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#1

LadyinOrange

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#1
Ingredients for a Championship(s) run

It is hard not to see the ingredients this team (and program) now have to make a run at the championship, not only this year, but in years to come. At this stage, it is hard to see how the news could be much better for the Vols. Here is what we are being told:

1. Ainge is back to 100% (I suspect he will be named the starter the day before the UAB game);

2. Douglas, Sears, Ligon, and Gandy (upper body) are in the best shape they have been in (we have no reason to believe that Toe, Smith, Young, Foster, Parker, Ash, and Jones are not also) and we are going to basically have 5 returning starters on the OL (two 320lbers, a 345 lber, and a couple of 300 to 310 pounders). From what we know of Rob Smith and what we hear of Sears, Toe, and Douglas, it is reasonable to suspect that we may be able to run right or left with equal success -- pick your poison, either blocking from Sears and Smith or Douglas and Toe with Corey Anderson close behind;

3. We may have the best FB ever at UT. Rumblings are that Anderson will be integrated more into the offense and may have a decision about the NFL to make at year end if he stays healthy. He is basically a super blocking TE playing FB, which gives us nice flexibility if Holbert is healthy (Fulmer has already hinted at Anderson playing TE if needed) -- I have no doubt we will line Anderson out wide on a CB like we used to do with Witten and this kid has more athleticism than Witten did (let the SEC Corners beware);

4. We are loaded at WR and may have three superstar-type players with Swain, Smith and Meachem, without even considering the two Seniors, one of whom (Hannon) has as much talent as anyone and the other of whom (Fayton) is a counter-intuitive play-maker who is always in the right place;

5. Our TB position appears to be in very good hands. In fact, it sounds like we have landed another dynamic freshmen duo ala Hayden/Stewart and Lewis/Henry in Hardesty and Coker -- they both are in great shape and Hardesty is impressing. I look for Hardesty to capture the #2 spot the day after the LSU game and I expect Foster to get ready to play TB/FB in 2006 on the way to full-time FB as soon as a #3 TB is identified (in fact, if Holbert is slowed, Foster will be practicing at FB by the end of October of this year)

6. Our DL is flat loaded. I am very impressed with Vladimir Richard. He may be the sleeper of last year's recruiting class (in the entire country). It looks like he and Bolden are both physically ready to give us meaningful snaps against FL and McDaniel will make this team grossly rich at DT starting in the LSU game. Robert Ayers, Jared Hostetter, and Gerald Williams look like a million bucks physically. In fact, Wes Brown is the only guy in our DL photo (of about 18 guys) who doesn't look physically where you'd want them to be after several years of work in the UT weight-room; and that is pretty amazing with a handful of true and redshirt freshmen. Could it be that UT loses Haralson, Mahelona, Harrell (early), and Hall after 2005 and still returns the best DL in the SEC with McBride, McDaniel, Bolden, Richard, Henderson, Mitchell, Reynolds, Williams, Ayers, and Hostetter? This is where recruiting the last three years will pay-off in a big way. Louis Holmes can come-in and join the party at DE.

7. We are set at MLB with Simon and MMitchell and it sounds like Mayo is where the coaches want him physically and mentally at WLB. Anyone who say Rico McCoy on the video from yesterday's scrimmage has to be excited. In a perfect world, Simon would get a 6th year and return, but life ain't perfect. WRT 2005, you have a starting three who takes a back-seat to no former group, including the one headed by Jackie Walker and Steve Kiner or Al Wilson/Thompson/Emo. One need only watch the 4th down play in the third quarter of the Cotton Bowl to see the type of dominating player Jason Mitchell is. Gaither and Simon get most of the pub, but JM is as good a tackler as we've had and can flat-out run. Now that he is at Will LB, he'll show-off his big-play potential this season. WRT 2006 and beyond, MMitchell gives you a solid player at MLB and Andre Mathis is as highly recruited a MLB as we've signed. Jerrod Mayo and Rico McCoy are as physically gifted as you could ask for in two candidates for OLB -- let's hope they get PT. Ryan Karl, Elix Wilson and Gerald Williams and Daniel Brooks (if they defy the inevitable slide to DE) make for an excellent group to find your three replacements after 2005.

8. Stewart looks physically ready for safety. I don't recall if his freshman redshirt was due to injury (if so, perhaps he can get a 6th year). In 2005, I am thinking personnel-wise we may be as good as we'd want in the secondary. We can't account for coaching, but we have 4 guys who have all been full-year starters. Heffney has to be the only question because of his size -- I don't think any of these guys can be questioned in experience or mentally at this stage. Plus, it is nice to have an experienced guy like Corey Campbell on the bench. I have a theory that the whole reason that Allen was moved to safety was because of poor run defense, not passing last year. After all, in clear passing situations, he was just another CB. If run defense is a problem with our front 7 this year, we have coaching issues, not personnel issues. The SS should be the last worry in the runnin game because he is the last line of defense unless you are defensing the option. 2006 and beyond will bring Heffney back to CB and Campbell to SS or involve an insertion of Morley, Myers-White, or Inky Johnson to the line-up with three returning starters. Hard to complain about the future of the secondary with that talent and experience.

9. As unbelievable as it is, it sounds like we have a chance to be "better" at Punter this year. That remains to be seen, but as tough a critic as Fulmer is, he strikingly has few complaints about our new punter -- ahem -- our new "freshman" punter. Looks like our special teams (at least from the kicker stand-point) is in good hands for 2005 and beyond.

Now, to really break-down the 2005 season, it seems to me that this team's only possible big weakness to me is special teams (excluding place-kicker). If we can solve our issues in the return and coverage game, this team has all the ingredients to be flat-out overpowering.

As we know, it starts in the trenches and the Vols are IM(unbiased)O, the best in the nation in the trenches (ironically, LSU and UGA are probably the only two teams that can come close to the Vols). The trenches are going to be a freaking slugfest in the two games against LSU and UGA. But the fact is that our OL and DL is better than UGA's and our DL is better than LSU's (I think the OL is a toss-up). The other big differences in those games in our favor will be the LB and QB positions (in addition to the secondary with LSU and WR position with UGA, which are weaker, especially UGA's WRs).

Honestly, if we don't get any key player hurt in the running game before Gainesville (in other words, the 5 OLmen, Riggs, Anderson, TE), I see us absolutely crushing Florida's defense. The passing game threat with Ainge, Brown, Meachem, Swain, Smith, Hannon, and Fayton will just make the physical miss-match in the running game worse for Florida.

For 2005, how many teams can say (1) loaded at QB; (2) Heisman candidate at TB; (3) 3 or 4 future NFL WRs; (4) 5 returning starters on the OL (4 of which are studs); (5) possibly (probably AFA I'm concerned) the best front 7 in all of college football; (6) 6 guys in the secondary with starting experience (5 with more than 3 games -- Allen, Stewart, Fellows, Heffney, and Campbell); (7) a veteran kicker who has kicked at least three FGs over 50 yards (including a game winner); ( a punter that has created buzz that he may be better than the two-time AA you just lost and without a complaint from perhaps the most-demanding program for kickers; (9) all these positions (with the lone exception the punter) filled with veteran players with a bundle of big-game experience; and (10) the best freshman class in the nation with legitimate stars who are as determined (and physically ready) to get PT on that roster.

I hate to be overly optimistic, but we are some improved defensive coaching away from having all the pieces to be one of the best teams the SEC has ever seen. With the attitude and physical ability I keep hearing about (and potential) of guys like Morley, Richard, Williams, McNeil, Scott, Hardesty, Coker, Briscoe, Henderson, Mayo, Bolden, Ayers, Chris Brown, Holbert, Cannon, Inky Johnson, Ramon Foster, Colquitt, Lucas Taylor, McCoy, Mathis, Parker, Reynolds, Mitchell (squared), Fulmer has a chance to really have a big-time run over the next few years. We just have to solve the Chavis/Slade problem of getting toasted by passing teams regardless of the talent/experience we have in our secondary.

And, whew, to top it all off, we are going to get a bonus coach this season (Cutcliffe).

UAB is going to get an ___-whipping and I believe the Gators are going to get much of the same.



 

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