Posts Tagged ‘Tommy Tuberville’

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Differin For Sale, 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 BlazerChronicles.com, 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
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The uglier side of the coaching carousel…

No Pass Out Checks | Gate21

Well, in case you were so overcome with joy at the news that “Kiffin the Elder” (a/k/a “The Full Monte) would be joining Coach Kiffin next Fall in Knoxville—and I can completely understand why you might be—the news out of Auburn is much less pleasant.

Apparently, “War Eagles” are cannibals because at present, the Auburn Tigers are voraciously eating their own…

First of all, I want to make it absolutely clear that I am not purporting to offer any thoughts on whether Gene Chizik was a good hire from a “football” perspective.  First, aside from my remembering that Chizik was on the Auburn staff as a defensive coordinator in the 2004-ish era, I really don’t know enough about the man’s essentials to assess him one way of the other.  I have never been (nor do I plan to become) a devoted follower of the Iowa State Cyclones either, thus I also lack the knowledge to weigh whether Chizik’s 5-19 record as the head coach in Ames really means that much or not.

Second, as a Tennessee fan, I have little room and even less desire to point out the shortcomings of other programs at this particular point in time (“ahem… pot, meet kettle”)…

Third, I don’t have to really even get into the substance of Chizik’s qualifications to realize that all hell has broken loose on the Plains.

There are some very restless natives in Auburn.

Since Gene Chizik’s announcement as the new head coach, the Tiger faithful have literally declared a civil war on a scale which boggles the mind and confounds reason.  The only reaction I have been able to draw thus far is that, based purely upon the reaction of the fans, alumni, and talking heads—completely irrespective of his abilities—Gene Chizik is going to have a very tough time winning at Auburn.

The reason for this is that, with the exception of Auburn AD Jay Jacobs, and perhaps Kirk Herbstreit, there appears to be no one among the Tiger faithful who is, was, or believes that they will ever be happy with this hire.  Of course, this is an understatement of prodigious proportions—somewhat akin to saying that GM is undergoing a “minor financial adjustment” or that Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has made some “unpopular decisions.”  Only two words accurately describe the situation among the Aubies:

Cataclysmic Meltdown.

For example, listen to the guy ranting and raving in the background as Jay Jacobs returns to Auburn after sealing the deal with Chizik over the weekend.

Jay Jacobs Gets a Welcome Back to Auburn

Wow, now that is some serious fan support!

Now, mind you this is occurring before the official announcement has even been made.  This was not, however an isolated incident.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="400" caption="This pretty much sums up the thoughts in Auburn"]This pretty much sums up the thoughts in Auburn[/caption]

Over at Track ‘em Tigers, the reaction was enough to induce vomiting (you simply have to read through some of the comments), and I am pretty certain that a few of the commenters have since committed suicide.  In particular, the guy who wrote this letter:

Mr. Jacobs

I have no words to express how I feel about the hiring of Chizik as the head football coach at Auburn University. How can anyone be this devoid of wisdom. I have been an Auburn fan for 40 years. I went to school during the Barfield years for goodness sake. During this entire period I have never once even considered wavering in my allegiance to Auburn.

As of now I will turn in my tickets. (scholarship) I will not send another dime of support to the University, and I will join all efforts towards the removal of you and everyone else involved in this ridiculous hire.

You and Dr. Gogue may think you can sit in your ivory towers protected by the powers that be, (and you know to whom I am referring) but you forget Auburn is a grassroots university. Hard working men and women made Auburn the great university it is today. I hold fast to the belief that it is the spirit that lives in these same men and women which will cause us to band together and throw you and the rest of your crowd out on your ears.

It cannot happen soon enough!!!!

• via: Track ‘em Tigers — WarEagle99

The comments over at al.com’s Gold Mine Blog were fairly similar in their lack of … excitement.  My personal favorite was:

Excuse me while I go take down generations of Auburn memorabilia and burn my diploma.

• via: al.com — BigBlueHey

Of course, we all know that comments are often submitted in the heat of the moment, and are less than well thought out—I’m as guilty of that as anyone.  The bad news is that, by and large, even the cooler heads have shown strong misgivings at the hiring of Chizik.  One such “cooler head” is that of Will Collier at From the Bleachers who writes:

All that stuff about "don't panic" and "they sky is not falling" and "Auburn will hire a good coach?" Never mind all that. Dogs and cats are, in fact, living together in the luxury suites of Jordan-Hare Stadium.

* * * * *

Gene Chizik is almost certainly the worst candidate interviewed during this utter farce of a coaching search. He is a poor recruiter who has completely failed to date as a head coach. Chizik's own friends in the coaching community openly scoff at the idea of him being a head coach for a major program.

For Auburn's program, he will be the equivalent of Mike DuBose, although hopefully without the cheating.

* * * * *

I don't say this lightly, but, Fire Jay Jacobs. And while you're at it, fire his buddy Tim Jackson, who inexplicably was invited along for the interviews, despite the fact that Jackson is Auburn's... ticket manager. That makes as much sense as asking a halfwit greenskeeper to sit in on interviews for a corporate CEO.

• via: From the Bleachers

Two more particularly well done pieces can be found at The War Eagle Reader and The Pigskin Pathos as well as some ranting and raving from A Lifetime of Defeats.

All of this begs the question, when does exercising your constitutionally (and in my opinion morally) protected “bitching license” leave you in the proverbial Catch-22?  It seems to me that even if Gene Chizik were the second coming of Vince Lombardi or (to put it more into context) Shug Jordan, that he is now doomed to fail.  In other words, no matter how good he is as a coach, he is already disliked by the fanbase before a single down of football has been played.  I understand that the Auburn faithful are not happy with the hire, and that many feel Tommy Tuberville was essentially fired for no good reason, but at the end of the day if you are an Auburn fan, if you don’t rally around your new coach, it is all but assured that the program will implode for at least 2-5 years, if not more.

Fortunately for Auburn, some of those in the blogosphere have recognized this, including Joe Cribbs Car Wash and Fields of Donahue who writes:

Alright, our new head coach is Gene Chizik.

We're not happy.

It sucks.

The only thing to do now is support him. I don't care if he was miserably bad at Iowa State. He is our coach now, and we need to get behind him…

• via: Fields of Donahue

I feel for the Auburn folks.  The Tennessee Volunteers are just coming out of the gloom of what is, without question, the single most difficult football season I’ve ever lived through.  All season long Orange Nation spent a great deal of time ripping one another to shreds before Smiling Mike Hamilton and the Great Punkin finally quieted things.  Like it or not, at least Smiling Mike had the decency and good sense to address the issue with Fulmer in as transparent and public a manner as was probably possible.  That helped start the healing process, and probably accounts for the general sense of excitement surrounding the ascendancy of the Blackjack General as Tennessee’s new football coach, despite the fact that many still have questions about his experience.  That is also precisely why Auburn AD Jay Jacobs is currently public enemy number one down on the Plains.  Still the situations are really not all that dissimilar.

That’s the odd thing.  From where I am sitting—from a purely “factual” perspective—both Tennessee and Auburn are looking at largely untested and unknown head coaches putting on their headsets next fall.  The only difference is that Tennessee is doing everything it possibly can to help boost their new skipper to success, while it seems that Auburn is obliterating every possible chance for their new hire to enjoy the same.  Both men have a tough road and a lot of work ahead of them, but—as things currently stand—it would appear that Kiffin has a much better chance of success simply because the fanbase is uniting behind him.

Right now, I am really appreciating Smiling Mike…

Hopefully, the Tennessee fans out there who are quick to attack will pay attention to this debacle at Auburn and learn.  Sometimes you have to come together, sometimes you have to put differences aside, sometimes you have to bite your tongue.  That is what it means to be part of a team or, as I have described it, a family.  Establishing a tradition always requires unity and sacrifice.

Learn from this, Orange Nation, lest you follow the Tigers down that bitter primrose path…

-- Go Figure …Email lawvol


Image Courtesy ofJoe Cribbs Car Wash

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.

www.tennesseefansite.com-2Obviously, 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 Basilio.com

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…

I have thought long and hard about this, and as HSH here at the Gate and Joel at Rocky Top Talk would attest, I’ve struggled with this.  In the end, I have reached a conclusion that is sad, but unavoidable:

It’s time…

Those were the words that longtime Voice of the Vols” John Ward used to announce his retirement.  Ward said that he’d rather leave years too early than stay one minute too late, thus he retired while still at the top of his game in 1998.  Coach Fulmer is hardly at the top of his game lately, but he is also not out of the game.  The reality is that the furor among the fans is tearing the Orange Nation apart as fans attack the coaches, the team, and anything else they can think of (including the concession vendors at Neyland Stadium).  All of Big Orange Country is in an uproar.  As a result, the only thing anyone seems to want to talk about is whether Phil Fulmer should be fired.  It’s not about the game, whether the Vols can win this weekend, or the beautiful agony that is college football season.  For this and a bevy of other reasons, I am increasingly beginning to believe that it is time for Coach Fulmer to seriously consider whether it is time to step aside.  I hate the thought that someone who has done so much for Tennessee would be forced out, but until some sort of resolution comes, I wonder if the program can possibly move forward.

I have reached this conclusion not necessarily based upon my personal belief that Coach Fulmer cannot and would not turn this season and future seasons around.  The sad conclusion I have reached is that—in the minds of many—it does not matter what he does going forward, their minds are made up and they want something new.  I for one have not yet decided whether I think Coach Fulmer can turn things around, but that is really irrelevant.  This is not about my complaints on his performance.  It is about the constant turmoil that has subtly, and now openly, surrounded the program for some time now.

It’s just not fun anymore…

Until the current whirlwind settles, it’s not going to be fun any time soon.  Rightly or wrongly, the fan base has lost faith and along with it hope that the Vols can get back on the right track both this year and for the future.  Of course, don’t get me wrong, I do not believe that a man’s career should be decided by whether or not it’s “fun” for me to go to football games.  The larger issue I am pointing to is the lack of direction and the complete feeding frenzy that is currently surrounding the Tennessee program.  I’m not going to pass judgment on whether the fans should be blaming Coach Fulmer because I don’t have the experience or knowledge to decide whether he or others are to blame.  All I know is that something must change.

www.thevib.com-1 I have followed Tennessee football since I was a kid.  I have closely followed the Vols since the mid-1980s.  I grew up watching Coach Majors lead the Vols.  I still remember wanting his autograph back then.  When he was ousted as head coach in 1992, all hell broke loose and a war of words began which—to some extent—still goes on today.  There was such controversy over Coach Majors being fired and Coach Fulmer being tapped as the Vols new head coach, that both sides of the issue started digging-in and flinging allegations at one another.

For the record, I believe that at that the time naming Coach Fulmer as the new coach was the right thing to do (it was, and is, rare for me to agree with the Big Dickey, but he got that one right).  While I do not want to re-open the arguments surrounding Coach Majors’ dismissal, I believed then and continue to believe now that it was time for Coach Majors to step aside, not because he had not been a great coach and representative for the university, but because it was simply time for a change.  Majors, however, wanted to stay.  Thus, when Coach Majors did finally leave, it was as a result of his being fired as opposed to him stepping down—and his departure occurred under a cloud of innuendo and harsh words.  I still remember watching him loudly complain of having been "shanghaied" as he described his firing in an interview televised during the halftime of the 1993 Hall of Fame Bowl, which Phillip Fulmer was in the process of coaching.

As a result of this debacle, to this day, little has been done to honor Coach Majors’ legacy and his contributions to the University of Tennessee, its athletic programs, its alumni, and beyond.  This is a man who compiled a record of 116-62-8 (.645) as head football coach, and to this day he is spoken of very … carefully … by the athletic department, alumni, and boosters.  That is just plain wrong.  You know what, I still want Johnny Majors’ autograph.

I do not want all of that to happen again, this time to Coach Fulmer and his legacy…

I personally believe that Coach Fulmer rightly deserves to be counted among the greats at Tennessee—along with General Neyland and Johnny Majors—and I hope that he always will be.  What I fear more than anything is that the protracted dispute over Coach Fulmer remaining as head coach will lead to another round of what played out after Coach Majors left—especially if Fulmer is ultimately fired as opposed to simply resigning.  Both of these men—who have given so much to the university—deserve more than that.

We as fans deserve more than that…

Do I hate the thought of Coach Fulmer being forced—either directly or indirectly—from the head coaching position?  You’re damn right I do.  I am a huge Fulmer fan, but I simply do not think that the program, the fan base, the University of Tennessee, and Coach Fulmer’s legacy can survive this continued civil war.  Now some would say that I am essentially talking out of both sides of my face—engaging in an attack and hero-worship.  This is not a wholly unfair criticism.  Still, it is what I believe.

There are other things I believe as well…

What I am not going to do is become the attacker, and I am more than willing to assertively address the actions of many of the malcontents and ne’er-do-wells in the Vol Nation.  If you believe that Coach Fulmer needs to move on, that’s fine.  State your case, make your argument, express your opinion, and go from there.  If you have a meaningful point to add to the conversation, please feel free to do so.  If, however, all you are going to do is engage in unprovoked ad hominem attacks against Coach Fulmer, then just keep quiet.  Have some class.  This is especially true for the "faceless" names on message boards, blog comments, and call-in shows. who are quick to pile on harsh criticism behind the shield of "user name" anonymity.  It is for that very reason that, for this post, I am lifting the veil surrounding my online persona as “lawvol,” and signing this post as a “real” person—with my real name.

Regardless of what those of you so loudly attacking Coach Fulmer may think of his abilities, he is a person—not simply an item that UT has bought and paid for—and a man who has tirelessly represented the University of Tennessee for most of his adult life.  He has earned the right to be treated with some semblance of respect and decency.  If a Florida fan were saying some of the things that Vol boosters are currently saying, people would be clamoring for vengeance.  Some apparently feel that now—with blood in the water—they can say whatever they please as they personally attack Fulmer, his staff, and the current Vol players.  That is juvenile and classless.

Don’t get me wrong, I am more than willing to poke fun at sports figures here at the Gate—the Tennessee Home for the Visually Offensive is a temple to that sort of behavior.  What I do not do—at least never intentionally—is vindictively attack another person simply because I can.  The coaches and players are human beings—who work very hard at what they do—and though I realize having thick skin comes with the territory, putting up with asinine attacks should not have to be part of the deal.  That sort of behavior by fans does nothing to help mend or meaningfully address the situation at hand.

Furthermore, there are those that are openly jubilant that the Vols have found the going so rough this year—those who have been dying to let loose on the coaches for years.  To those of you who fall into that category, I simply say this: you are no true fan of anything but your own ego.  No one who is truly a fan and supporter of the University of Tennessee athletics program should wish for this.  No one should ever wish misfortune on an institution they profess to support regardless of the reason.  Wanting change is one thing—wanting conflict, an entirely different one.

I just feel sorry for the coaches having to try to coach a team—working to find a way to get things going in the right direction—while everyone on the outside is screaming for blood.  This is especially true for some of the assistant coaches who have now gotten caught up in this battle through no real fault of their own.  I feel terribly sorry for them since they have gotten caught up in this by simply being here at Tennessee.  In particular, I feel  dreadful for Dave Clawson, Stan Drayton, and Latrell Scott—they came here this season with high hopes, wanting to help build a new future.  They uprooted their families and their lives to make a commitment to Tennessee, and now they are in a firestorm.  That is really unfortunate.

The same is true for the players, who give their all to make Tennessee shine.  They try their hardest.  Even when that is not enough, they still try.  Seeing Vol fans attack them and boo them is something I never thought I would see.

To all Vol fans, speak your mind, speak your heart, speak loudly, but think before you speak…

I may end up regretting this post for many years to come.  To those on the coaching staff—especially Coach Fulmer—please do not take this to be yet another fair-weather fan turning on the program when the going gets tough.  I am not saying this because I hope that the current coaching staff is either fired or resigns.  I am simply saying this because I care enough about the Tennessee Volunteers to speak out.

In all honesty, I hope that I am dead wrong.  I hope with all that I am that the Great Punkin can work his magic, turn the season around, and go on to win a championship next year.  I would never be happier to admit I am wrong—trust me, I want to be wrong.  The fact of the matter is, however, based upon the experience of the last decade, I no longer think that I am wrong.  I still remain hopeful that I am.

Either way, I will support Coach Fulmer and the rest of the coaching staff from here into the future.  I will support this team, and all of its players regardless of what happens this season, or next, or the season after that.  As far as I am concerned, it’s not a question of whether Phillip Fulmer is my coach, whether Jonathan Crompton is my quarterback, or Dave Clawson is my offensive coordinator—though the answer to each of those questions is “yes.”  The only question that really matters to me is “What are your colors?

Orange and White!

I am going to support this team and this staff no matter what.  I am hopeful—as I always am.  Who knows what the future holds?

In the meantime, I’ll keep pulling for the Big Orange and looking forward to the day when Tennessee is once again at the top of the heap.

For when that day comes—and it will—I can say that I was there all along…

Respectfully,


Images Courtesy of: TennesseeFansite.comThe VIB

SEC Power Poll Ballot: Week 3

Check out the Full Poll Results at Garnet and Black Attack or SEC Power Poll.com

SEC Power Poll | Gate 21

Week 3

After week 3's games, here's my ballot for this week in the SEC Power Poll.

In all its radiant glory:

Rk.

Team

Change

Comments

1.

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Wow! It's really impressive how badly the Georgia Bulldogs played against the Gamecocks. As I mentioned in this week's BlogPoll, Georgia is looking shaky. They keep their spot this week purely as a result of the fact that no one behind them played in the conference. That will change soon.

2.

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The Florida Gators didn't play, and thus no change here. According to the Gator Nation, however, Tim Tebow did perform several miracles this week including curing the blind, establishing world peace, and bringing harmony to the universe.

3.

--

The LSU Tigers walloped North Texas, but then again, it was North Texas.

4.

POLL-Up 1

The Alabama Crimson Tide also did some walloping, of Western Kentucky, which is known for its great skill in losing to major opponents.

5.

POLL-Up 2

The Vanderbilt Commodores are on the rise with several nice wins. They appeared on my BlogPoll Ballot this week, debuting at No. 25. A really nice start for the Dores -- can they keep it up? I don't know, but for now they're in my Top 5.

6.

--

The Kentucky Wildcats managed to get another win -- this time over Middle Tennessee State. As the Maryland Terrapins now realize MTSU is a good team -- much better than most had thought. Still, not enough to move up.

7.

POLL-Down 3

Well, the Auburn Tigers do have a solid defense, I think that is fairly well settled. Apparently, they have absolutely no offense whatsoever. Auburn's offensive performance against Mississippi State was pathetic. The only explanation I have for the Tigers offensive woes this week is that maybe Tommy Tuberville got some of his hair gel on the ball. Ugh.

8.

--

The Ole Miss Rebels seized the opportunity to pound on Samford this week. By halftime, Houston Nutt was already in the locker room answering a few text messages.

9.

--

The Tennessee Volunteers managed a win this week over UAB which is hardly high-level competition. It's obvious that the Vols have some nice horses in the backfield, if they have the sense to use them. If they manage to beat Florida this weekend, however, then they will move up quickly.

10.

--

I'd move the Mississippi State Bulldogs down for pulling defeat out of the jaws of victory against Auburn if it weren't for the fact that South Carolina actually choked worse. The Bulldogs gave the game away by going for it on 4th down with only minutes to go.

11.

--

I realize the South Carolina Gamecocks are probably aware of this now but 18 yards total rushing is bad -- very bad. If Spurrier is not going to have the decency to appreciate an upset victory all wrapped up with a bow on top, then Mark Richt is going to quit giving them.

12.

--

This was the best weekend yet for the Arkansas Razorbacks. Really impressive. They should try not playing more often -- perhaps maybe forfeiting in advance is the key.

As always, feel free to let me know where I am wrong or right. Final ballots are due by Wednesday, so don't take too long...

The Rest of the Power Poll

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 or SEC Power Poll.com. I'll post the final poll results once it is released later in the week.

-- Go Figure …Email lawvol


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 Croom -- Mississippi 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 Richt -- Georgia

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 Tuberville -- Auburn

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 Miles -- LSU

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 Meyer -- Florida

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 Punkin' -- Tennessee

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 Brooks -- Kentucky

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 Nutt -- Ole 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 Spurrier -- South 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 Johnson -- Vanderbilt

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 Saban -- Alabama

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 Petrino -- Arkansas

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


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:

Opponent

Gate 21

3SIB

Rocky Top Talk

YMS WWC

Power T

MoonDog

http://gate21.net/wp-content/uploads/Team%20Logos/Pac-10/FB-UCLA.png

Win

Win

Win

Win

Win

Win

http://gate21.net/wp-content/uploads/Team%20Logos/C-USA/FB-UAB.png

Win

Win

Win

Win

Win

Win

http://gate21.net/wp-content/uploads/Team%20Logos/FB-Florida.png

Loss

Win

Loss

Loss

Loss

Win

http://gate21.net/wp-content/uploads/Team%20Logos/FB-Auburn.png

Loss

Loss

Loss

Loss

Win

Loss

http://gate21.net/wp-content/uploads/Team%20Logos/MAC/FB-NIU.png

Win

Win

Win

Win

Win

Win

http://gate21.net/wp-content/uploads/Team%20Logos/FB-Georgia.png

Win

Loss

Win

Win

Loss

Loss

http://gate21.net/wp-content/uploads/Team%20Logos/FB-MissSt.png

Win

Win

Win

Win

Win

Win

http://gate21.net/wp-content/uploads/Team%20Logos/FB-Alabama.png

Win

Win

Win

Win

Win

Win

http://gate21.net/wp-content/uploads/Team%20Logos/FB-SoCarolina.png

Win

Win

Win

Loss

Win

Win

http://gate21.net/wp-content/uploads/Team%20Logos/WAC/FB-Wyoming.png

Win

Win

Win

Win

Win

Win

http://gate21.net/wp-content/uploads/Team%20Logos/FB-Vandy.png

Win

Win

Win

Win

Win

Win

http://gate21.net/wp-content/uploads/Team%20Logos/FB-Kentucky.png

Win

Win

Win

Win

Win

Win

Season Record

10–2

10–2

10–2

9–3

10–2

10–2

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 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


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