Herd Exposes Vol Weaknesses.
At least he threw more touchdowns than interceeptions this week. Clausen showed flashes of redeeming Coach Fulmer's confidence in him, but those flashes were offset by continued poor decision making, and some very woobly passes. Fortunately, his receivers made up for his poor throws with some brilliant catches, including James Banks' circus grab on the sidelines in the second quarter. In a plus for Clausen, he distributed the ball well, with 9 Vols catching the ball, and three recording touchdown grabs.
Running Backs: A
Again, a solid effort on the part of the running backs. Cedric Houston got his second 150+ yard game in a row, and the running backs averaged over 5 yards per carry for the game.
The receiving corps showed some depth, as nine Vols caught at least one pass. Clausen had plenty of open targets most of the night, particularly in the second half.
Offensive Line: B
If the running backs are averaging 5.6 yards per carry, the offensive line is doing their job. Clausen was sacked twice during the game.
Defensive Line: A
The defense performed well against the run, holding Marshall to 88 yards on the ground. They also recorded 7 sacks on the Herd q-backs.
Defensive Secondary: C-
294 yards passing, three touchdowns given up, vs only one interception. If they play like that against Florida, we'll be embarrassed once again.
Special Teams: A
50.8 yds per punt; 14 yards per punt return; 22 yards per kickoff return. 2 field goals by Wilhoit. And it may be that Troy Fleming has found his best role on the team, as a kick returner on special teams.
118 yards inpenalties, including 49 on a single drive further reveals a lack of discipline which traces right back to coaching. On the positive side, the play selection was effective, balancing the run and the pass, and the Vols moved the ball well in the second half.
We're still seeing the Vols plagued by the same problems we've seen for years. Inconsistent effort, poor tackling, and a surprising lack of leadership from the quarterback position. The defensive secondary has a lot of work to do if they want to hang with the Gators, or Miami, particularly on their home turf. On the plus side, we have a running game; our defense can get pressure on the quarterback, and we have some receivers with breakaway speed that can actually catch the ball, and we have a week of to get ready.
Vols answer some questions
Picking right up where he left off last year, Clausen gave Fresno State their only points of the game on a lousy pass which went straight to the cornerback. Add another interception, several obviously bad throws to wide open recievers, and a fumble to his tally sheet, and he should be happy with a D.
Running Backs: B
Cedric Houston showed why we missed him so much last year, running with vision and intensity. Jabari Davis blasted through the line and outran everyone to the goal line, showing again that he's not just a power back. Fullback Troy Fleming still has not mastered the art of blocking, and is liable to be exposed when he comes up against quality linebackers.
When the ball was catchable, they caught it. James Banks made a spectacular sideline grab that lead to Tennessee's first score. We didn't get to see too much from other receivers, as Clausen's accuracy problems kept them from being able to show their stuff.
Offensive Line: B
There were holes for the running backs all day long. Pass blocking was there, and although the Bulldogs did manage to penetrate a few times, and managed to sack Clausen once, on the whole, it was a good first game.
Most folks were more worried about the defense than the offense this year, due to the loss of so much talent. Those worries appear to be unfounded as a hungry defense stifled the Bulldogs, allowing -1 yards rushing and recording 3 sacks.
Special Teams: C
Several missed field goals and difficulty containing Bernard Berrian kept the grade average. On the positive side, several kickoffs made it inot the end zone, a sight not seen around here for awhile.
7 penalties is an improvement from last year, but still, there were some stupid mistakes. Clausen took every snap, even though the game was well in hand, which means our backup QB will alck game experience if Clausen gets hurt. The play calling was effective, favoring the run but showing a lot more balance than last year.
Tennessee is a much improved team. Even though they weren't playing against a top tier program, Fresno State is no pushover, and it speaks well for the Vols that they were able to step up to the challenge so ably. Clausen still needs to improve his accuracy and his decision-making if he wants to fulfill his early promise, but he's running out of time. The defense looks sound, and will only get better as we get closer to the SEC opener against the Gators. Next weeks game against Marshall should be a sterner test for the Vols, but if they continue to develop, they should handle the Thundering Herd without too much trouble.
Speaking of the Undead
The weather forecast is for rain on Saturday, and we all know how well Casey performs when it's wet.
The offensive and defensive lines should be much improved, which will help, and Banks provides a breakaway threat at wide receiver, something we lacked last year. Of course, Banks won't make much of a difference if Casey can't get the ball to him, or if Sanders calls his usual conservative game.
This is the last chance for Sanders in my book. I was hard on him last year, but there's no doubt that injuries caused some of his problems. But a good Offensive Co-ordinator needs to be able to react to those injuries, and work around them. Sanders didn't do that. It will be interesting to see how he does this year.
Fulmer has to take a lot of heat for last year as well. He allowed a couple of hot shots to destroy the team. That cannot happen again. The team is saying the right things coming oput of practice, but I'll have to see how it translates on the field before I become a believer again. Apparently I'm not alone, since, for the first time that I can remember, the season opener still had not sold out 3 days before kickoff.
The biggest obstacle facing the Vols this year is their schedule. Even a squad which improved greatly over last year's effort could still wind up with 4 or 5 losses.
Saturday's game against fresno State will be a real test for the team. Do well, and the season promises to be an exciting one, win or lose. Falter, win ugly or lose, and it will be a long frustrating season.
Vols on top 24-14
Why am I so hard on the Vols?
There is no heart to this team, and I blame Clausen, Washington, and Fulmer for that. Clausen and Washington are two of the most divisive players ever to walk onto the Tennessee campus, and Fulmer continues to coddle both of them. When Clausen made his comments about beating Georgia wih one arm, Fulmer should have benched him immediately. Same for Washington when he told reporters that he was playing for himself, not a National or SEC championship. As long as Fulmer allows these non-performing hot-dogs to go their own way, this team will never live up to it's potential.
Tropical Depression Smokey
Clausen was completely ineffective last night. On occasion, he showed flashes of competence, but quickly overcame them with poor decisions and bad throws. To give him credit, on his first interception in the end zone, he threw to the only open man. Unfortunately, the open man was an Alabama player. Twice he threw to non existant players, although to be fair, one of those was a busted route. His pitches were awkward, poorly timed, and difficult to handle, directly contributing to at least one fumble. He simply was not prepared to play.
Tony Brown and Montrell Jones both looked good. They made the catches, and held onto the ball even when taking a vicious hit. It's too bad Casey couldn't find them more often. Jason Witten did his usual excellent job both catching and blocking. I don't think we will have his services next season; he'll be playing on Sunday instead. Losing Kelley Washington was not a factor, as he is of limited benefit to this team. I know, this puts me at odds with every sportswriter in Tennessee, but consider that the Vols are 2-1 without Washington, and 2-2 with him. Add to that the dissension and distraction he causes, and it seems clear that Washington is a negative.
Running Backs D-.
Until the offensive line begins to fuction as a unit, there is no way to tell how good these kids are, with one exception. Troy Fleming could not block a blitzing pass rusher if his life depended on it. He throws a half hearted attempt at pushing the rusher down, then falls on his face. There was one play in the first half where the outside linebacker lined up to blitz. Fleming sidestepped him and went for a three yard pass. By the time he turned around, Clausen had been flattened. Somebody show this kid some films of Shawn Bryson. Throw in the fumbles, and you get another lack-luster performance.
Offensive Line D-
This is a unit of exceptional athletes who don't play as a unit. They consistently miss assignments, fail to pick up even simple stunts, and allow themselves to get manhandled by smaller opponents. When they come up against a good defensive front, they crumble. They are marginally better at pass blocking than run blocking, but that's not saying much since their run blocking is virtually non-existant
Defensive Line/Linebackers C+
They played well in the first half, controlling the line of scrimmage, handling the option, and limiting Alabama's rushing attack. However, they slacked off in the second half and never got much pressure on the Alabama quarterbacks.
The secondary neglects the fundamentals to go for the big play. The tip and interception was great, but they also gave up several long passes, which wasn't so great.
Special Teams B-
This would have been higher, except for 2 fumbles by Cory Larkins. Dustin Colquitt's punting kept the game in reach for much longer than we had a right to expect; Larkin's first fumble came from trying too hard to do to much, an error I can live with; our kick-offs were consistently in the end zone; and our punt and kick coverage was above average. It's too bad our offense couldn't take advantage of the gift of good field position.
- Why did Clausen play in the second half when it was clear he was ineffective? James Banks showed he could play during the 4th quarter of the Georgia game. Why didn't Sanders/Fulmer put him in earlier?
- Why didn't Sanders know that there was a chance Kelly Washington wouldn't play?
"I didn't know there was a potential for him not to play until Thursday morning."This is inexcusable.
- Why can't Mike Barry get the offensive line functioning as a unit?
- Why can't Fulmer admit that Clausen is a washout as a quarterback?
"Casey played his rear off. There were a lot of guys who played hard, but we're not disciplined and not very functional'' on offense, Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer said.3 interceptions, including a crucial pick in the end zone? That's not playing your rear off, that's playing like a read end.
- Will LArry Slade ever start telling his safeties and cornerbacks to at least be in the same stadium with the guys they are supposed to cover?
The rest of the teams grades are directly affected by the coaching failures listed above.
One thing I don't blame the coaches for is the team's lack of heart. Desire comes from within; you can't coach it. If these kids can't get up for the Alabama game, then there is nothing the coaches can do.
Officiating No credit.
In a season marked by poor officiating, this crew manages to stand feet and ankles below the crowd. Joe Pa would have hauled off and punched these guys, had this been a Big10 game. First, they call an incomplete forward pass a fumbled lateral. Watching the tape, it is clear that Clausens feet are just inside the 38 yard line when he throws the ball to Tinsley. Tinsleys feet are also just inside the 38 and he is leaning forward to make the catch. This puts his hands ahead of where Clausen's hands were at the time he released the pass. According to Bobby Gaston, SEC Supervisor of officials, that is the deciding criteria. The refs blew the call and cost Tennesse 7 points.
Next comes the infamous lateral. Quarterback Brodie Croyle was clearly down when he pitched the ball to Santonio Beard, who was also down. Inexplicably, the refs allowed play to continue, resulting in 3 points for Alabama.
The Vols will go 7-5 this season, losing to Miami, and either South Carolina or Kentucky (probably Kentucky), and will wind up in the Music City Bowl, which is probably better than they deserve.
The Iceman melteth
Forget the bad calls.
Forget Gator offensive linemen tackling pass rushers.
Forget another phantom touchdown.
Forget stolen playbooks and rookie head coaches.
Forget ESPN pigs and Lee Corso crooning Rocky Top.
Forget the weather forecast.
The reason a low pressure system stalled over Neyland Stadium Saturday afternoon was that the Vols sucked!
Letís talk about 16 missed tackles in one quarter.
Letís talk about lining up with 12 men on the field.
Letís talk about an offensive line that couldnít open a hole in a wet paper bag.
Letís talk about a starting fullback who couldnít pick up a blitzing linebacker if his life depended on it.
Letís talk about a hothouse rose of a quarterback whose game falls to pieces if the wind blows wrong.
Letís talk about a wide receiver who can run his mouth, but canít run away from a badly burned safety.
Letís talk about a defensive secondary that couldnít cover two receivers with 5 defensive backs.
Letís talk about an offensive coordinator calling the worst game in SEC history. Since when do you make the fullback your featured running back without moving him to the tailback position?
Letís talk about a head coach who mortgaged the future of his program on a quarterback who simply canít get the job done when the chips are down. Anybody remember the names Ratay, Suggs, Matthews? Can anybody name our current backup QB?
On second thought, letís not talk about it. Itís too sickening.
Bright spots, and there were darned few of them:
The defensive line on the whole played well, rattling Grossman several times. Unfortunately, when your secondary plays 25 yards off of the receivers, the lineís efforts are usually wasted.
Jason Witten was Mr. Reliable, catching everything that came near him, and punishing would be tacklers.
I just saved $200, because I certainly won't be going to the Miami game.
My prediction, UT will lose to Georgia, Miami, and either Bama, South Carolina, or Kentucky, going 8-4 for the season, not including the Motor City Bowl, where, in a preview to next year, they will lose to the perenniel MAC 10 champion, Marshall.
I think I'll root for the Commodores for the rest of the season. They may suck, but they don't quit. They nearly pulled the upset over Ole Miss.
UPDATE: Casey Clausen has just announced that he is switching from football to boxing, where his "hands of stone" will be an asset.
UPDATE again: OVERRATED. The Vols, who were wildly overrated at number 4 are still overrated at number 11. 16 or 17 is more appropriate.