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Talking points: spring FOOTBAW edition

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  • On the Royal Butt-Kicking. So The Papa called a recent srimmage a "royal butt-kicking" by the defense. Mostly he was disappointed with the fact that the offense turned the ball over so many times. Yes, he loves the defense. No, he's not happy with the offense. But here's the thing about the turnovers that you might not have heard because no player was quoted as saying it, which is a very good thing, by the way. Crompton threw three of the interrceptions, but on one of them Quintin Hancock slipped and fell, which made the pick easy for DeAngelo Willingham, and on another some other unnamed receiver slipped and fell, again making it easy for the DB to grab the pick. Other than that, the QB stats weren't all that bad. Crompon still went 10-18 for 108 yards, while Nick Stephens and B.J. Coleman went 9-14 for 92 yards and 12-18 for 63 yards respectively. In any event, if it doesn't ruin them, practicing against our secondary has to be a good thing. Oh, and in other good news about the offense, Ahmad Paige, after The Papa threatened to reduce his role to blocking for others, had seven receptions for 73 yards, including a nice big gainer.
  • Yeah, but the defense. Still, there is no doubt that the defense beat the offense in the scrimmage or that the strength of our defense is our defensive backs. They're getting "better and better and better." Eric Berry is among 42 players on the 2008 Lott Trophy Watch List. The highlight of the day came when Dennis Rogan returned an interception 82 yards for a touchdown. And no, that's the highlight. The highlight was Chavis' sideline response. Rogan also returned a punt 55 yards before being tackled by the punter. Former high school teammate Anthony Anderson ribbed him about it: "You run out of moves once you get the punter," says he.
  • Defensive line. The DL is still a concern, but it appears to be improving. Robert Ayers had two sacks, and Adam Myers-White had one. Chavis:

    We're getting better, it looked like we rushed the passer today as well as we have in a while without pressuring (blitzing)," defensive coordinator John Chavis offered. "We did send some pressure in there but we wanted to see how we looked with our four-man rush, and to be honest, it's the best it's been in awhile. But it's not where it needs to be. I was encouraged by what I saw today though.
    And Donald Langley, 20 pounds lighter and in better shape, is making a push.
  • Defensive ends. The Papa loves him some Ben Martin.
    I love Ben Martin," Fulmer said. "He plays hard on every down. He still has some technique work to do, assignment work to do. Ben Martin is one of those guys you love to coach. You love to be around him as a person, you love to watch him at practice because he's going hard everyday. I cannot wait to see him in a game."

  • Meaner's better. Several fights broke out at the scrimmage. Vlad Richard took on an unnamed defensive lineman, Lennon Creer and Ellix Wilson mixed it up, and 330-pound offensive lineman Jarrod Shaw "chased down" (that's what it says) another unnamed defensive lineman to serve up a late hit.
  • Building blocks. Inside Tennessee's Randy Moore has a really interesting piece contrasting the teaching styles of former offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe and current offensive coordinator Dave Clawson. It seems that Cutcliffe likes to throw the entire playbook at the players while Clawson likes to teach it bit by bit. Moore thinks that Clawson's method might result in younger players getting on the field sooner:

    My main problem with Cutcliffe was his inability to get talented young players on the field quickly. Freshmen make immediate impact at Florida. They make immediate impact at Georgia, too. But not at Tennessee ... not on offense, anyway.

    Consider: Freshmen Eric Berry and Brent Vinson started a combined 24 games on defense last fall. Conversely, the last two Vol freshmen who started on offense under Cutcliffe were Jamal Lewis (1997) and Peyton Manning (1994). Both went on to become top-five NFL Draft picks, yet even they played sparingly the first month of their college careers.

    Why? My theory is that throwing the entire playbook at a freshman – even one as brilliant as Manning – causes a system overload. Most rookies would feel overwhelmed by the glut of information, then frustrated by their inability to process it. Ultimately, their confidence and performance would suffer.

    If true, that's a positive change. He's certainly got a point about Florida and Georgia doing a better job of utilizing young talent, and based on recruiting rankings, our best talent is young.
  • It's the little things. How many times last season did we see Arian Foster run around the edge, gaining six to twelve yards and just being one step away from turning the corner for a huge gain? Let's just say "lots." Well, Foster says that he's dropped 10 pounds and is "a little quicker." A little is all he needs. On the defensive side of the ball, Chavis is emphasizing to his players that they not only tackle, but that they give up no forward progress.
  • In other football news . . . SMQ is rolling out his Absurdly Premature Assessment for the 2008 season. Of interest to Vol fans: Kentucky. Also, Dawg Sports is making a case that Georgia will be next year's national champions. In so doing, Kyle had this to say, which I find extraordinarily interesting:

    Ultimately, if he keeps after it, a quality head coach who produces consistent victories will get that one special player who fits his system perfectly or performs at a different level, and that's what makes a team a national champion. Consider:

    Bobby Bowden won ten or eleven games a year for six straight years, then he got Charlie Ward, went 12-1, and won a national title. Tom Osborne consistently won nine, ten, or eleven games a year until he got Lawrence Phillips, went 13-0, and won a national title.

    Steve Spurrier likewise consistently won nine, ten, or eleven games a year until he got Danny Wuerffel (who was perfect for his offense), went 12-1, and won a national title. Mack Brown won ten or eleven games every year for four straight years, then he got Vince Young, went 13-0, and won a national title.

    Which, of course, leads Vol fans to the question: can that player be a defensive back?
  • But wait, there's more. This, from the Wiz: "Nolan Nawrocki, Pro Football Weekly : The site reports that cornerback Aqib Talib told officials at the NFL combine that he tested positive for marijuana three times while at Kansas. In addition, receiver Mario Manningham acknowledged failing two drug tests while at Michigan." So do some schools, say, Tennessee, for example, get a bad rap simply because their troubles are more publicized?
  • Buy in the next 30 minutes, and get a free gift. Hey Jenny Slater's Doug apparently has some groupies, well, groupie . . . . Roll Bama Roll ranks the nicknames of the SEC. . . . and Spencer's medicine for the impending dull summer:

    Foster parent a sport

    There are hundreds of needy sports just begging for attention. You don't need to keep them, mind you. Just hold them for a little while until your real sports come back. (And by real sports, we mean football.)

    Begin with golf, America's second greatest excuse for napping. Neat trick! Tell the family you're watching golf, turn on the television and then fall asleep in the middle of the day for four hours. When someone attempts to change the channel, say you were watching golf and that you weren't sleeping and can prove it because you know Tiger Woods is ahead. (Because he probably is. See? Golf is awesome.)

    Better still: Go to a baseball game. It's the same as golf, but instead you can pay $75 for two beers, a ticket and the right to nap in the sun, and with the danger of being hit in the face by an errant baseball! The fact that an American thought to charge money for this is why we win wars, citizen.