Friday, August 31, 2007

Thursday, August 30, 2007

How Does UT Stop the Cal Passing Attack?

One of the most talked about matchups of this Saturday's game is the Cal passing game against a young, talented secondary of Tennessee. A lot of fans have asked how UT plans on covering Jackson. I'll tell you this right now - Tennessee will do just fine covering DeSean Jackson, but I'm worried about Lavelle Hawkins and Robert Jordan, who will have far more favorable matchups than Jackson.

So how does Tennessee attempt to slow it down? Here's a diagram I created, with a good bit of explanation after.

This is Cal's base passing personnel against Tennessee's base 4-3. I actually believe we'll see Tennessee play more Nickel than normal, but still, our bread and butter is the 4-3, with athletic linebackers who can blitz or drop into coverage.

First, let me break down the personnel for each team.

On the field for Cal is DeSean Jackson at the X, Lavelle Hawkins (705 yards) at the Y, and Robert Jordan (571 yards) at the Z, or slot. Nate Longshore (QB) in the shotgun with RB, Justin Forsett. Craig Stevens, who, regardless of his KO last season on the opening kickoff, is a good receiving tight end, on the same side as Jackson.

For Tennessee, I have Berry in, not Gaines, but I believe Berry takes the main snaps. Marsalous Johnson will be the RCB, who draws the X in Jackson. You know the rest of the guys out there.

In this diagram, the main thing to notice is the defense is in a Cover 2, but not a true Cover 2. I fully expect Johnson to take a short zone, with safety Jarrod Parrish take a high zone, which creates what's called a bracket coverage on DeSean Jackson. This attempts to keep Jackson, and the play, in front of them. These 2 will be responsible for everything DeSean Jackson does.

On the other side of the field, you have a more true Cover 2 aspect. Berry or Gaines will be the LCB, drawing, usually, both the Y and Z receivers. Over the top, Hefney is playing a zone coverage, deep. SLB Ryan Karl should drop into coverage, as well as MLB Jerod Mayo. They'll be responsible for Robert Jordan and/or Craig Stevens and/or Justin Forsett. WLB Rico McCoy could also drop into coverage, but I believe John Chavis will elect to send at least 1 LB, if not more. In this example, McCoy blitzes off the egde, which brings a 5 man rush.

This is where Craig Stevens must take advantage. However, against a team like Tennessee, where the linebackers are very fast for their position, Stevens may not have an advantage. So, Tennessee might blitz Mayo instead, and zoning Stevens' area with McCoy.

What are the weaknesses for this type of coverage? The main thing is dedicating two players to cover one. This creates mismatches at other places. I imagine Cal might notice the bracket coverage on Jackson, and send Stevens on a route to the outside. If Marsalous Johnson jumps it, then you have Jackson versus Parrish or Nevin McKenzie.

Another problem arises, too. Cal's three wide receivers know the job for each position, and can be moved around freely. Jackson could line up in the slot, where he becomes a receiver running a route in Ryan Karl's area or Jon Hefney's area. One thing is for sure - John Chavis has had great success in the past in shutting down a star receiver. Minus Marcus Monk, there haven't been many star receivers who have killed Tennessee. Peter Warrick in 1998 is a perfect example.

Lastly, the most important key to this coverage is that Johnson, Berry, and Gaines need to jam the receivers at the line to immediately corrupt the timing of Nate Longshore and his triumvirate of receivers. Is this something the Tennessee corners can do? Absolutely. Look at the size of the Cal receivers and the UT CBs.

WR DeSean Jackson - 6'0", 166
WR Robert Jordan - 5'11", 165
WR Lavelle Hawkins - 6'2", 181

CB Marsalous Johnson - 5'9", 180
CB Antonio Gaines - 5'9", 180
CB Eric Berry - 6'0", 200
CB DeAngelo Willingham - 6'0", 195

So, while Johnson and Gaines give up a couple of inches, they have 15 pounds on Jackson and Jordan. All 4 of UT's listed CBs above run a 4.4 or better. While Cal has the advantage on paper, I think the combination of athleticism at the position and a Chavis gameplan can slow down the Cal passing game.

We'll find out in ohhhhhhh 44 hours.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Phil Fulmer Hot Seat Danger Level - Preseason

This will be a weekly Wednesday update. We know Fulmer isn't close to being fired or resigning, but he can't rest on his laurels, either. So, I give you, with my out of this world photo editing skills, the first edition of the Phil Fulmer Hot Seat Danger Level.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Ainge Has Jammed Pinky

GoVolsXtra and Volquest are reporting that Ainge jammed his pinky yesterday on a snap. Didn't sound too worrisome until Fulmer said he "hoped Ainge would play Saturday, but Crompton would be ready." More to come. I'll try to get on the horn with a physical therapist today.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Cal Has GOT to be Kidding Me!

So, an excellent find was linked at Volquest. This video ... I sat in disbelief. This video that was linked was like the tape in The Ring, but I haven't been called by the voice of doom yet. I knew as soon as I watched it that I would never forget it. First, before I get to THE video I'm talking about, show you two Tennessee football game intros. Let me just ... just watch these first.

Okay, now that you've watched how we do it in the 865, watch the Cal intro from 2006. Try to hold your chuckles.

Okay okay okay okay. I've watched that over 20 times and I'm still giggling. Really? Is that it? I'm sure they get a bit more amped up for USC, but come on! It's the home opener! I love the MC. I really feel for the guy. He reminds me of the MC for the high school talent show that everybody is sleeping through. He's trying to get everyone up, out of their seats, and clapping. But 10 people respond. Literally. This is pathetic, Cal fans! I don't mean to pound the whole "Southern football owns Western football" angle, but my LORD get EXCITED! You can actually hear conversations from those around the camera.

What about the fan-created entry line? My high school had around 2,000 students, and we did the same thing. You can clearly hear one guy semi-emphatically cheer "Wooo" around the 31s mark. Is that smoke? From a smoke machine? Or did Joe Camel sit in that section? It's like the fans woke up Saturday morning, and asked each other "What do you want to do today? Maybe we could go to the mall ... or that football game thing."

I'll be able to see this in person on Saturday!

Updated Starters

Here is the updated game week starting lineup as it stands right now. When you take a closer look, I also acted a fool and bracketed Berry at both CB spots. If the coaches can be ridiculous, so can I. I bet this starting lineup drastically changes by our bye week.

Countdown TMinus 5

Friday, August 24, 2007

An Apology

Sorry to those that have visited the site this week to see no updates. I had oral surgery last Friday, and have not felt well enough to update this blog. I apologize for that. Next week is game week, so on Monday, I'll be back in full force. Thanks for coming back!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Monday, August 13, 2007

Game Theory: UT and the No Huddle

There has been much to do about some comments the coaching staff made back in the spring about going to a no-huddle offense for the 2007 season. Originally, the coaches said they'd experiment with it, but through fall practice, it's clear the boys want to run it almost exclusively. Trooper Taylor even went as far to say that they'll use it from the first snap to the last snap. I've always been on the side of fans that needs to "see it to believe it," because a Phil Fulmer staff has never been one to do something like this. What will the no-huddle bring for the offense?

First, what you have to remember is that Tennessee is not converting to a Hurry Up No Huddle offense. It's just the No Huddle, though it could be hurried up, or slowed down, or right in the middle of those two paces. That's part of the theory of why it works. The offense controls the pace 100% of the time. It doesn't mean the defense will see the field more, because Ainge can and will come to the line, assess the defense, most likely look to the sideline for a few signals, and work the play clock down to the last seconds. It's what the Colts do with our golden boy, Peyton Manning. I'm sure if we approach the line, we can have a quick cadence and snap it early, as to keep the defense from finding a snap count rhythm.

Some of this stuff might be obvious, but there could be some Tennessee fans out there who might not know much about the pros and cons of the No Huddle offense. There could also be opposing fans who want to know more about why Tennessee is trying this junk. Anyway, with my super mad skills with the AS Football Play Editor and GIMP, I made a couple examples for you all.

PLAY 1: 3rd and 2

As you can see, I was a bit liberal with the personnel on the field. O'Neal and Vinson probably won't see the field together very much, unless Vinson comes on over the next 3 weeks. However, this would be something Cutcliffe could call on 3rd and 2. This is your typical pulling guard run play. Obviously LaMarcus Coker won't be the running back, unless he gets his crap together. Coker's absence has a huge impact on the No Huddle, but that's for another time. Anyway, McClendon or Foster or Scott, whoever is the right guard, for this play, will pull to the left side and act as a lead blocker for the running back. With the right performance, Tennessee gets the 2 yards to continue the drive. The defense, after 3 downs (if this is the first 1st down of the drive) will be a bit tired. We don't huddle, and run something like this.

PLAY 2: 1st and 10

Tennessee is able to, with the same personnel, go from a power run game to a speed passing game without huddling. The defense, which I now realize I should have added into the diagrams, will still have personnel for their 4-3, 3-4, 5-2, whatever run defense set they use, and will be a bit tired. You slide Coker to the slot (again, not anymore, so Foster or Hardesty), you move Cottam from TE to the slot. Now you have a huge advantage. I have Cottom running a seam route to get matched up against a smaller safety. Cottom is 6'8" 240ish and runs a 4.6 40. Our possession type TE, Chris Brown runs a simple 7 yard cross. Coker, now in the slot, runs a 8-9 yard hook, matched up against either a safety or an OLB. Makes me excited for 7 points. O'Neal and Vinson, speed demons, can run almost any routes because they are weirdly secondary here. Vinson could run a quick in, O'Neal a go route. Doesn't matter. Cottom and Coker have the mismatches.

I know these may seem very elementary to some, but for others, this helps, I hope. You could use these 2 plays in reverse, as well. On 3rd and middle-to-long yardage, run the pass play, then after you get the 1st down, run it to the pass-rush-specialist side. It sounds too easy, but there is a lot of timing and knowledge needed at every position to make it work. With an experienced QB, experienced RBs, TEs, and OL, Tennessee has most of the puzzle. Now, we just need some reliable receivers.

If this entry did nothing for you, let me know.

Countdown TMinus 19

Friday, August 10, 2007

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Countdown TMinus 24

LaMarcus Coker Suspended

While I haven't posted much about fall practice (mostly due to there being 4 days of work without pads or contact), but there was a lot of positive feedback from the work through Monday. It wasn't just coachspeak, either. I've been following the Volunteers since I can remember, and I can't recall this kind of talk from players before. This team sounds just like that - a team. In the past, it's been the parts, not the whole. This fall it sounds different. And then, today, a kick to the nuts, a shot to the gut, and many other painful attacks to sensitive areas of the body. LaMarcus Coker, speed extraordinaire, was suspended indefinitely today after his 3rd positive drug test, which was marijuana from what sources have said.

Coker led the Volunteer football team with over 600 yards last season, and was considered the most dynamic playmaker on the UT offense going into 2007. He averaged over 6 yards per carry last season, and Coach Cutcliffe was working with him in different spots to get him the ball more, specifically, work as a slot receiver.

Just four days ago, Volquest had an exceptional story on LaMarcus chocked full of quotes from Coker about his maturity. Things like:

"I've got to be more consistent in everything, not just football."

"Coming into college, you've got a lot of freedom, and there's a lot of distractions. It took a little time for me to adjust and mature. As far as the football thing, of course you're going to mature on the field quicker. Off the field, I had to take into consideration that I am here to go to school and start zeroing in on doing those things."

"It's time to focus on the new season. People make mistakes and things happen, but my main focus is always going to be to do things right. I'm never going to focus on doing things wrong."

Even his roommate Ricardo Kemp bought into it. "I'm telling you. He's so much more focused this year," Kemp said.

These quotes are from that very good Volquest article mentioned above. Coaches have praised Coker this summer and first 4 days of practice for working hard everyday.

And now this. Damnit, LaMarcus! Screw that head on straight, man!

So, how long is he out? It depends. Fulmer, at first, was quite vague, saying he just needed to fulfill his obligations to the program. How long does that take? Who knows. Fulmer's latest quote makes it a little more clear, in my mind.

"He's got to go through the process," Fulmer said. "I can't tell you whether it's going to be a week, two weeks or a month. I'm really not going to talk about it more until I know more about the whole scenario."

He says he doesn't know, but it definitely sounds like he has his own expectation for a timetable, IF LaMarcus takes it upon himself to do the work. Could he be back for Cal? Possibly, but I doubt it. If I was a betting man, and I am, I'd say we hear about Coker's reinstatement before Florida, but he doesn't play much, if at all.

The "work" Coker has to do is to attend counseling programs, then get the okay from Mike Hamilton, then face any additional consequences from Coach Fulmer. Could be into October before we see Coker on the field.

How does this effect the football team? Somewhere between a little and a lot. It's not devastating, due to the fact that Arian Foster has been a man on a mission since his costly fumble versus Penn State, and Montario Hardesty is 100% healed from his torn ACL and following surgery. Lennon Creer is the kind of freshman who can make an immediate impact.

Still, Coker made Vol fans drool in 2006 with his electrifying, untouched 80+ yard runs. All he needed was to focus, stay healthy, and he'd be an all-purpose, shoulder-the-load type running back. Now he's on the sideline, again. One thing is for sure: this is the first time I can remember where I know the team will respond well to the adversity.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Monday, August 06, 2007

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Friday, August 03, 2007

Countdown TMinus 29

Fall practice starts today at 3:40 EST! I believe this weekend's work is sans pads, so don't expect much from the coaches besides, "He looks the part," and, "Football is played with pads."

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Loathed Enemy Coaches: Bottom to Top Part 2

We continue with our incredibly dumb idea of ranking Tennessee's 12 opponents' head coaches in order of least hatred to OMFGIWANT2KILLYOUNOW hatred. Like I said before, any reason I can think will be included in my rationale for this list. I ended last week with Louisiana's head coach Rickey Bustle at #7. I made myself snort while doing it, but I doubt anyone else did. Onward, to the top half.

6. Houston Nutt - Arkansas
I think I would actually rank Nutt higher if not for the circus that's come to Fayetteville. I feel sorry for him, honestly. Sure, he's insane, but he has that "mentally-handcapped-but-not-so-handicapped" look about him. Still, he lands in the upper half of this list because he had the audacity to sign a Dick and a Johnson, all the while being named Nutt. Why is that a bad thing? It wasn't ... at first. Not until every single John Q. Fute-bawl fan figured it out. It's like the Chuck Norris jokes, but not clever anymore. I also find that a person who names all of their children with names beginning with the same letter as the parent, have a complex. Houston Nutt's 4 kids: Haven, Hannah, Hailey, and the effing cherry on top, Houston the 3rd. What the hell is that about? What if your name was Xavier Nutt? What would yo do then, genius?

5. Jeff Tedford - California
You know, he seems like a nice enough guy, I guess, but like I've said over and over, I have a lot of reasons, which might not be the fault of the coach, that make me despise the coach. Tedford is generally heralded as God in Berkeley (which, in itself, is a freaking "does not compute" moment for me). Cal-Berkeley fans (1 dollar to Les Miles) continually assert that Tedford is one of the 10 best coaches in college football. Yeah, it pisses me off, too. He's done a good job with a dead program. Great, a lot of coaches have done that. However, it doesn't automatically put you in the upper echelon. There are two hills to climb in college football: the first, get good; the second, get great. Tedford and the Bears are beginning the climb for the 2nd one, but are still years away. I actually predict in 2 years, I'll be writing an entry called, "Can Tedford Really Take Cal to the Top?" Bookmark it, I guess. Anyway, his team came into Neyland Stadium, simultaneously crapped themselves, and went home. And for that, Coach Tedford, I don't like you.

4. Mark Richt - Georgia
With the introduction of Urban Meyer, and the re-introductions of the OBC and the Liar, Richt drops down the line. Without those 3, he'd be Enemy #1, but only because he wins in Neyland Stadium more than Rick Clausen did. Richt doesn't have that grating personality or the jokes to get a rise out of you. He just is flat out better than our head coach, and for that, I dislike him. Munson's call in the 2001 game adds to my dislike of Richt, as does Mark's timeless combover. The absolute best thing about combovers, and I see it's happening to Mark's already, is that it makes it all the more obvious when your hair begins to thin and your hairline begins to recede. I hope Richt one day embraces the bald combover style.

Regardless of his wavy hair, he brought Georgia back to the college football world, and is 3-0 in Knoxville. He's 4-2 overall against our guy, with a couple of blowouts in there. I think he'll fall down the list if we beat the Dawgs in Knoxville this season.

3. Urban Meyer - Florida
It seems a bit strange to have him here, as most Tennessee fans hate the piss out of Urban. Plus, he's the head coach at Florida, after a national title. The top 3 on this list are so close in hatred, that Meyer at 3 is more like Meyer at 1c. He's begun to put to action the Phil Fulmer Theories on Discipline, but he takes it beyond what we've seen. He suspends players for Western Carolina and Southern Miss, but they somehow play against Tennessee and LSU. He cries, moans, and bitches when anything goes against him, even if it greatly benefits say, 2,000 high school seniors. I hate the way he talks, by the way. It's kind of womanly, quivery, at times. How tall is this guy? I feel like Big Bird is coaching the Gators. He's 2-0 against Tennessee (not a surprise there - thanks CPF). His daughter is insane hot, though, so that helps his case. Overall, he's a poor disciplinarian, he's selfish, and he isn't quite a man.

2. Steve Spurrier - South Carolina
The most hated man in Tennessee from 1990 through 2001, Spurrier won many many many games over our best decade of Vols ever. Peyton Manning was 0-3 as a starter against Spurrier's squads. The OBC cracked jokes at our expense, which, to be fair, were hilarious and spot on. I think most UT fans would still rank him as the #1 on this list, but he's more fun at South Carolina, where he actually loses some games. He's less intimidating there, and he's held back his remarks about UT, well, because neither team has been very good the last 2 seasons. If South Carolina wins the division, expect the Spurrier insults to return, and for the OBC to jump back to #1.

1. Nick Saban - Alabama
Combine our biggest rival school with a lying, successful coach, and you have the #1 most hated coach in Tennessee. Alabama has not been Alabama for around 10 years now, so the hatred of the program has decreased. But this move is like the Devil merging with the SuperDevil.

Saban has already ruffled the NCAA's feathers with alleged secondary recruiting violations, whilst also calling out other SEC coaches, urging them not to turn each other in. On a completely unrelated note that has nothing to do with the prior sentence, Nick Saban was reported to be the most "turned in" coach in the SEC. In the end, Coach Saban comes off as a slimeball, and coaches at an institution full of slimeballs. Plus, he never has time for this shit.

I'm a Copy Cat

I noticed no Vol bloggers jumped on the bandwagon of posting daily pictures with countdowns to opening Saturday. So, I've decided to be the copy cat for our Tennessee contingency. Here is the first installment. We're close!