Tag Archives: University of Tennessee

2016 is the Year of Butch Jones and the Vols

It’s been 3 years since Tennessee bought out Butch Jones’ contract with Cincinnati. Three years of top 15 recruiting classes, three years of improving records from 5-7, to 7-6, to 9-4. Three years of preseason hype followed by losses that make fans’ hopes rise, but hearts break. There was that Pig Howard fumble at the goal line for a 31-34 loss to Georgia in overtime in 2013, those consecutive losses to Florida and Georgia by a combined four points in 2014, and every loss in 2015, which consisted of a double-overtime loss to #19 Oklahoma, a one-point loss to Florida, a four-point loss to Arkansas, and a five-point loss to the eventual national champions, Alabama. After three years of work, he has the recruiting classes, he has the experienced players, he has the Power Five conference football program, and he even has the not-so-formidable schedule to help him out. Only one real question remains about Butch Jones as a head coach, and it is now set to be answered this year. How far can Butch Jones take the Tennessee football program?

Can Butch Jones end the 9-year losing streak against Tennessee’s arch-rival Alabama?

That game will be played at Neyland Stadium, in front of their passionate fan base. Barring injury, they’ll have the senior quarterback, Joshua Dobbs with 24 starts under his belt, against a quarterback yet to be determined by Nick Saban and the staff who will have a total of six options. Tennessee’s defensive line of juniors and seniors will be playing against Alabama’s offensive line of sophomores and freshmen. Again, barring injury, almost every player that starts for Tennessee will have played in that five-point loss to Alabama last year. Alabama still has its vaunted defense, running back Bo Scarborough, and some of the best coaching in the nation, but if everything holds through the first six games, there has been no better opportunity for Tennessee to defeat Alabama in the nine years since it last did so.

Can he win an SEC Championship and make the CFB Playoffs?

If he can defeat Alabama, the road to the SEC Championship is one of the least formidable in the SEC. Non-conference home games against Appalachian State and Ohio, as well as a neutral site game at Bristol Motor Speedway against Virginia Tech, give them a manageable 3-0 record out of the gate.  The only real threat to that will be Virginia Tech, who’s coming off a 7-6 season and still trying to find a starting quarterback.

The next four games will determine the path of their season, at home against Florida, at Georgia, at Texas A&M, and at home against Alabama. Florida will be a difficult game against a tough defense, but they’re also looking for a quarterback (none of their quarterbacks have ever thrown a pass for Florida), and the game will be played at Neyland. Georgia will be their first difficult road game, but they will be facing a new head coach, Kirby Smart. Georgia is also young on offense but very talented and has a quarterback that won ten games last year in Greyson Lambert. Georgia is very experienced in the secondary on defense, and Smart is a defensive coach. This game will be a grind and a test for Tennessee.  the road game against Texas A&M will be their “trap game,” with a quarterback in Trevor Knight who went 11-4 last year at Oklahoma, and a coach fighting to keep his job in the midst of off-the-field drama in Kevin Sumlin. Alabama has already been discussed above.

All four of those will be tough games, but after them, Tennessee has the easiest four game schedule a team could compile in the SEC, and an FCS school they will soundly defeat. Ending the year at South Carolina, at home against Tennessee Tech, at home against Kentucky, at home against Missouri, and finishing off at Vanderbilt is a schedule that even Cincinnati, the program he left, could reasonably go undefeated against. Mark my words, if Tennessee is 7-0 on October 16, 2016, they will go undefeated through the regular season. Those middle four games will be tough, and I expect them to at least be 3-1 in the Florida, Georgia, A&M, Alabama matchups, but could there be an easier route to the SEC Championship? If he gets there and wins, it’s a virtual guarantee Tennessee will be in the CFB Playoffs… How far can they go? Every piece is in place for Butch Jones to answer the question every Tennessee fan is asking, “How far can Butch Jones take this program?”

So Tennessee fans, as you sit at #10 on the recently released Amway College Top 25 Coaches Poll, kick back and enjoy. You’re about to see the full potential of what your athletic director Dave Hart bought out of Cincinnati 3 years ago. Whether Tennessee has the next great coach in the SEC, or just one in the series of coaches trying to bring the “Power T” back to prominence, everything is in now in place.  You will know which of these he is at the end of this year, which is why, for Tennessee fans I would call it, “The Year of Butch Jones.”

Photo courtesy of Jason Yellin.

Violence Against Women Up, College Football Down

The words of Vince Lombardi are echoing repeatedly in my head, “What the hell is going on out here?!”

We’re months away from the 2016 season kickoff, and frankly, I’m the least enthused about the upcoming season. As much as it pains me to say this, the off-season’s reports of sexual assaults by football players around the country have put a serious damper on my mood surrounding my most beloved sport.

I’m not naïve by any stretch of the imagination. These senseless and cowardice acts have plagued campuses for decades. It just pains me to see campus administrators and coaches turning a blind eye to such disgusting acts to preserve the cash cow that college athletics (more notably football and basketball) have become. The recent scandal and fallout at Baylor University  puts such practices in plain sight.

Before Baylor University, there was the alleged sexual assault by two  University of Tennessee players. The sickening part of the University of Tennessee case is you actually have a football player doing the right thing and supporting the victim. Instead of being commended for standing up to poor cultural standards in the Tennessee locker room, he is instead ostracized and forced to transfer schools. It infuriates me that such ignorance and blatant disregard of life is permitted at higher learning institutions.

When racial tensions were high at the University of Missouri, you had the football team band together for a common good that affected not only the campus, but the state as well.  Where is that same banding together against violent acts against women on campus? Instead, there is a complete 180 degree turn in regards to women’s safety on the Missouri campus, which tragically earned the second-highest rate of sexual assault incidents in the nation.

These women are someone’s sister, daughter, girlfriend, or otherwise. I can only imagine what would be going through the head of a player, a coach, or an administrator if a sexual assault had been committed against someone they knew. I’m assuming the first thought would be to identify, locate and beat the (expletive) out of the attacker. The idea of someone violating a loved one brings up feelings of guilt and helplessness, which lead to anger. Ultimately, those feelings of anger lead to acting upon them toward the guilty party.

In the wake of all this madness, college athletic departments have adopted more stringent player evaluations and are now “more” cognizant of the moral character incoming players possess. It’s all quite convenient at this juncture to take such a stand now. Before the curtains were thrown all the way back, these events would have been simply glossed over and categorized as isolated incidents where things just got “out of hand.”

College Football’s Cover Up

Usually, position battles, preseason rankings, Heisman, and All-American candidates flood the college football airwaves. Yes, these conversations are still present, however you can’t help but feel a little dissatisfied that those same conversations share the same narrative as the disgusting actions that are occurring on campuses nationwide. I feel it’ll get harder and harder for telecasts to cover the latest events of the season without addressing the most glaring blight on the college football landscape. However, the sports media have become quite adept and brushing aside the most important topics to maintain viewership.

The newest distraction of college football is the satellite camps and the attention it’s gathered over the past months. It’s interesting how college coaches and the NCAA are squawking back and forth over the legitimacy of this practice, yet take a ‘pass-the-buck’ approach when it comes to women’s safety on college campuses when collegiate players are involved. Again, I guess it only matters when it hits close to home or it begins to affect the bottom line, whichever comes first.

I could care less about satellite camps. I could care less about which coach is subliminally taking digs at another coach in regards to satellite camps. What I do care about is the safety of students on campus. It should be the primary goal for universities. Students come from far and wide to pursue an education at higher learning institutions. There, students are bombarded with coursework, managing/developing a social life, and self-discovery.

It’s the responsibility of the institution to have preventative measures to guard against violence towards students, but also to treat victims with a sense of humanity and compassion regardless of how it may affect the guilty party involved. Unfortunately, if the guilty party happens to be a high profile athlete, chances are the victim may be discouraged from coming forward to report their attack(er).

Some Perspective

I’m not trying to make a hokey statement about nationwide campus peace. But collegiate administrators, coaches, and players have a responsibility to represent their institution and themselves. I would be ashamed to be a part of a team with players that committed such acts against women. Yes, this may break every team bond and code to speak ill of my teammates. However, as a man, there are certain things one stands for and then there are certain things a man doesn’t.

I’d be careless to think that every situation that involves violence is the same. There are back-stories upon back-stories that either gets the gist of it reported on or the source of the incident isn’t reported at all, and is simply centered on the actions taken place. My wife always says, “There are three sides to every story…your truth, their truth, and the truth.” Somewhere in there, you’ll discover the answers.

Don’t get me wrong, situations that end in violence should not be justified. But if we’re going to combat this trend, we need to understand each situation in its entirety. Unfortunately, there are so many scenarios in which violence against women has occurred. Here’s an idealistic approach- require all incoming students to attend a mandatory campus conduct course during their student orientation. This course would be signed by each enrollee after attending. It would be used as a legally binding document in the event legal action is brought upon a student who violates the agreement, and holding them accountable for their actions. This agreement will also hold students that make false allegations against other students just as accountable.

As the days approach opening day kickoff, my hope is to feel less jaded about all that’s transpired over the past few months and generate some excitement for the upcoming season. I pray that universities, players, coaches and the like can approach the situation of violence towards women with the intention of bringing greater awareness,  higher accountability, and stronger conviction when tackling this dangerous phenomena plaguing college football.

I don’t expect any major changes in the immediate future. However, if college football doesn’t right their ship, don’t be too surprised that the amount of support that elevated college football to the stratosphere of popularity, suddenly gives way and the entire institution of college football as we know it will come crashing down with no one to pick up the pieces.

Time for Ohio State and Gene Smith to Part Ways

By Ryan Isley

The Ohio State University needs to put another head from the athletic department on the chopping block – the head of athletic director Gene Smith.

Stop me if you have heard this before – football players from Ohio State have taken improper benefits and will be suspended. Yep, I could have written that in any one of many months in the past year and it would still hold true.

The latest players suspended are offensive lineman Marcus Hall, running back Daniel “Boom” Herron and wide receiver DeVier Posey. Defensive lineman Melvin Fellows was also part of the group but is out on medical hardship. They all accepted more money than they earned from a part-time job working for Ohio State booster Bobby DiGeronimo, who has since been disassociated from the university.

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