Calling All Seniors to be Leaders

In-state enemy, the antithesis everything Tennessee, comes to town for Senior Day.

Vandy, at 5-5 this season, hasn’t won a road game.

Tennessee, at 4-6, hasn’t defeated an SEC school.

Sounds like an even game.

It doesn’t feel like it.

***

Some can earn their way onto the Lettermen's Wall of Fame with an all-out effort on Saturday.

Love him or hate him, James Franklin has the traditional SEC doormat, fans and players alike, jazzed. Vandy is a typical lowly 2-5 in the conference, but three of those five losses were by slim margins: 5 points to an improving Georgia team; a 3-point heartbreaker to Arkansas; and 5 points down in the Swamp.

Against Arkansas, the Vols became the Hogs’ foil on the seemingly endless highlight reel from this past Saturday.

Franklin is implementing his undergraduate degree in psychology with an effect not seen in Nashville since perhaps the 1920s. He wears his emotions on his sleeve, and that has rubbed off on his players.

Dooley sounds like a cynical, frustrated old man. Has he lost the locker room?

Franklin’s Commodores will be stoked coming off their 38-8 destruction of Kentucky last week. In fact, they were stoked during that game. Vandy’s last TD came when running back Zac Stacy carried eight Wildcat defenders with him over the final six yards of his 18-yard scoring run.

When is the last time you saw a Tennessee RB do something like that?

***

The Vols lack confidence.

Vandy’s confidence cup is overflowing.

"Not in Our House" has to be the mantra this week.

And to make matters worse for the Vol Nation, high-school recruit Andrew Jelks, an OT from Paris, TN (Henry County H.S.), shunned UT for VU last weekend when he committed to be Franklin’s showpiece for the in-state recruiting war.

Riding that confidence to a win Saturday in Neyland Stadium would give Vandy only their third victory over the Vols since 1965. It would also make them bowl-eligible for only the fifth time in their long, depressing history of playing football.

And, it would knock the Vols out of the bowl picture for the third time in the last seven seasons.

***

What worries me the most is the level of fight in this Tennessee team. Is there any left?

Consider General Neyland’s Game Maxim No. 3: If at first the game – or the breaks – go against you, don’t let up. Put on more steam.

Breaks have gone against this Volunteer team so many times that it has left them nearly broken. They haven’t learned to play when the chips are down either.

Which leaves Game Maxim No. 7 – Carry the fight to our opponent and keep it there for 60 minutes.

Based on what we’ve seen of late, that is nearly impossible to fathom.

***

Saturday is the seminal moment for this football team — it could have ramifications into the next wave of recruit commitments/signings as well as the 2012 season.

Saturday is the time for this to transcend beyond a slogan.

Do these players, as people, have the commitment, purpose, and heart to play a full 60 minutes, which is what it will likely take to beat Vanderbilt?

Forget the fact that we lack depth and experience. It’s time to reach down deep and bring up anything that is available.

Anything but a full-throttle effort on Saturday will be unacceptable.

It’s time for leaders, if there are any on this squad, to step forward.

If there are none, surely somebody can step up and at least act like one.

It doesn’t necessarily take a Senior to be a leader. Anyone will do.

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4 responses to “Calling All Seniors to be Leaders”

  1. tk says :

    tennessee football…………things i think but hate to say. i believe tennessee football has reached an overall level of medocrity. by this i mean that tennessee is no longer menntioned with alabama, usc, texas, lsu, ohio state, oklahoma, etc. we are now mentioned in a group such as northwestern, boston college, missouri, mississippi, colorado etc. its where we are. that middle group of college football. we will pop up with a good season occasionally……an example would be a team like mississippi that causes some attention every 7-8 years but then returns to obscurity. we have joined that group. and i believe we will be there for a while. if we do return to that upper group, and that word if hurts, i believe it will take 7 to 10 years to make this accomplishment. things in the college football world have changed drastically over the last decade. now if we lose to vanderbilt on saturday night get ready. for this is the loss that will bring out the group of folks urging to get rid of dooley. and what about dooley? what have we learned over his 22 games here? i think hes a good guy, a good coach. hes upbeat, very upbeat. he stays positive. hes the type of gambler a football coach in the sec needs to be. i think he runs practices excellent. in his early tenure i think his recruiting looks positive. the one area i question is he in that upper group of coaches who are intelligently brilliant about staying on the forefront of the game itself. maybe he can be, not sure he is yet. im not being negative, im not for running him out of town at all. give the man a chance. but this game is much more complex than it used to be with much more things to keep up with. lets see where we go. but i think tennessee is much further down than most people realize. just hope they can recover and not become lodged in my described middle group or worse in todays college football world. but im serious on my opinion of 7 to 10 years. it hurts but thats what i think. comments anyone?

  2. norcalvol says :

    Thanks, TK.

    First, your point about what group are we in. Are we in with NW, BC, Mizzou, Ole Miss, Colo? Or are we in a group somewhere between them and the elite group (Bama, LSU, etc). I think we are in-between, because (1) of our facilities, revenue, etc., and (2) football in the SEC is against the best in the country. Three of our losses were against BCS top 6 teams, one against a decent Fla team on the road (before they lost their QB and fell apart), and two against very good (not elite) teams in Ga and S Car. We also must look at where we are considered in terms of recruiting rankings – consistently top 20 or better. So that puts in that ‘second tier’ of programs. Not the Bamas etc, but certainly above the NWs, Mizzous, and Ole Misses. God forbid we’re ever put in the same sentence with Ole Miss.

    Second, with regard to the Vandy game. It is by far the biggest game of Dooley’s career. A loss, for whatever reasons, will result in all of the sharp knives (already been sharpened) to be raised with purpose. A follow-on loss to Kentucky would bring us to the very bottom of this long slide that has been occurring for years – Fulmer and Kiffin are big parts of the problem.

    Which leads us to third, Dooley. I would still point to the article I wrote come time back, Using Majors as a Measuring Stick for Dooley.
    http://norcalvol.wordpress.com/2011/10/31/majors-as-measuring-stick-for-dooley/

    I think that assessment is valid in terms of (a) where we really are (we are similar to the 1977 era in terms of quality on the field); and (b) even with a proven, top tier coach (Majors), it took 9 years to get back to the ‘top’ – an SEC Championship: 1977 to 1985 was a very long road. And if a top flight coach had that much trouble scaling that mountain, what about Dooley with our current situation?

    The problem is that Dooley doesn’t have what Majors had in 1977 – a resume that included a national championship. Thus, people will not be patient with Dooley because it will be too easy to cast him as the reason we are not back to competing for the SEC East, etc. Majors had the resume (and was also a favorite son) and thus was given a lot of rope — the reason the Vols were taking so long to get back to where they once were was perceived as not because of Majors’ inabilities to coach and lead. Majors had the credibility. Dooley does not. Therefore, the failures of 2010-11 will be put squarely on the back of Dooley (by the fans, not necessarily by hart, et al).

    Which way the big boosters lean is another matter, and one that will be crucial in the near term. They carry a lot of weight, but I don’t consider them having much intelligence with such matters. I think they are as clueless as much of the fan base.

    Let’s say that the Vols reach the bottom – they lose to a good Vandy team, and then fold their tents and get beat by a poor Kentucky team. Dooley will be the target and I would estimate that a half of the fan base, if polled, would believe that Dooley is not the man for the job. But what we have to remember is that Dooley’s current squad has far less talent than Kiffin did. On top of that, injuries to Bray and Hunter took the wind out of the sails because there was no leadership on the field (players) to take the bull by the horns and make sure that those injuries were minimized. that’s the reason for the article posted today.

    Putting it in direct terms, this is the softest bunch of players that I can ever remember seeing put on the Orange jersey — physically, mentally, and emotionally.

    It could be argued that that is the fault of the Dooley and his coaches. I believe that would be a reasonable argument, but for only part of it. Things like that tend to be complicated.

    • tk says :

      after reading back over both of our comments, which i think are in general, an agreement with each other, it appears to me that we are both brilliant…….or we dont know smokey poop about anything!

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