In an attempt to flex my puny writing muscles, I'm going to be going back and looking at several topics throughout the last season, from Coach Fulmer's firing / Lane Kiffin's Hiring, the Recruiting Wars of the off-season, the Nuke & Run incident, several of the games, the Kiffin - Meyer War, and at the end my overall impressions of all the coaches. Joel, Hoop, Will, I hope this isn't a problem or anything, if you've got your takes waiting in the wing just lemme know and I'll scratch something for the list till the offseason! ;-)
Now, one thing that I do want to examine is the question: should Eric Berry go pro or return for his 4th, and Senior, season at the University of Tennessee? I'll try to look at both sides, though I'm sure we all know the answer to this already from a logical, non-fan-biased standpoint.
Eric Berry, as we all well know, is certainly one of the best players to ever come through the University of Tennessee, which is certainly saying something. In my 20 years of living and just over 10 years of watching the Volunteers, he is without a doubt the best player I have seen at Tennessee -- I remember just one game of Manning's, so there. His ability to cause momentum-shifting plays on defense was unparalleled in the NCAA for his Freshman and Sophmore campaigns, where -- in those two years -- he set UT and SEC records for return yards off of interceptions and was just 17 yards shy of the national record.
Please note, of course, that these are all my interpretations and thoughts on the matter. Living in the Piedmont of North Carolina, I obviously have no inside source, have never met Eric Berry or any of the Vols, and have only been able to attend a single Vols football game due to the financial issue of not being able to spend literally hundreds to get a hotel, gas, and tickets for a family of five. Don't worry, I've got time ahead of me (I hope!) to get to Neyland a few more times!
Reasons for Berry to Stay at Tennessee:
- NCAA Career Interception Return Yards Record: Eric Berry is eight (8!) yards away from this record. This is a major, major record by all means, and we all know Eric has it in him to get this award. He's as agile a player as I've ever seen in the open field, and his returns are rarely those that he just has to step in front of a ball and run straight downfield -- though he has had some of those. He can float like a butterfly sting like a Box Jellyfish. Don't believe me? Read this:
The top prize for "The World Most [Dangerous SOB]," would go to [Eric Berry]. [He] has caused at least 5,567 recorded deaths since [December 29th, 1988]. [His] venom is among the most deadly in the world. [His] toxins attack the heart, nervous system, and skin cells. And the worst part of it is that [Eric Berry] venom is so overpoweringly painful, that human victims go in shock, drown or die of heart failure before even reaching [the sideline]. Survivors experience pain weeks after the contact with [Eric Berry].
Seems accurate, doesn't it? I see no flaws, personally! Anyways, though, I wonder how much leaving this impacting -- and likely long, long standing -- record means to Eric? I know it'd kill me to end up just 8 yards shy when I had another year to do something like it.
- The Legacy at Tennessee: this applies to not only Eric Berry, but all of our players. This isn't a stab at their effort, as they are out there getting banged around for 60 minutes and, in Berry's case, have for the past 38 games over 3 years, but I have to think that these guys are hungry for something more than a single SEC East Championship, especially considering the success of the teams around them in the SEC. In the years Eric Berry has been at Tennessee, the Vols are a combined 0-7 vs Florida, Alabama, and LSU. In that time two of those teams have won National Championships and the third is going to play for one after the turn of the year. Another year presents an opportunity to leave with wins over Florida, wins of Alabama, SEC Championships, the whole nine yards.Or eight yards, whatever.
- This Coaching Staff. Three years ago, Eric Berry agreed to play for Coach Fulmer. Now, none of those coaches are still at the University of Tennessee. That has to be tough, but now Monte Kiffin is in with years of NFL experience under his belt and there are none better who can teach Eric Berry ... whatever it is that he doesn't know. Eric Berry said once that he would have loved to be under this coach staff for his entire stay at Tennessee, and wondered how good the Vols might have been for it. While I guess only Eric Berry and those who know Eric Berry can say for sure, I think that says a lot in his trust and love of the program and the staff.
- Love of Tennessee. I think the dude loves us (he really loves us! *sobs*). We might not have always been the best of fans in the past four years, but ....
Reasons for Berry to Leave:
- His Family: This is first and foremost the reason he's talked about leaving and is certainly the deciding factor in the decision, as well it should be. These years suck as far as economics go and the Berry family has been documented as being hit fairly hard, with both his parents looking for jobs, I believe. I'll go ahead and say this: Eric, if it comes down to making us fans happy and providing for your family, I'll go ahead and step away from the equation. That leads me to the next point...
- He Has Done so Much. Moreso than any Vol I can remember, he made the Year of Constant Sorrow the Year of Watch Eric Berry's Next Highlight. He was the lone bright spot for the Vols, more a Nebula really, and was simply outstanding. He's picked off Tim Tebow -- twice! He knocked the crap out of No Shawn Moron or whatever. He puts the "Eric Berry" in "Eric Berry is the Best Talent in the SEC right now." I'd be greedy to demand more, and while I certainly won't mind Eric coming back (winkwink nudgenudge) his legacy is so firmly entrenched in Vols history that he can do so knowing I will always remember his amazing plays on Saturday afternoons.
- $$$. Eric Berry deserves to make hundreds of hundreds of thousands of dollars. With what we've seen without our team with Josh McNeil (more prayers to ya, man) and on a larger scene, Sam Bradford, we don't know what the future may hold. The money is there. Would I take it? I don't know, but I wouldn't want to say so before the end of a season, certainly.
My gut tells me that Eric Berry is going to head Pro after this year. Whatever the case, I wish him the best and I will certainly become a fan of whatever team picks him, so long as it's not the Cowboys or the Patriots. Sorry, Jerrod, I'm your fan but not your team's.