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FIRST QUARTER VISION REVISION
Live Today From ETS
Posted: Tuesday, September 19th, 2006, 8:45 AM
by Beano
• Permalink
We’ve reached the end of the first quarter of the 2006 Tennessee football season and it’s time to review preseason predictions then reevaluate.

PRESEASON THOUGHTS
Prior to the season I felt good about secondary and linebacker play as well as the defensive tackle position which I thought would be capably handled by Justin Harrell and Turk McBride with Matt McGlothlin and JT Mapu providing depth. I was concerned about defensive end play especially from a pass rush standpoint. On the offensive side of the ball I felt our running back corps was sufficient and worried about every other aspect. I expected us to talk a better game than we performed from a special teams standpoint. I predicted that we would defeat California in the opener but finish 8-4 with a 4-4 conference record with losses to Florida, @Georgia, @S Carolina and @ Arkansas.

END OF THE FIRST QUARTER REEVALUATION

BETTER THAN EXPECTED

Quarterback Play: Eric Ainge has responded to David Cutcliffe’s tutelage much earlier than I expected. He has managed all three games in a winning manner, has a much better rapport with his receivers than at any time in his career has completed 65% of his passes with 7 TDs and 4 INTs.

Wide Receiver Play: Jason Swain has become a solid leader, Robert Meachem is fulfilling the promise of the recruiting hype and together they have caught 6 TD passes in three games. Austin Rogers and Bret Smith are producing in a complimentary role and Lucas Taylor provides an extra dimension with his triple-threat ability. The unit has also blocked downfield when given the opportunity.

Defensive End Play: Turk McBride jump-started the unit with his switch from tackle and Xavier Mitchell has been a much-needed pleasant surprise. Robert Ayers and Antonio Mitchell have shown flashes while waiting on Wes Brown and Walter Fisher to mature into solid players. The group still needs to ramp up the pressure as X-Man has the only sack for the unit

DISAPPOINTING

Injuries: The loss of two outstanding players and young men like Inky Johnson and Justin Harrell is the nature of football but that doesn’t make it any easier to swallow. Harrell will get his deserved opportunity to play in the NFL and Inky will be a smiling success at whatever he chooses to do. They’re not feeling sorry for themselves but I am.

Running Backs: Arian Foster’s injury and the under-utilization of LaMarcus Coker have Montario Hardesty acting as a one-man unit. He has given an iron man effort but needs rest and a diverse-style counterpart. The unit is beginning to look more serviceable than spectacular.

Offensive Line: After paving the way for a misleading 216 rushing yards versus a shell- shocked Cal team in which Montario’s unbelievable emerge from the pack run bloated the number the front has provided very little daylight. Seventy-nine yards versus a physically-challenged Air Force front and a hideous -11 versus their first SEC competition is abysmal. I set the bar low for these guys in the preseason and somehow they have managed to limbo beneath it.

Return Game: When you average only 12.9 yards per kick return and 7 yards per punt return why even put someone back? Just let kicks go in the end zone and hope punts take a Tennessee bounce.

REVISED SEASON PREDICTION:

This Tennessee team executes better and is more unified than I thought possible after last season’s ugliness. I believe they will be much more resilient as well. I can’t however alter my preseason prediction much if any. Here is how I would categorize the remaining games:

LIKELY WINS: Marshall; @Memphis; @Vandy; Kentucky

LIKELY LOSSES: @ Georgia; LSU

BE CAREFUL: Alabama; @S Carolina; @ Arkansas

Unless we can drastically improve our running game I fear that we will drop one of the “Be Careful” contests. On the bright side we usually pull off one unexpected win per season as well. What the heck let’s go with 9-3 though my brain says 8-4. My brain is like our offensive line. It isn’t exactly performing at peak-efficiency.

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