  I think he is a man of integrity, a man of honor, a skilled and adept football coach, and a great leader and teacher for the young men he coaches.  I have such deep respect for what he has done.  In his 17-year career as Tennessee’s head coach, Fulmer is 148-47-1 (.759), he has won 10 or more games in a season nine times, he has won or tied for the SEC East title seven times, he has won 2 SEC Championships, and the 1998 National Championship.  I remember all of these “good old days” like they were yesterday.

Coach Fulmer has done a lot, a whole lot…

By the same token, things simply have not been good for the Vols for some time now.  Here are a few statistics:

  • Last SEC Championship: 1998 (No Coach in UT history had a longer drought and retained their job)
  • Last BCS Game Appearance: 1999
  • Only one Top-10 finish this decade (2001)
  • Last 50 Games 32-18 (.648) [Johnny Majors was 39-9-2 (.780 wins only / .820 wins & ties) over his final 50 games]
  • Failed to finish in the Top-25 twice this decade in any poll and finished 25th in the AP in 2000 (unranked in Coaches Poll)
  • Signed a recruiting class outside the Top-20 in two of the past three seasons
  • 5-12 versus Florida all-time
  • 14-13 in the last 27 SEC Games
  • 28-27 (.509) versus Current SEC Coaches
    • 0-4 versus Urban Meyer (Florida)
    • 1-2 versus Les Miles (LSU)
    • 3-4 versus Mark Richt (Georgia)
    • 1-3 versus Nick Saban (LSU & Alabama)
    • 5-8 versus Steve Spurrier (Florida & South Carolina)
    • 3-3 versus Tommy Tuberville (Ole Miss & Auburn)
  • Coach Fulmer has a winning record of 15-3 against Rich Brooks (Kentucky), Sylvester Croom (Mississippi State), Bobby Johnson (Vanderbilt), and Houston Nutt (Arkansas only)

Over the last decade (since 1998) the Tennessee Volunteers under Fulmer are:

  • 1-8 (.111) at home versus Top-10 Teams
  • 17-23 (.425) versus ranked teams
  • 13-21 (.382) versus Florida, Georgia, Auburn, LSU, and Alabama
Statistical Analysis Courtesy of: Tony

These numbers speak volumes…

Of course, I am enough of a realist to understand that no team—whether Tennessee, Southern Cal, or the Green Bay Packers—can have a championship year every year.  Every great team has bad years.  It just seems that it has been a long time since Tennessee has had a truly good year.  I freely acknowledge that in 2007 Tennessee had what, on paper, looks like a good year.  In 2007, the Vols went 10-4 and won the SEC East.  That said, even the most stalwart Vol fan would have to admit that Tennessee won the SEC East in a highly unorthodox manner.  Tennessee was beaten in the 2007 season opener versus California 45-31.  Two weeks later the Vols were annihilated by the Florida Gators 59-20 and were subsequently thumped by the Alabama Crimson Tide 41-17.  The only reason that the Vols made the trip to the  SEC Championship Game was that—under league rules—the tie went to Tennessee since the Vols defeated the Georgia Bulldogs in head-to-head competition.  In other words, the Orange and White backed into the Eastern Division title.

Prior to that, really since the 2001 season, the Vols have underperformed versus SEC and national rivals, and have—at best—been a mediocre team from a statistical perspective.  During that time, I cannot recount the number of times that the Vols have barely beaten teams that were wholly inferior in terms of talent.  What’s more, the Volunteers have regularly failed to meet the expectations of fans and analysts when considered against teams with similar recruiting classes and resources.  Then of course there was the 2005 season, or—as Joel at RTT describes it—“The Season of Which We do not Speak in which Tennessee recorded a 5-6 record.

It seems that Tennessee has struggled at every turn since winning the 1998 Championship…

Jump forward to this year and the UCLA game, in which Tennessee loses to a UCLA team which the Vols were projected to beat handily.  As I and others have said, there is absolutely no reason that the Vols should have lost that game.  To make bad matters worse, since defeating the Vols, the Bruins have gone on to lose two more games in which they failed to score a single touchdown for the first time in 44 years. (HT Get the Picture)  Tennessee then managed a lackluster win over a clearly out-matched UAB team before playing the Florida Gators.  As I said in my “Marching Orders” piece earlier this week, that game was one of the poorest displays I’ve ever seen from a Vols squad.

Although I cannot really recall when it all started, the Tennessee fanbase began growing restless as early as 2002.  Even then, there was a small but vocal minority of fans that felt it was time for Fulmer to go.  Those voices of criticism were largely ignored by the masses until now.  After the Florida defeat, those voices have swelled to the point that they can no longer be ignored.  Just looking at the Vol-blogosphere, there are fewer and fewer that support Fulmer and even more voices criticizing than ever before—including 3SIB’s Ghost of Neyland, SouthEastern Sports Blog, YMSWWC, Curveballs for Jesus, BasilioMoonDog, the absurd Coacho Ocho, and Gate 21’s own HSH.

So here I am…

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Hmmm, not sure what to say about the game this week…

As Joel over at RTT and Ghost at 3SIB both noted, UAB is — well — “special.”  Between the Blazers’ apparent lack of a defense and their real inability to develop any offense, I really just don’t know what to say about this game.

In the past this would be when I would post some slightly off-color doctored photograph poking fun at UAB for their slim chances at winning the game.  I would probably pile on with a number of statements making fun of their coaches, players, fans cheerleaders, etc.  I would generally be a prototypical haughty SEC fan.

After the UCLA game, however, I am going to refrain from being petty and take the high road…

By announcing that I have recently updated the Tennessee Home for the Visually Offensive to include more fine works of the Farkers’ art..

Tennessee Home for the Visually Offensive | Gate 21

Including some of these beauties:

The Bear

When you have nothing intelligent to say, never fear resorting to low brow humor…

– Go Figure …Email lawvol

Images Courtesy of:

SEC Power Poll: Preseason

Check out the Full Poll Results over at Garnet and Black Attack

As was the case with the College Football BlogPoll, the infinite wisdom of those responsible for the SEC Power Poll is now also shown to be seriously lacking.  Why?  Because Power Poll Administrator and guru CockNFire over at Garnet and Black Attack has thrown reason to the wind and allowed Gate 21 to join the mix — a sure sign that Power Poll is doomed.

Be that as it may, on this first week of the 2008 Power Poll, since there have been no games played, we the pollsters have been charged with the task of ranking the current head coaches for the SEC schools.  Given my complete inability to follow conventional wisdom, I have a somewhat unusual No. 1 — a point that I’m sure will leave both of my readers scratching their heads.

Either way, here’s my ballot (with my contorted rationalizations as to why I believe such foolish things):

SEC Power Poll — The Coaches

1.  Sylvester CroomMississippi State

A lot of folks will probably think I am crazy for tabbing Sly Croom as the top coach in the SEC, but I really do strongly feel that he is deserving, and is the best coach in the SEC at present.  I know I’m going to have to defend this one, probably.

I discussed my reasons for choosing Croom as the best in Week 4 of the Big Orange Roundtable (Question 5).  In that response, I wrote:

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.

For me a coach’s overall record is not nearly as important as their ability to demonstrate progress in moving toward a goal — is the program better, worse, or the same as it was when the coach arrived on campus.  Winning 9 games in your first season at Florida followed by a national championship is not nearly as significant to me as managing to drag a program which has collapsed back to success.  Sly Croom has lost a lot of games in Starkville over the past few years, but it appears that he has finally managed to get the program back on track.  That impresses me a great deal, and that is why he’s at the top of my list.

2.  Mark RichtGeorgia

Here I return back to the thoughts of the masses.  It is difficult to argue with Richt’s successes at Georgia.  In seven years as head coach, he’s had five 10-win (or more) seasons.  Over that time period he has garnered three BCS bowl bids for the Bulldogs, has had a 72-19 (40-16 SEC) record, and earned two SEC Championships.  That is impressive.

My only criticisms of Richt (which keep him out of first place) are that he has failed to win a national championship for the Dawgs or contend for one.  Of course, the same can be said for Sylvester Croom.  The reason I hold this against Richt is due to the state off the Georgia program when he took over the reins.  The year before Richt was hired, “Whisperin’ Jim” Donnan led the Dawgs to an 8-4 (5-3 SEC) record and a bowl.  That is not exactly a derelict program.

Thus, even though Richt has advanced the Bulldog program from where it was, he has one more step to go before he — in my twisted mind — manages to match the level of improvement Croom has brought to Mississippi State.

3.  Tommy TubervilleAuburn

Tommy Tuberville has been quietly building a great tradition down on the plains.  Since taking over in in 1999, Tuberville has amassed a 80-33 (49-23 SEC) record, an SEC championship, and has pretty much owned the Iron Bowl.  He has also used about 5,000 gallons of hair shellac.  Tuberville’s teams always seem as prepared as any team in the country on gameday, which is as impressive as it is rare these days.  His strong record and proven system puts him right near the top in my book.

All of that said, Auburn is always seemingly right on the cusp of winning a championship, but never seem to be able to finish the deal.  For that reason, he’s only third.

4.  Les MilesLSU

It’s hard to argue with the power of the hat over the past three years.  The reason Miles comes in at number four, rather than higher up the chain is due to the fact that he is just beginning to field teams peopled with players he has recruited.  Furthermore, going back to my “advance the program” notion, when Miles took over the Tigers were coming off of a 9-3 (6-2 SEC) season.  It’s pretty easy to win in that situation.

If he continues to win going forward, then he will most definitely move up.

5.  Urban MeyerFlorida

Meyer has won a BCS title game and has racked up an impressive record since taking over in 2005.  My criticisms of Meyer largely mirror those I made for Miles with one addition.  In 2007 Meyer’s Gators showed real weakness on offense (against everyone but the Vols, that is … ugh).  A lot of that weakness appeared to come from Meyer’s belief in a system which doesn’t meaningfully employ the running back.  In my opinion a team cannot sustain success without that.  What’s more, he seemed to rely a little too much on Tebow, which further made the Gators one-dimensional on offense.

6.  Great PunkinTennessee

Phillip Fulmer has been the head coach of Tennessee Volunteers for 14 years.  He is the senior-most coach in the league and has an impressive record, including a BCS title, two SEC Championships, and has three additional SEC East titles.  Fulmer has been consistent, but over the past few years has probably been a bit too consistent in failing to reach the top level of the polls and BCS bowl games.

Though I think Phil Fulmer is one of the great coaches of college football, over the past few years the program has not seemed to be advancing as much as it has been holding position.  The addition of Dave Clawson as offensive coordinator along with a new scheme may, however, change that and result in Fulmer’s stock rising once again.

7.(tieRich BrooksKentucky

Rich Brooks has done a nice job at Kentucky over the last four years.  He wins more than he loses and appears to run a clean program.  Every now and then, he has managed to win a big game.  Kentucky is respectable, but really not much more than that.  Thus, it’s hard for me to place him much higher.

7.(tieHouston NuttOle Miss

Were Houston Nutt still at Arkansas, he would probably rank higher.  He was consistent and recruited some stellar players while coaching the Hogs.  That said, he never seemed to be able to push the team to the championship level.  Now that he is at the helm of the Ole Miss Rebels, he has his work cut out for him.  If he can turn it around, then he will rise quickly in my eyes, but Oxford has not been very kind to coaches over the past decade.  The old adage that “there is nowhere to go but up,” simply isn’t true — for Nutt and Ole Miss, “sideways” is a real possibility.

9.  Steve SpurrierSouth Carolina

A decade ago, “The Ole Ball Coach” would have been my hands-down choice for best coach in the country.  Whatever it is that he did while coaching the Washington Redskins, however, changed that.  While his Gamecocks have posted solid overall records since 2005, they have never had any meaningful success in the SEC.  That is not going to win you any coaching awards.

10.  Bobby JohnsonVanderbilt

Vanderbilt is a tough place to coach and win.  I realize this.  Still, I think it is reasonable to expect a winning season every five years or so.

11.  Nick SabanAlabama

Slick Nicky has real coaching abilities — there is no question about that (as the Vols learned last year).  That said, I give Saban this low rating largely on principle.  For what he is getting paid, a 7-6 (4-4 SEC) record isn’t enough.

12.  Bobby PetrinoArkansas

Bad hire.  He is a mercenary coach who is only interested in where he can get the most money on a given day.  I give him four years — max — before he moves on to greener pastures leaving Arkansas with little to show for it.

The Rest of the BlogPoll

Now that you have wasted your time looking at my ballot, go check out what everybody else is saying over at Garnet and Black Attack.  I will also try to update this post with links to the other pollsters’ ballots as soon as I can.

How long do you think it will be before they kick me out?

– Go Figure …Email lawvol

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