Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Recruiting Fix: Running back clutter

Welcome back to the Recruiting Fix. Not as much to talk about today. There hasn't been very much in the way of news, but there are some things we should cover.

This running back situation merits writing about I think. It has even me confused about who is going where and if this guy commits to school A does prospect B fall to us or them. So I'm going to do my best to break it down as far as who is in the running for whom.

I really think David Williams will be one of our running backs this year though I think we would take two. Recently Williams said that Tennessee and South Carolina stand out and that he has a great relationship with Coach Graham at Tennessee. I don't think Williams commits until he takes his official visit. That's reportedly what he has told Jalen Reeves-Maybin. And Williams has yet to schedule an official visit.

Derrick Henry likely ends up at Alabama. I don't know why he would go there with two highly recruited running backs already committed, but that's what I think happens. There is still a chance we can win him over when he officials the week of the UF game but Bama has a big lead.

Henry is also visiting Alabama the week after the UT visit and not announcing until his team plays on ESPN on September 28th. Even more reason to think that he ends up at Alabama.

Derrick Green is somewhat of a mystery. Some say he nearly committed to Auburn on a visit recently. Others say Michigan is going to be tough to beat. I think he's a long shot for us but we are right up there with Auburn and Michigan. He is planning to official here though he has yet to set up a date. Coaches want him here for the Florida game. That's when Henry is coming which is strange to have two top running backs here for the same game, but I think the coaches feel better about their chances of landing Green.

He says he will definitely official to Tennessee and Auburn and he already has a Michigan date set for the Michigan State game. Should be a good atmosphere.

Alvin Kamara likely ends up at Georgia from everything I hear but anything can happen. His top 3 is UT, Bama, UGA. Tennessee will get a visit. Beyond that, I'm guessing. He could fall into our lap if Bryant ends up at Georgia though. It is certainly possible.

Greg Bryant is still out there after decomitting from Oklahoma and I think he ends up in the SEC though I cannot tell you where. Georgia is an option but they are also in it for Kamara which is interesting. Alabama likes Bryant as a defensive back for no other reason than they plan on having Henry, Tenpenny, and Tyren Jones at running back in this class and they are full up when that happens.

Auburn is a possibility as well as it was Auburn fans who predicted he would decommit and then commit to them, but if that happens Green likely lands elsewhere as Auburn would then have Wilkins and Bryant committed and I think they are done after that.

South Carolina is another possibility for Bryant. They are looking for a big time running back in this class to add to Jamari Smith whom they have committed. Don't count them out.

Tarean Folston was close to committing to Tennessee on his visit it has been said. He's a good running back who is going to have a great season. He blocks well, he catches well out of the backfield. I don't know if he's a guy you can hand the ball to 20+ times a game but perhaps we don't need a workhorse anyway. South Florida is high on this Florida running back's list as is Miami. I dare not offer a prediction on where he ends up at this point.

AJ Turman is another 4 star running back we have yet to mention. UGA is high on his list as is Tennessee. Some said Florida State was where he would end up early but it looks like they will not take another running back. He wants to visit Clemson and he wants to decide early in the season where he will go so he can concentrate on his high school season.

I'll only mention Marquez Grayson to say he is probably not a take. I think we land two of the guys above. He would like to be a Vol but I do not see it happening.

In other news Jalen Reeves-Maybin has been bumped to a 4 star player on Rivals due to his work at safety in camps this summer, which is his likely position at the next level. Rivals analysts like his size and instincts. While we are on the subject of Reeves-Maybin, he was nearly unstoppable in his game vs. Rossview Friday night rushing for 343 yards and four touchdowns. Fans in the stands at the Clarksville school sang Rocky Top in celebration of the 34-20 victory.

Chauntez Jackson is a guy we haven't talked about but that is my fault. There is definitely mutual interest. He is listed as a defensive end on most sites but we are recruiting him to play tight end here. The Vols lead and have for awhile. He is also interested in Arizona.

He has good size for tight end at 6'4 235 lbs and would be a good addition to the class. Rivals has him listed as a 3 star defensive end.

Toby Johnson is in the process of narrowing his list to 10 schools. He does say he wants to take an official to Tennessee now but he wants to do it after the season. He and Cordarrelle Patterson speak on a daily basis and he talks to the Tennessee staff once a week. His roommate at Hutchinson is Ben Bradley who is already committed to Tennesseee. I don't see how this guy ends up anywhere but here.

Jatavius Stewart says West Virginia, Georgia, and Tennessee are his three favorite schools.

“My father is a big Georgia fan and someone from my high school went to Tennessee. West Virginia
always had an up-tempo offense that I liked." He told Rivals.

Stewart will definitely take an official to see Tennessee as well as officials to West Virginia, Georgia, Kansas State, and Arkansas.

I continue to see no reason Stewart doesn't end up a Vol. He followed me on twitter which I find interesting and kind of cool. But he's got former teammates here and current teammates that are committed here. I fully expect him to commit to Tennessee.

There is another JUCO receiver who popped up, Jaelen Strong. He is close with David Williams which is why he is now in the picture. They would like to play at the same school.

Strong is trying to get his schooling done by May which would allow him to enroll in 2013. I think it is more likely that he will be an early-enrollee in the 2014 class. No Vol offer yet, but the coaches are keeping an eye on him and will evaluate him in person at one of his games. He is 6'4” 205 and reports a 4.5 40 time.

Myles Autry is a 2014 guy who is teammates with Alvin Kamara which means also that he is a former teammate of Jason Croom. Has a Vol offer early in the process and has some other good offers as well such as Florida State, Georgia, and Georgia Tech. He has a brother who plays for Tech so they are definitely a school to watch out for. 247 rates him as a 4 star athlete.

He is 5'11” 175. Most are recruiting him at running back.

Another 2014 guy to keep an eye on is linebacker Petera Wilson, a teammate of current UT commitment David Carr and Tennessee target cornerback/wide receiver Donald Gray. He's 6'3” 214 going into his junior year.

Brendan Langley who commited to South Carolina recently says he'll visit Tennessee this fall. I don't see anything changing there though.

Receiver Kris Comas is ineligible to play in JUCO this year. That being the case you can basically cross him off of Tennessee's list. I don't think he was a take anyway.

JUCO wide receiver Jonathan Rumph will official to Tennessee on September the 22nd.

Linebacker Jermaine Grace set up an official visit to Tennessee. I'm not sure of the date though.

We are no longer in offensive lineman Dorian Miller's top 3. That's as of now. Who knows if he will official here, but his stated top 3 currently is Rutgers, Uconn, and North Carolina. I think he ends up staying home and playing for Rutgers. But do not forget about Kohler. We have him pretty much in the bag already. Just waiting for his moment in the sun.

Defensive end Demarcus Walker committed to Alabama Friday. He claims Auburn was a close 2nd and I don't see this one being completely over yet. I doubt we land him but Florida and Auburn are both going to still recruit him.

Another guy off the board is Mack Weaver who committed to Vanderbilt. He will probably end up on the defensive line there. I think we were wanting him to play tight end.

Da'Rick only the Latest

No one knows the whole story behind why Da'Rick Rogers is no longer with us, although it is clear the two parties left on pretty bad terms. But with his dismissal from the team, he joins a cast of characters that would make a pretty damn good team by itself of wasted talent to come through the UT pipeline.

Cameron Clear was a promising prospect at Tight End and a four star prospect according to Rivals who was the most recent dismissal from UT until Rogers. His dismissal was for breaking into fellow student-athlete's dorm rooms and stealing high priced electronics, eventually earning attention from Knoxville police. His presence on the team is hard to replace and with a rash of injuries to Tight Ends this offseason makes it sting even more.

Janzen Jackson was a second team all-SEC selection at strong safety in 2010 prior to his dismissal in August of 2011 by Dooley for conduct detrimental to the team. Which in Janzen's case meant multiple failed drug tests.

Some forget how much that one hurt. Jackson had made 22 starts in 23 games in two seasons, and was expected to be a key part of the secondary. There's no doubt that we felt that loss in the corresponding column in the record books.

He was on his way to being a high draft pick should he have come out after his junior year as was expected, but he ended up in Giants' camp as an undrafted free agent and then cut from the team in the preseason.

Jackson was a consensus 5 star talent coming out of high school, recruited by Lane Kiffin.

Bryce Brown seems to be making a go of it in the NFL now after playing one game for the team for which he left Tennessee. He is in Eagles' camp after being selected in the seventh round of the 2012 NFL draft and impressing. His road to the NFL is dissimilar from most though.

Brown was a 5 star talent coming out of high school and the #1 player in the country according to Rivals.com. He ended a lengthened recruiting process which would mirror his unconventional career by selecting Tennesseee after being committed to Miami for much of the year.

Lane Kiffin had big plans for Brown and immediately inserted him into the UT offense, giving him carries when resting Montario Hardesty who amassed over 1300 yards the same season.

It has been said afterwards that Kiffin promised Brown a Heisman campaign as part of his recruiting vows. This obviously never materialized as Kiffin left a depleted roster under NCAA investigation for the head coaching job at USC and Brown subsequently transferred to Kansas State after rushing for only 460 yards in his career at Tennessee.

Then there's LaMarcus Coker. He had all the talent in the world at the running back position and the ability to break one for a big gain every time he touched the ball. One of the fastest tailbacks to ever play at Tennessee, Coker had some electrifying runs during his career which was over before it really ever got started.

Coker was Freshman All-American after leading the Vols in rushing in 2006 with 696 yards on 108 carries.  He was named the starter over Arian Foster in 2007 before getting the boot for yet another failed drug test. He most recently played in the Canadian Football League after a brief trial with the Cincinnati Bengals.

James Banks career at Tennessee began as a five star dual-threat quarterback recruit who saw action in 8 regular season games his freshman year, some at quarterback.

Tennessee saw his potential at wide receiver and he was undoubtedly talented there as well. He led the Volunteers in receiving in 2003 and made national highlight reels with his Hail Mary touchdown catch on the final play of the first half at Florida.

But like Coker and Jackson, Banks could not stay away from the weed and transferred to Carson-Newman following a dismissal at UT. He was briefly on a practice squad in the NFL but never made a 53 man roster.

The warning signs were there for Rogers. He had only to look at the wasted career of his arch-nemesis the Honey Badger for warning of what was possible at UT. Now he will try his luck with Tennessee Tech and try and make the NFL in a manner which few UT cast-offs have. I hope he has better luck than they did. History is certainly not in his favor.

UPDATE: Since writing this article, Rogers has come out and admitted to "a couple of failed drug tests." This will certainly hurt any chances he had of being drafted. I think staying at Tech for a senior year and showing maturity is in his best interest. That's something he was unable to do here especially on the maturity standpoint. There was a very heated discussion between he and Dooley when informed he was getting suspended which made it apparent to both parties that a reconciliation was unlikely.

Monday, August 27, 2012

No Excuses

Derek Dooley is headed into his third year as coach of the Vols on the proverbial "hot seat" according to some. After posting a 6-7 record (which could have been 8-5 easily) with the team he inherited his inaugural year, he is now coming off of an awful 5-7 season capped by a loss to Kentucky and including one SEC win against Vanderbilt in overtime.

Has Tennessee faced adversity under Dooley? You would have to have been paying no attention to think otherwise, and probably no other coach in the country was put in a more difficult position with more pressure than was Dooley. But Tennessee fans are used to winning.

Sure we caught a bad break here and there and there were some forgettable moments towards the end of Phillip Fulmer's coaching tenure, but some forget we were in the SEC Championship game the year prior to his ousting. Yes, we expect a lot. We expect to compete against every team we play.

Some Vol fans have pointed to the roster Dooley inherited which was made up of a mismatched group of walk-ons and freshmen with few talented, experienced players especially at critical positions such as offensive and defensive line and the skill positions, and with good reason.

Those same people will point to the injuries at key positions last year as an excuse for losing to Kentucky. I hear these Vol fans and I notice something a little different headed into the 2012 season. It appears that the apologists are fewer and quieter. The time for excuses appears to be over.

Tyler Bray is a seasoned quarterback who many project as a top 10 draft pick following the season should he decide to come out.

 All those youngsters who started on the offensive line as Freshmen are now Juniors save for an exceptional sophomore tackle who will likely make a lot of money in the NFL one day and a talented senior guard who has been battle-tested and impossible to take off the field.

A running game which was dead last in the SEC last season figures to be much improved with the addition of a dedicated running back coach and an off-season focused on improving the rushing attack.

Yes, we lost an all-conference wide receiver right before the season opener, but we return a healthy Justin Hunter and gain another wide receiver who figures to be at least as good as he was. If we can stay healthy at the position, they are easily still one of the best pass-catching tandems in the SEC.

We were lousy on defense last year so we went out and we targeted a coach who specializes in a more aggressive 3-4 technique that better fits our personnel especially when you add in the mammoth nose tackle who is a new addition to the team and figures to make it really tough to move our line off the ball this year.

We are tougher on defense.

We have SEC talent at linebacker who have been through the hurdles and garnered much praise including a pair of sophomores who will be busting heads.

We have a much better secondary than people give us credit for. The guys who are starting all won their job over other very talented players. They fit our system finally and they are no longer freshmen prone to making errors allowing for big plays in the passing game.

This is as complete a team as I have seen at Tennessee since the late 90's and there is no reason they cannot go out and compete against every team they play.  Winning more than losing is no longer good enough. Expectations should be higher. There are no excuses anymore. This team is built to win.

Our first test will be Friday night. I hope the Wolfpack is ready.

Monday Links: Gameweek

Dear Vols Fans: It’s Okay to Wish Da’Rick Rogers Well

In case you haven't heard, wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers was suspended by the University of Tennessee last Thursday for unspecified reasons. Citing the standard "violation of team rules" head coach Darek Dooley made it clear Rogers would not return to the program for the 2012 college football season. Rumors were rampant that he wouldn't return at all. 

When Justin Hunter went down in the 2011 season, Rogers stepped up and caught 67 passes for 1040 yards and 9 touchdowns. Rogers’ talent is undeniable. It is also undeniable that his tenure at the University of Tennessee has been a rocky one, if you will pardon the pun. I won’t go into the details of the issues as they are well documented and repeating them doesn’t do anyone any good. The relationship is now broken and he is no longer on the football team.

It was reported last night that Rogers was transferring to Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville, Tennessee and had already participated in team meetings. It is not yet clear whether he will play in the season opener Thursday night against Hampton. Rogers will be reunited with Tre Lamb who he went to high school with and who is the starting quarterback for the Golden Eagles. 

As an alumnus of the University of Tennessee, and a longtime fan of the Vols, I hope you will join me in wishing Rogers well. There are some relationships that are a bad fit from the get go and this appears to be one. As fans, we use the term Vol for Life, and call each other family. As with any family member, you disagree with certain things and you get upset with each other. At the end of the day though, we should support each and wish each other well, even when things don't turn out the way we expect. It is perfectly fine to let a family member go and wish them well when the relationship is broken without possibility of repair. 

Lance Armstrong and the Dangers of Liking the Thought of Someone

There is a great lesson to be learned from the Lance Armstrong story. I don't know Armstrong personally so my opinion is formed strictly from my perception of his as presented in the media. The old saying goes "perception is reality" but perception is not the facts. My opinion of Armstrong was formed the minute he left Sheryl Crow because she developed breast cancer. In all fairness, they have both denied this link but the timeline doesn't lie.

As with many professional athletes, Armstrong has a carefully crafted public image. As a cancer survivor, he and his foundation have raised millions to fund cancer research. So ironic. Years later he tried to brush off his breakup with Crow by saying it was all about children and getting married which is frankly unbelievable because he went into a new relationship with a woman who is now his wife and with whom he has two children.

Armstrong's professional accomplishments are well known and I won't recite them ere. He has also long been dogged by allegations of doping. When Armstrong announced he was going to stop fighting these allegations and allow himself to be stripped of his Tour De France wins, there was an outpouring of support for him. I don't know whether he doped and I really don't care.

There is no doubt Armstrong has done some good things in his life. There is also ample evidence he has done some bad things. There are anecdotal accounts of him being rude and unpleasant when the media eye is not upon him. Some people will be comfortable in believing Armstrong is a good person. Some will believe he is a cheater and a doper. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

With relatively few exceptions, most everyone is a mixed bag of good and bad behavior. The degree to which they engage in each is different of course but no one is truly all good or all evil with relatively few exceptions. Ultimately, I think you have to weigh the good and the bad in how you evaluate someone.

I would simply caution that there is a real danger in believing the public image anyone presents. We all want to believe our favorite athlete or favorite entertainer is exactly what he or she presents to us when they know they are being watched. Unfortunately, the reality is oftentimes something quite different.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Thoughts about Titans vs Cardinals

The Titans hosted the first home game of the season Thursday night against the Arizona Cardinals and it was a great opener for everyone. Although it was preseason, the Titans posted another win by beating the Cardinals 32 to 27 before the home crowd. Fans were able to see all the improvements the Titans made at the field, including installation of the two 157’ x 54’ high definition video screens. The improvements were amazing and fans and players alike seemed to really enjoy the improved viewing. the name of the game was defense so let’s get to it. 

The Titans starting defensive rotation played extremely well. The Cardinals are more talented on offense than I thought and the starting defense held it in check pretty well. We still have trouble covering the middle of the field and we give up way too many plays to tight ends. That is an area we must work on before the season opener against the Patriots.

A lot has been made about the Titans defensive line and rightfully so. The combination of Kamerion Wimbley and Derrick Morgan looks strong. They have consistently gotten good pressure in the preseason. While the Cards were starting an inexperienced guy at left tackle Wimbley was still able to make consistently good plays while often times being held and even brought down. He was only credited with 2 sacks but the quarterback pressures were off the chain. It seemed like he got pressure on just about every play. It’s that kind of big play ability the Titans have been sorely missing and his presence is going to let Morgan show his talent as well. 

The backend of the defensive end position looks to be a battle. I have wavered on who will make the roster, Keyunta Dawson or Malcolm Shephard. Dawson has seemed to be the favorite somewhat but he really struggled against the Cardinals. Too many missed tackles and not very physical play. Shephard on the other hand played well. I don’t have a good feel for this coaching staff yet but I would definitely pick Shephard over Dawson. 

Our interior defensive line looks really good too. I have been somewhat critical of Tracy Rocker and perhaps I have been unfair. Marks is playing really well but I would still like to see more playing time for Karl Klug. Jurrell Casey is absolutely wreaking havoc and it’s not out of the question to think he could be an All Pro type player for years to come. Not only is he physical but he plays smart and is a hustler on the field. Not much more you can ask from a player and all that shows in his dominance on the field.

Zach Clayton appears poised to make this roster. He is a big guy, needs to work on his footwork a bit and I would like to see him play with a little bit more aggression. The good news is that he doesn’t appear to have met his ceiling so there is room for improvement. Mark Martin appears destined for the practice squad this year. One of the attractive things about Malcolm Shephard is that he can also play inside so all the more reason for him to make the roster.  

The Titans have a solid linebacking corp but we still struggle to cover tight ends and to guard the middle of the field. What more can I say about Colin McCarthy? The guy is a flat out stud in this group and is such a magnet for the ball. He ended up with 2 interceptions. He also led the defense with 6 tackles and 1 assist. Akeem Ayers is not to be overlooked either. He ended the night with 4 tackles and 2 assists and is very good in coverage and getting better. He is a hard hitting instinctive linebacker with a good feel for the game.

I hate to criticize guys I like and I really like Will Witherspoon, but coverage is a concern. He isa solid guy who has been a great free agency addition but it does appear the Titans want rookie Zach Brown to start eventually. Unfortunately, he struggled a bit against the Cardinals and I cannot pinpoint the cause. Perhaps the grind of his first training camp is getting to him but he didn’t play as dominate against the Cardinals as he did in the Tampa Bay game. He just seemed lethargic at times as well. This is definitely a battle to keep an eye on.

We have a young and talented secondary that is playing well together. I’m a bit unsure why Jordan Babineaux isn’t starting and why Robert Johnson is being hyped up so much. Not that Johnson isn’t playing well he is but Babineaux played very well last year and ended the season as the starter. Right fully so as he showed big play ability in the secondary. In my opinion he is a more consistent player and deserves to start. In any event, whatever shoulder injury Babineaux is nursing I hope it’s not serious as the Titans consistently use 3 safeties and the depth behind Babineaux, Griffin and Johnson isn’t strong.

Not a lot has been said about Michael Griffin but he is very quietly showing why the Titans signed him to a contract extension. He has been solid and I expect he is going to continue to be a steady presence in this secondary. We are also seeing the hard hitting Griffin we knew was there as evidenced by his rookie and sophomore seasons. Kudos to him for silencing his critics and showing what he can do in this secondary.

The depth at safety is terribly concerning. Initially, I had Al Afalava making the roster but I don’t think he will make it now. Now, I think Aaron Francisco is likely to make it before Afalava. I’m not sure what the Titans will do with Markelle Martin who is injured. I expect the Titans to look for safety help once teams start to make roster cuts. We have a real need for another good safety on this roster. 

Offensively, Jake Locker had a better game against a really good Cardinals defense. Locker is a calm guy under pressure and he doesn’t appear to get rattled by pressure or mistakes. Not surprisingly, he needs some work in various areas but he is improving every game and you can’t ask for much more. He needs to do a better job of leading his wide receivers instead of throwing behind them or making them come back for the ball. If he is going to do that he needs to utilize his tight ends as they are bigger targets and better able to do it. 

He also tends to zero in on a particular guy or a particular area and often misses guys who are wide open or who have beaten coverage. This is something that comes with time and experience and I do believe he will get better. He also does need to place the ball a bit better but that’s not something I am worried about. That touch will come as he gets used to the game. I’m also not terribly concerned about release point or other issues you hear some people talk about as you don’t win by style points. So long as he can get the ball into the end zone he is doing his job. Many great quarterbacks had similar issues. It's terribly overstated but really it does boil down to scoring and winning.

The Titans have an extremely talented group of wide receivers. Rookie Kendall Wright led all receivers with 4 catches for 44 yards and a touchdown. Jared Cook was next 2 catches for 40 yards. Nate Washington had a very good game against the Cardinals, finishing with 3 catches for 39 yards and a touchdown. There are other very talented players on the roster that hopefully will get a shot somewhere because the numbers just don’t support keeping more than 6 receivers on the roster.

Craig Stevens and Jared Cook obviously are locks at tight end. Taylor Thompson looks to have the 3rd spot locked up and I don't think we will carry 4 TE's. Cam Graham would get that spot if we do. 

The running game once again struggled to consistently move the football. I watched the replay of the game closely and it is difficult to pinpoint the issue. The offensive line does seem to struggle and open holes are hard to come by. Chris Johnson also hesitated a bit hitting some open lanes against the Cardinals. He did have a couple of really good runs. He finished with 27 yards on 13 attempts. Jamie Harper, who I like a lot, finished with 22 yards on 4 attempts with a touchdown and the play of the game with a front flip finish. 

Finally, one note about special teams, the return position and how I see the roster. Darius Reynaud does seem the favorite but he didn’t have as good of a game as he has had in the past. He finished with 2 kickoff returns for 31 yards average and a long run of 34 yards.  D.J. Woods finished with 2 kickoff returns with an average of 36 yards and a long run of 51 yards. The titans unfortunately lost solid receiver and return man Marc Mariani to injury and he is out for the season. 

Reynaud has played more receiver than running back and protection concerns keep me from putting him at the running back position on my roster. If I were picking, I would definitely go with Reynaud and Woods as the final two WR’s on the roster. Woods shows signs of being a good returner. He needs a little polish at the receiver position but he is fast and shifty. He is a guy who would be unlikely to dress on gameday unless something unforeseen happened and therefore he could watch and learn and perfect his craft. 

I am in the process of updating my 53 man roster so I hope you will check back soon for updates!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

UT releases depth chart for NC State

No big surprises if you've been following practice. In Da'Rick's absence, Cordarrelle Patterson is listed as a starter along with Justin Hunter. Rajion Neal is listed as the starter at running back, Devrin Young is second. James Stone is the starting center. Byron Moore and Brent Brewer are co-starters at strong safety.


Da'Rick Rogers indefinitely suspended

Jr. wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers has been suspended indefinitely from the Vol football program according to a release by UT for a "violation of team rules".

I've been told privately that he failed a drug test for synthetic marijuana, but this was not the only reason for the suspension.

Derek Dooley said in his post-practice press conference that expectations are he will not be with the team this year, but there is a "process we have to respect."

So he's leaving the door slightly open for a return, but Rogers will have to take some major steps in my opinion

Adversity is something every team has to overcome and I guess if it was going to happen, better now than before the Florida game. Stay tuned for more information it is released.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Where does Tyler Bray get drafted?

I've seen the mock drafts and the projections, but we're really talking about an unproven player. Can he make it the whole year without getting injured? I think the weight he put on this offseason certainly helps.

He's got the weapons to throw the ball too. If we can keep them all healthy. We've had the worst luck with injuries it seems. Got to stay healthy. We're talented, but not deep. I think if Bray has the season he is capable of he will go late in the first round if he comes out early. If he stays healthy all season and comes back for his senior year, I think he could be a top 5 pick in the draft.

That is my hope. I hope Peyton is in his ear telling him how important that senior season is to his development. Because if he struggles with injuries at all this year there will be question marks to add to the question marks surrounding his off-the-field antics. He'll slide down draft boards if that's the case.

But I am the forever optimist and I see him staying healthy, breaking UT passing records and deciding against all odds to return for another year. Don't hold me to that though.

The Recruiting Fix: Looking ahead

Welcome back to the Recruiting Fix. Thank you for reading. There is a lot of information to cover today so we will get right to it.

With High School football starting up I thought it would be a good time to start talking about 2014 prospects. Especially instate players so here are a few names to remember and start watching.

Wide receiver Josh Malone out of Gallatin, Tennessee (Station Camp) has had a UT offer for awhile.

His coach is reportedly a big Tennessee fan who would love to see him play for the Vols.

Malone is 6'2.5” 181 and reportedly runs a 4.48 40.

Barton Simmons of 247 calls him one of the top receivers for the 2014 class. Brent Hubbs described him as freakishly athletic.

Malone loves the Vols and has been to Knoxville several times including the Orange and White game.

Has offers from Michigan, Ohio State, Tennessee, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Nebraska, Vanderbilt, Michigan, and Western KY.

He camped at Nike Football Training Camp in Atlanta and was said to be the best wide receiver there.

Not only is he one of, if not the best prospects in Tennessee for 2014, he will be one of the top rated wide receivers in the entire country. Dooley is already on top of this one as he will need to be because this is the kind of talent we have to continue to land. Malone is a key component to what looks to be a real good class next year.

Running back/defensive back Jalen Hurd of Beech Senior Grew up a Vols/Gators fan. He is 6'2” 190 lbs going into his junior year of High School and has already amassed a slew of offers among them Alabama, Ohio State, Michigan, Ole Miss Mississippi State, Nebraska, Vanderbilt, as well as Tennessee.

Some say he is built more to play wide receiver than running back though we are supposedly recruiting him to play running back which he plays currently in high school and it has been said, where his heart is at. A few other schools are recruiting him as a wide receiver. He has been to Knoxville to visit and said his visit was “really great.”

He said that Tennessee has always been his #1 college and his family are big Tennessee fans but he wants to take his time and pick the right school.

"I’ve always been a Tennessee fan," Hurd recently told Rivals. "I stayed a Tennessee fan throughout the years. To have an offer from them is great. You always have that preference for your hometown school."

Supposedly a good student, there should be no issues with him qualifying to play college ball.
He claims that Alabama leads. Winning would do a lot for this situation as it would with many prospects.

Cornerback Vic Wharton is a guy without a Tennessee offer but one the coaches are watching closely.

He is the nephew of Brandon Wharton, point guard for the basketball team 1995-1999.

Wharton is close with another prospect we will talk about and one that's higher on Tennessee's list, Todd Kelly Jr. The two have talked about playing together in college since they were in middle school.

"It's been pretty crazy. He's been talking about me playing with him again," Wharton told Rivals. "We played little league football together in sixth grade and since then we've always talked about how we were going to UT. But, we didn't know we were going to have all these offers, too."

"It's great because I already know Todd Kelly and I know Evan and Elliot from running track with them," Wharton said. "We've always had a friendship with each other and today we were helping each other with our footsteps and everything, with me and Evan being in the same group. It was fun, a lot of competition out there."

The coaches are going to continue to evaluate Wharton though there are likely several players higher on the board at his position.

Speaking of Todd Kelly Jr., this is a guy the Volunteers absolutely must land. He plays at Webb School of Knoxville in our own backyard and is the son of Vol great Todd Kelly.

Kelly Jr. is 6'1” 190 lbs and runs a 4.5 40. He already has offers from just about every SEC school and about a dozen more top schools not in the SEC.

His sister is a cheerleader at Alabama because they have a competitive cheerleading squad and Tennessee does not.

We could go on and on about his accomplishments. I think this guy is a for-sure 5 star player and top 5 defensive backs in all the country and his dad played for UT. He says he's going to play his recruiting out and give schools a chance but I see no way this guy isn't suiting up for the Vols in the future. He's as close to a lock as you're going to get.

Now if things go south with Dooley and there is a coaching turnover, things could change, but as long as Dooley wins as he is expected to this year then we will be fine with Kelly.

Alex Bars from Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville is the younger brother of Blake Bars (future Michigan OL) and Brad Bars (Current LB at Penn State).

He is 6'6” 255 lbs.
He told Rivals upon getting his Tennessee offer "I started off on defense this morning. The coaches told me they liked my balance and my quick feet. In the afternoon they switched me over to play offensive tackle and I think they liked me there, just with my base and my footwork.”

“I just wanted to come up and try my hardest. I wasn't hung up on getting an offer or anything. I'm glad they did though. It's really exciting to get that first offer, but I really didn't expect it."

"It's still really early for me, it's exciting to get this offer, especially from a school like Tennessee, that's big, but I plan on taking my time and going through the process a little bit," Bars said of a recruitment that's in the earliest possible stages. "I've got a lot of family and friends that are Tennessee fans, so getting this offer was a big deal."

He holds offers from Michigan, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, Kentucky, and North Carolina.

His offer to UT is as an offensive tackle.

Certainly a guy to keep an eye on and one we really would like to land, but with brothers spread out across the country there's no guarantee he'll end up at UT. Still a top prospect in the state and one we would love to have. Here's that word again, it comes down to winning.

It's pretty clear Tennessee is looking to build depth at tight end which is clearly a position of need. We cannot afford to swing and miss on one prospect so there are a couple of new names that have come up whom we are recruiting.

I don't know a lot about Standish Dobard other than he committed to Miami fairly early in the process. I do know that we are going after him hard despite the fact that he is committed to Miami.

Dobard is a 6'5” 235 lbs tight end out of New Orleans.

Tennessee is setting themselves up well with a couple of different Miami recruits/commits preparing for severe sanctions to be levied upon them so this is a guy who could fall our way in that scenario.

We are late to get in on JUCO tight end Beau Sandland, but the coaches are trying with him. He is an early-enrollee so he has to make a decision before December at the latest. He plans on taking all of his official visits and says Tennessee is in position to get one of those visits.

Sandland is 6'6" 250 lbs with a 4.6 40 out of Pierce Community College in Woodland Hills, California. His offer list stretches a mile.
The saying goes better late than never and if we can get Sandland here on a visit anything can happen.

Tennessee is still trying with California defensive end Joe Mathis.

Mathis is a 6'4” 254 lb prospect out of Upland High School in Upland, California.

He committed to the University of Washington early in the process before backing off of that recruitment when the coaching staff turned over. Washington is still getting a look and will get one of his official visits.

Mathis claimed a top ten in June of Michigan, Nebraska, Washington, Alabama, USC, Miami, Texas A&M, Arizona State, Tennessee, and UCLA.

The fight is getting one of those valued official visits and putting a good product on the field this year. With USC full, the fight is on for this heralded prospect.

Jerrol Mobley projects as a nose tackle in Tennessee's defense and there is certainly need for another nose to add depth to the rotation.
Mobley is a big body at 6'4” 315 lbs and is hard to move off the ball with his size.

Tennessee stands out as his biggest offer, but he is a big body who can help us in the middle.

"Coaches-wise, they don't lie to you, he told Rivals. “They keep it real. Full, 100-percent honest with you. I like that about them. The stadium is cool. It's not too country, but it's not too city. It's a good balance to keep me out of anything as far as trouble. I like the balance of it."

"Right now, they're on top," Mobley said of the Vols. "Just the vibe. They're good people. Don't get me wrong, there are other schools out there and I haven't hit them, but as of right now they're on top."

Mobley wants to decide before the season meaning if he is a take, there is a chance of a commitment soon.

When asked by 247 what schools were on Donald Gray's mind, he mentioned Tennessee and Ole Miss.

He says Ole Miss is recruiting him the hardest and mentions that he has a lot of friends at Ole Miss. He feels comfortable at both schools, and he would like to take his visits. He would also like to take in a game at LSU.

Alvin Kamara told 247 that he will decide in September, but that's "just a feeling."

When talking about Tennessee, he referenced former teammate Jason Croom, and that he thinks Derek Dooley is a great guy. He says Tennessee is staying in touch.

He talked about his attendance at DawgNight and that he's close friends with Shaq Wiggins and Tray Matthews.

Kamara still likes Bama, and they're recruiting him hard. He realizes two running backs are committed there but is not afraid of competition.

5 star Auburn commitment Dee Liner is, again, in trouble. He was apparently kicked off his high school team.

Supposedly he went off on a trainer for not taping up his shoe properly. An assistant coach stepped in and told him to knock it off or run sprints. He cussed at the coach and threw water bottles around and walked off.

His mother brought him back to talk with the head coach whom he subsequently cussed out. The coach told him he was off the team and planned to talk to the team to determine what they thought was in the best interest of the group.

This is in addition to being arrested last month for criminal trespassing, a misdemeanor.

It looks like we are back in the mix for linebacker Cameron Toney as Auburn has several inside linebackers commited which is where Toney is projected to play.

He is 6'3” 210 lbs but has a frame that can put on a lot of weight.

Toney is still commited to Auburn but the coaches have his attention because he is looking at playing early. He would certainly have a better shot here.

He has visted Knoxville and the visit went real well.

Toney wants to major in engineering and knows Tennessee is a great school for that.

Derrick Ansley is his lead recruiter but he also has a “great connection” with coach Sal Sunseri. This is a kid who Sal Sunseri really likes.

He has offers to Tennessee, Auburn, Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi State and Vandy

As a junior he had 119 total tackles, 8 sacks, 3 interceptions, 3 forced fumbles, 7 quarterback hurries, and 3 passes defended.

Derrick Green has been taking visits including one to Georgia where he had a great time with "his boy" Shaq Wiggins.

He's also been to Auburn which he also enjoyed. He hung out with Rueben Foster and says that Foster is recruiting him hard to Auburn.

His only official visit setup so far is to Michigan October 19th when they play Michigan State.

Defensive end Demarcus Walker has been active on twitter lately. He recently tweeted
“I'm really feelin orange and white lately. Knoxville might need to make some room for me “

Walker is probably just playing the game trying to build suspense for his announcement but he did also tweet a picture of him next to a pic of Reggie White so he's familiar with Tennessee's history along the defensive line.

Recent Ole Miss decommit, linebacker Mario Mathis was on an unofficial visit Sunday to take in the Vols' practice.

Mathis was really impressed with Tennessee. He enjoyed getting to hang with the coaches and really liked coach Sal.

Tennessee hasn't offered and is waiting to see his film after this season because of his ACL tear last season. Tennessee will continue to remain in contact with him. He will be able to go 100 percent in his team's fourth game of the season.

CB Brendan Langley who is committed to South Carolina scheduled an official visit to see the Vols October 20th which is the Alabama game.

Tennessee continues to be in good shape with defensive tackle Rod Crayton.
I told you guys this guy was strong. How strong? How about 20 full-bench reps at 325 pounds, 10 reps at 405 and eight reps at 450?

It has been mentioned that Crayton might not be a take if we land Toby Johnson but I do not think this is true at all. Crayton is a four year guy vs. Johnson being a two year guy and one shouldn't affect the other.

Watch running back David Williams closely especially when it comes time for him to take his officials. He really likes the Vols.

Tight end Lucas Wilson is reportedly considering becoming a jet pilot which could factor into his decision. He recently visited Air Force on an unofficial.

Florida lost another commitment in 4 star guard Joshua Outlaw. Gator fans claim it was mutual.

There is a possibility we only take one running back this cycle if it's the right guy. That's the pitch the coaches are giving to some of these guys, it is being said. I think it is much more likely that in the end we take two running backs given the loss of Davante Bourque -- however we get there. I would not at all be disappointed if we just landed Derrick Green though and shut it down, but somehow I doubt Green would be deterred by another back in the class.

That's all I have for now. Follow me on twitter @Sabanocchio for breaking news and follow the blog @BIYLF so that you don't miss a single article.

Analyzing 2012 Tennessee Vols Schedule

8/31/12                vs. North Carolina State        Georgia Dome (Atlanta, Ga.)         W
09/08/12              vs. Georgia State                   Knoxville, Tenn.                           W
09/15/12              vs. Florida                             Knoxville, Tenn.                           W
09/22/12              vs. Akron                              Knoxville, Tenn.                           W
09/29/12                at Georgia *                                    Athens, Ga.                                          L 
10/13/12              at Mississippi State               Starkville, Miss. St.                      W
10/20/12              vs. Alabama                         Knoxville, Tenn.                             L
10/27/12              at South Carolina                 Columbia, S.C.                              W
11/03/12              vs. Troy                               Knoxville, Tenn                              W
11/10/12              vs. Missouri                         Knoxville, Tenn.                             W
11/17/12              at Vanderbilt                        Nashville, Tenn.                            W
11/24/12             vs. Kentucky                    Knoxville, Tenn                           W

Monday, August 20, 2012

Motivation and Competition: Cornerback position

Welcome to the first in a series of articles looking at the competition at various positions. Let's start with the cornerback group where ultimately I believe the competition will come down between Ryan Mouton and Coty Sensabaugh. Alterraun Verner and Jason McCourty of course are the starting cornerbacks. In my opinion, Tommie Campbell has all but locked up the third cornerback spot and Chris Hawkins is likely to make the team on special teams.

I have always been a big fan of Ryan Mouton and really he got shafted by Jeff Fisher and his coaching staff his rookie season. Mouton had great intangibles coming out of Hawaii and is in the final year of his rookie deal. Scheduled to make $565,000.00 this year but he is being pushed by younger guys most especially Coty Sensabaugh.

Officially listed at 5' 9" and 184, Mouton was expected to provide depth in the defensive backfield and to compete for the returner position on special teams. A kick returner at Hawaii, Mouton had  a good resume for the spot. Unfortunately, he had never been a punt returner and then head coach Jeff Fisher opted to put him at that position at arguably two of the hardest venues to play, at the Steelers and at the New York Jets. He ended up muffing and losing 3 punts that year until the coaching staff opted to put someone with experience in his place.

Mouton looked to be in the mix at the nickel slot in 2010 until he suffered a hamstring injury in the fall. He then suffered an ankle injury on and went on injured reserve on December 18, 2010. after getting healthy, he again looked to compete in the defensive backfield in 2011. unfortunately, he suffered a torn achilles heel during training camp and went on injured reserve on August 4, 2011. Mouton looks good in camp this year, however; he is being pressed by rookie Coty Sensabaugh.

Sensabaugh, officially listed at 5'11" and 189, was drafted by the Titans in the fourth round of the 2012 draft (# 115 overall). A cousin to safety Gerald Sensabaugh who plays for the Dallas Cowboys, Sensabaugh is a speedster who placed 4th fastest 40 yard dash amongst all defensive backs in the draft. He also scored a 27 on the Wonderlic exam. he signed a 4 year $2.53 million contract with the Titans on 5/11/2012:. The deal included a $432,000 signing bonus. His expected salaries are: 2012: $390,000, 2013: $480,000, 2014: $570,000, 2015: $660,000, 2016: Free Agent.

I was thinking about this battle early this morning while planning this article, and I was reminded of Cary Williams, a 7th round draft pick of the Titans in 2008. Williams was a great prospect coming out of Washburn but struggled as a Titan,  couldn't stay healthy and was placed on the practice squad where he was picked up by the Ravens on November 24, 2009.. Now a starter for the Ravens, he benefited from a change of scenery, got healthy and is now a very good cornerback in the league.

If Mouton can't hold off Sensabaugh, I think he should consider how well that worked out for Williams. Sometimes a change of scenery and a fresh start is all a player needs to jump-start his career, and this might be the best path for him. Sadly, I think Sensabaugh may have the better chance of making the roster, but I do think Mouton is a good player who has a great shot at making someone's roster.

Quote: “If you're not gonna go all the way, why go at all?”
Joe Namath

Monday Links: Odds and Ends

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Notes from Titans Practice 08/19/2012

Greetings from the final open practice of the 2012 Titans training camp. Its been fun and I have met a ton of people this year who have been very supportive of me and the blog. Today is a snapshot of what you can expect from the next two preseason games and that is all about the roster.

Guys who are fighting to make the roster got a lot of reps today and that was good to see. You can expect more of the same from the next two preseason games. Munchak has indicated he is going to play starters later but I would be willing to bet you will see some rotation from guys the team is looking at. Add to that an emphasis on who is going to be starting at key positions and you see why devoted fans are so heavily into the preseason.


Really, there is heavy competition just about everywhere. This may be overall the most talented group of athletes the Titans have had in training camp in recent memory. Picking the back end of the roster is going to be incredibly difficult. Add to that the competition at some positions and you see why the powers that be will be losing sleep in the nights to come.

One group where there is a ton of competition is at running back. This is a great group and outside of Chris Johnson there is not a whole lot that separates them. One of the tougher decisions the coaching staff and front office will make will be made at this position.

We are also loaded at cornerback. There are some tough decisions to make particularly between Ryan Mouton and Coty Sensabaugh. I am a big fan of Ryan Mouton but this is a crucial year for him. Has he done enough to separate him from rookie Coty Sensabaugh? Tommie Campbell seems a lock to make the roster.

The competition at tight end is tough too. Taylor Thompson, Cam Graham, Brandon Barden, and Joey Haynos are batting for the 3 spot. In my opinion Taylor Thompson has that spot locked up but that could cetainly change. Joey Haynos is an interesting guy. If he doesn't make our roster I hope he gets a shot somewhere. 

The offensive line is an area  to watch, especially the back end. Roos is strugging a bit, David Stewart and Fernando Velasco had good games Friday night against the Buccaneers. I have written about Byron Stingley and after watching him in practice today I still think he is a guy to keep an eye on.

Finally, I have tossed around in my head who I think will have a break out year and I am comfortable setting on Alterraun Verner. I was really impressed with his rookie performance and he waited patiently and learned last year while he was in rotation. He is the starter now and it is time for him to shine and I fully expect him to do just that. The guy has is smart, is an instinctive player, and looks poised to make a huge impact.