Monday, August 21, 2006

Cal and UT

This ANALysis was forwarded to me from a fellow member of the Big Orange Nation. Thanks bud, Thoughts borrowed from collective study of Athlon, Feel Steel, Lindys, other Vols boards all collated here. Here are some thoughts about the Cal game. Why we might lose to Cal: 1. Cal's defensive line. When we play Pac-10 teams , I usually worry about their skill players but assume we have a slight edge in the trenches. Not so with this Cal team. Apparently they have quietly put together a top-notch defensive line. These guys are big, and they can run. They are also deep , and experienced (I think they return their entire 2-deep on the DL). Add to that the fact our OL is young and grossly unproven, and I think you end up with a lot to worry about--even if we've improved a great deal from last year. 2. Cal's Running game. Cal's OL is supposed to be their weakest link; but their running backs are one of their strongest. We are known for stopping the run, and if we can dominate their OL to the point that there is just nothing there at all , then I think we beat them. BUT if their OL can hang in there just enough to get a sliver of daylight, I think Cal's back is good enough to make us very sad. (I hesitate to even say that, because I'm a believer in football being won or lost in the trenches--but this back makes me nervous.) 3. UT QB situation. We may be great here, or we may be mediocre, or we may suck. Who knows? All I know is Ainge had a REALLY bad year last year, and none of the backups have played a meaningful down of college football. Ainge did score a 32 on his ACT retest. 4. UT defense. We usually manage to put together a pretty stout unit. Sometimes even a great unit. However, consider the following: (a) Gosh, we usually don't play the pass all that well, even when we're good, and this is a Questionable ( pac-10 team which will run a variant of the spread offense; (b) So, we're breaking in 3 brand new linebackers, and our mlb is reportedly not as fast as we would Usually see; (c) unlike other years, we don't have the depth we would like on the dl, and we probably Can't/don't have any really dominating players except harrell. with jt mapu, i am Keeping up hope he will come on strong. (mcbride is a heck of a player, but undersized at dt/de);and (d) cal has a good enough rb that we are unlikely to be able to make them 1-dimensional, which is why we're usually so Successful even though we struggle in pass defense. Why we might win: 1. Arian Foster (AF). He is not the most strikingly impressive back I've seen at Tennessee. However, in possibly the worst UT offense in the past 20 years, he strung together five consecutive hundred-yard games, on injured legs and shoulders. The most important thing against Cal (IMO) is that AF has a knack of shifting his weight so that the opponent never gets a clean shot , and then he always falls forward. We've had some faster backs at UT who might be impressive if they get into the second line of defense, but who drop like an orange-clad rock if there is any backfield penetration by the defense. AF always seems to fall slowly forward , picking up 2 yards even on a stuffed play, and picking up 6 instead of 3 on a mediocre play. He reminds me of Carnell Williams in that sense. Those extra 2-3 yards can make ALL the difference over the course of a game, ESPECIALLY when the OL is unproven and unlikely to make gaping holes. 2. Better execution. I have said it over and over, and I'll say it again. Randy Sanders's problem was NEVER playcalling or scheming; it was communication and details in PRACTICE time. He just wasn't talented at getting kids to execute. For contrast see Steve Spurrier , or Bruce Pearl. Even when they are stuck with players that are only marginally talented, those kids will know EXACTLY what to do and when to do it, and they will succeed because of that. Cutcliffe is no play-calling genius IMO. He is no formation genius , no daring gunslinger, no innovator. He is also no Spurrier or Pearl in the communication department, BUT he is better than Sanders and he will have these players getting the details right and executing. That by itself will make this offense look 10 times better. In addition , hopefully the position coach changes will help, particularly at WR and OL. Trooper Taylor IS one of those guys that can communicate and get players to put out. (we've already seen it a little: "perfect alignment, perfect assignment ," etc.) 3. Defense. I know this went in both categories, but consider that we return all starters from a very good defensive backfield; that we have quite a bit of young talent coming up on defense, especially at LB; and that we always manage to hack together a pretty decent DL. (DL has been sort of the antithesis of WR on this team--no matter the talent levels , the former always overachieves and the latter always underachieves.) They kept our sorry asses in every single game last year, why not this year? 4. OL. This is probably our shakiest and most concerning unit...but they have a new coach , and we do have some talent to draw on, even if most of it is young. And the truth is, IMO, if we can block Cal's DL then we win the game. Period. Won't nothin else mean shit if we can block their asses.

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