As we take one last peek back at a game we'll want to forget and wish was never going in the record books, let us at least breathe a sigh of relief that the last two weeks are over.
While it's conceivable that we'll be struggling against Alabama for a while longer, we don't have to worry about LSU for a long time. We'll rotate in Mississippi State next year, and things will be better. Also, even though the Crimson Tide are worlds better than the Vols right now, we're only going to get healthier, better, deeper. All is not lost.
So, even though the past two weeks have been humiliating, at least they've been that way because four of our best players didn't play, because we're in the midst of a long rebuilding process and because Alabama and LSU are fielding perhaps their best teams in storied program history.
Just remember that when you think about how far we've got to go. We ran into a couple of juggernauts this year with a shallow, inexperienced team decimated by injuries. It's not an excuse. It's a fact. Maybe we'll be more competitive soon.
Onto the LOOKS THE PART and BLESS HIS HEART.
Looks the Part: A.J. JOHNSON
For the second week in a row, this emerging beast gets the nod. The 6-foot-3, 245-pound true freshman linebacker led the Vols in tackles for the second consecutive week and made plays all over the field against Alabama. As a matter of fact, he looked like one of those big, fast, hulking linebackers in crimson. More of the game is coming to Johnson every week, and he's getting much better. He now is tied for the team lead in tackles, and he has taken the spotlight from classmate and fellow young LB Curt Maggitt and placed it firmly on himself. When you look at the potential bright future of UT, it may start with Tyler Bray and Justin Hunter ... but it ends with Johnson and Maggitt.
Bless His Heart: MARSALIS TEAGUE
I gave this to Matt Simms over Teague last week when it could have gone either way. Now, even though I felt like Simms deserved the award again this week based solely on the fact that he made us have to burn Justin Worley's redshirt, I thought we've piled enough on the poor kid all week. So, we'll go with Teague. This is a kid I thought would someday be an NFL prospect. Now, he's probably fifth or sixth on the depth chart at cornerback after getting scorch-marked in three consecutive games. After Lanier was pulled for a single play against Bama, the Tide picked on Teague for another deep ball. He's just overmatched. He isn't overly fast, and he loses a step pivoting from the back-pedal, allowing faster receivers to get by him. He's just a liability right now, and that's unfortunate for a junior who was expected to produce and lead. He simply cannot play significant minutes right now, and it's much the same with guard James Stone, who deserves a (dis)honorable mention here. There's time for Stone to get his swagger back. Teague is running out of it.