Vol Junkies is our host this week, you know the drill:
1. What is your thought on Eric Berry’s Heisman chances? Should he play on offense in order to increase his chances, is Kiffin being too selfish saying Berry will not practice offense?
If Berry makes it to the ceremony, I'd call that a success. We can remind ourselves that Berry had a better season last year than Charles Woodson did in 1997...but Woodson's team was ranked #1, and that made a huge difference.
For Berry to have even an outside shot, the Vols are going to have to win at least 8 games and probably more like 9, and they're going to have to win a big one that gets national attention along the way. Tennessee has to stay in the national consciousness throughout the season for Eric Berry to have a shot. Along the way, he'll need 7-10 INTs with a couple of touchdowns, highlight reel hits...and I mean, he's done all of that in one year before. So he needs to continue to be great, because very good at defensive back won't get you to New York. Any big shots or plays on Tebow or Snead would also be helpful.
I don't think Kiffin is being too selfish keeping Berry away from the offense, I think he's being wise. #14 is not the answer to our offensive problems, and he's better served being the best defensive player he can be. At the end of the day, I think you're going to see Berry as a Top 5 NFL Draft pick next April, and possibly even the first overall selection depending on who's picking...but making the ceremony will be very dependant on the team's overall success, and I'll believe that a Tennessee player will walk home with the trophy when I see it. Being that I haven't watched the ceremony in the last 11 years, it'd be nice to see it if EB is there for a change.
2. Do you think Kiffin secretly wishes he would have held onto Tajh Boyd?
I think there's no question, though I still admire his straightforward handling of that situation in encouraging Boyd to go somewhere he was better suited. When we're casting our hopes on Nick Lamaison, it would've been nice to have an additional option of Boyd's talent level to get some looks. I think Kiffin believed in his ability to get a quarterback in 2010 - and the Vols still may get a good one - but also may not have fully understood the limitations of Crompton and Stephens. I hope this is not a painful lesson for years to come, if Boyd becomes a superstar and we're still struggling.
3. Is this the most excited you have been for a football season to start EVER?
I tend to get more excited and more anxious when we're supposed to be really good - the most I ever looked forward to a season was in 2002, with that LSU SECCG loss still fresh in my mind, Spurrier gone and the Vols picked as a preseason top five. I thought we were getting ready to ascend and be to this decade what Florida was in the 90s in the SEC - the dominant team, the one no one else can touch. Richt and Saban weren't famous back then, Zook was at Florida and we were going to win it all, I thought...and we went 8-5.
I am probably more curious about this season than any I've ever seen though, for obvious reasons. In 2006 I remember being terrified of the opener against Cal because I had no idea if 2005 was a fluke or not. This time around, I still have no idea how much better we can be than we showed last year...but there's a little more grace with a new head coach, and instead of being scared I'm fascinated. Even if we struggle, this season guarantees to be interesting...and as a writer and as a fan, that excites me.
4. A quick diversion from football and onto basketball. Do you think that Bruce’s style of basketball is a deterrent to the one and done type players, due to the fact one and done-rs and top recruits are looking for more minutes and to be the center of attention?
Nah, I think we're capable of running an offense that showcases one guy under Pearl - see Chris Lofton 2005-06 - and it was believed by some that Scotty Hopson was a one and done prospect when he came here, so I don't think there's that sort of stigma out there. I think the teams that have the best chance with the one and done kids are the ones who can market success there - like Texas and Memphis - because it's still such a new rule it's taken this long to see just a few examples of guys who've played really well in one year in college, then gone on to be NBA All-Stars. I don't think Rick Barnes or Johnny C would say their programs were negatively impacted by Durant or Derrick Rose. Josh Selby could've been that guy for the Vols, but alas...
I think Bruce's system is great for guys that want to score points and shoot threes, and there are plenty of kids like that out there who are thinking about the NBA sooner than later. I know Pearl hates that rule and thinks it hurts both the player and the program...but I also think Pearl will do what it takes to win.