Will Shelton

  • Tennessee takes the stage in Atlanta today, and the media will unveil their picks for the 2018 SEC standings before the week is out. Georgia should be the overwhelming favorite in the SEC East coming off a […]

  • We tend to overestimate the importance of a previous coach’s weakness. Butch Jones got elite talent to Knoxville, but struggled to keep it there. Potential difference makers from Preston Williams to Venzell […]

    • Did Helton call the plays at Western Kentucky?

      • I think that’s a bit of a mystery. There’s no question he’s been highly-influenced by some really good play-callers/offensive coordinators, but it’s fair to question the extent of his experience actually calling plays himself. If I had to guess, I’d say that he didn’t do it much at Western Kentucky and that perhaps he shared that responsibility at USC.

  • The best highlights of 2016 belonged to Jauan Jennings, and the best highlights of 2017 belonged to Marquez Callaway. When building the case for Tennessee’s success in 2018, they’re a great place to […]

    • I’ve been encouraged by the guys on our receiving corps throughout the jones years. But they were so underutilized. The exception to that is when we actually threw deep to josh malone. And with kamara you could even say that it was warranted to throw to him so much, look at how the saints used him last year. I’m excited to see how a non butch offense could actually use receivers. They’re there and ready to be the cog of the offense.

  • We’ve learned not to assume a promising coordinator will make a smooth transition. When Butch Jones fired John Jancek and hired Bob Shoop, we thought it was the good-to-great move that could push Tennessee to a […]

  • No one reads the special teams entry in a series like this: “We need a new punter, we get it.” But if you’re trying to spring an upset in year one? The third phase can make all the difference.

    #9: Special […]

  • The coaches who hit it big at Tennessee’s rival institutions – Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, Kirby Smart – all validated themselves in year two. It’s a well-documented leap, one great coaches tend to make. The fou […]

  • We moved to Virginia today. It’s a new adventure for our family, with all of the emotions that come from leaving a place you love and going to a new place to love.

    I started writing about the Vols the first […]

    • Fantastic.

    • Brilliant work.

      Take the Gospel and the other good news of Tennessee sports fandom to the heathens of Virginia. You’ll have both an eternal and temporal impact. Our state’s loss is their state’s gain.

    • Nicely said… brings back memories of my high school years playing football/basketball and listening to Vols with John Ward at the mic. Good luck in your new home.

    • Love this, Will

  • So we’ve been moving and I’m just seeing these comments, but they’re all great points. The Mississippi State game in particular was a depressing end of that brief era. Thanks for sharing all this!

  • (Or, what was Tennessee worst at last year?)

    That’s a long list, as you might remember. Or, if you’re like me, you might not. Tennessee’s 2017 season became about the future after the Georgia loss. And when […]

  • Hey, let’s see how Tennessee is doing on the recruiting trail compared to Alabama and Georgia! They’re two of our biggest rivals and were the two best teams in the nation last year, and that’s where we want to be […]

  • “Worst” is subjective, of course. When we did this eight years ago at Rocky Top Talk, “most heartbreaking” was the language we chose. As I wrote Wednesday, turns out heartbreak is also subjective. It doesn’t feel […]

    • On your 1990-2017, I certainly agree with your #1 and #2. Here are a few overlooked- but killer- losses and ties:
      1990 @Auburn (26-26)
      1992 Arkansas (24-25)- The beginning of the end of Johnny Majors, and the beginning of some major, seriously ugly drama at UT (Good to see that, the more things change, the more they stay the same during coaching searches.)
      1993 Alabama (17-17)- Everybody at Legion Field knew David Palmer was getting the ball in that troglodyte offense, and yet, we still couldn’t stop him three yards out.
      1996 Tiger High (17-21)
      2002 Florida (13-30)- Should’ve been the beginning of the end for Randy Sanders, but we got to endure him for 3.5 more years
      2005 Vanderbilt (24-28)- A fitting end to an ugly year (and unlikable team, due to offseason arrests)

    • Others to consider, all time:
      1925 Vanderbilt- Caused UT to can M.B. Banks and led to the hiring of one certain Robert Reese Neyland (who was given orders to even the score with Vanderbilt)
      1958 Chattanooga- Actually caused a HUGE brawl and riot after the game
      1973 Georgia- This was the beginning of the end for then-HC Bill Battle, who thought it would be a great idea to try a fake punt late in the game deep in their own territory. Easily one of the more idiotic plays in Tennessee football history)
      1975- North Texas State
      1979- Rutgers
      1986- Mississippi State
      1986- Army
      1988- Washington State- One of the worst defensive performances this side of Sal Sunseri to ever disgrace Shields-Watkins Field

      • So we’ve been moving and I’m just seeing these comments, but they’re all great points. The Mississippi State game in particular was a depressing end of that brief era. Thanks for sharing all this!

    • So…here goes on my first comment!

      First off, I wanted to let you guys know- particularly Will Shelton, Brad Shepard, and Joel Hollingsworth- how much I enjoy your writing and blog. In a hot take world, it’s refreshing to find substance and civility. I’ve really missed you guys on other Tennessee-affiliated sites.

      Now, regarding the tour of misery….I don’t know if I’d have the 2012 Florida game rated at #2. The reason why is due to what we certainly know now: Derek Dooley is not cut out to be an SEC head coach and CERTAINLY NOT for the University of Tennessee. Don’t get me wrong. That game sucked in every way imaginable, but Dooley’s program- like Kiffikake’s, but for different reasons- was built like a house of cards. It was bound to collapse at some point, and the Vols folding up in the second half like a metal chair at a Baptist Sunday church picnic just proves the point. I will add some dishonorable mentions.

      -2009 Alabama- So close and yet so badly mismanaged. If we don’t botch the final thirty seconds and get (say 10 yards) closer, we win. We also end the beginning of an insufferable run of Crimson Tide national championships. As is, we let Terrence Cody burst through the line and lost out on the last (most recent) best chance to beat the Tide. Additionally, in this rivalry (and in the case of our other rivalries), there are no moral victories. A loss is a loss.

      -2012 Mississippi State- Let me state for the record I have no enmity towards Mississippi State. Good for them getting that win to go (at that time) 7-0. That’s great for them, and they earned it. Regarding the Vols and their talent level (particularly on the offensive side of the ball), this is a team that had no earthly business losing that game. Mississippi State is, at best, a middle-of-the-road SEC program. The incompetence of Sal Sunseri was really hitting its stride at this point during that season. I could have gotten over losing to State, if this was “Year Zero” (2010), but, at that particular point in Derek Dooley’s tenure, he had to get this “W,” and he didn’t. On a personal note, this was the game that I finally packed it in on Dooley. A lot of people wanted him gone after the 2011 Dar’rick Rodgers (spelling?) Bowl (UK), but I thought he deserved a third year in 2012. After a thoroughly unimpressive offseason in 2011-12 (which everybody down here in Nashville began to check out on Dooley), a lot of us stuck with him. Everybody wanted his head after the UF game, and he didn’t exactly keep the wolves at bay down in Georgia, either. Yet, for some irrational reason, I still held out hope. This game proved to me that there is no Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy does not exist, and we’re going to be- thankfully- coach shopping after the season. From this point on, I was done with Dooley.

      -2012 Missouri- How could we forget this cluster??? Electing to down the ball to go to overtime, with 2 timeouts, 40+ seconds to go, and within striking range of a long field goal??? Joel: Your write-up during that time after the game was perfect. I remember trying to decide whether I’d rather have a somber press conference or a Tennessee win. It had gotten to that point. I also remember texting with a group of friends during the overtime periods which Muppet (!!!) would be a better head coach than Derek Dooley. I remember that Scooter and Kermit were both off of the boards, as both easily would have been better than what we were watching that day. I think the final verdict was a tie between Sam the Eagle and Rolf the Dog. Both would have been more competent than what we saw that afternoon.

      -2013 Vanderbilt- This game was decidedly, in my opinion, a very underrated and devastating loss. For starters, we got to hear all about Vahhhhn-derbilt football the entire offseason down here in Nashville, coached by one of the biggest douches of them all, Coach Jimmy Franks (aka James Franklin). Coach Jimmy Franks spent the entire offseason whopping it up about his beatdown of our lame-duck coach. OK, fine. Have fun with it, and you guys keep being you. Meanwhile, our team, while certainly undermanned, had shown fight and improvement leading up to that game. Vandy had already qualified for a bowl (feels very strange to say that, considering their illustrious commitment to losing), loading up on the cupcakes. Meanwhile, all we had to do was win that night in Neyland Stadium to secure bowl eligibility. The game was a low scoring, back-and-forth affair late into the fourth quarter. Tennessee led 10-7. Vandy had the ball at the 33 yard line on a fourth down. Tennessee stopped the Commodores, but, upon further review, it was ruled that Vandy had gotten the first down. It was a very questionable call, to say the least, and worse yet- in both the immediate and long-term future- it was a harbinger of events to come. The Vols thought they had won the game then, but they were now being asked to stop Vandy four more times. They needed to step up and show some heart and pride. They couldn’t do it. On the next play, Vandy went long to Jordan Matthews, who- stop me if you’ve heard this before- was covered man-to-man. How does a future NFL wide receiver A) get single coverage at that point during the game, and B) get that wide open??? Matthews made a 25-yard gain, and Vandy scored soon after with 16 seconds remaining. It was, at that point, Jimmy Frank’s team, showing the class act that it was, decided to stand up on the benches at Neyland Stadium to mock the crowd and student section, something no team had done all year long. Meanwhile, the Vols lost their second straight to Vanderbilt and Jimmy Franks and got to spend their December at home. While seldom remembered and a footnote to a losing campaign, this game, unfortunately, was the blueprint for several gut-punch losses (see: 2014-UF, 2015-OU, 2015-UF, 2017-UF, 2017-UK) to come during the Butch Jones era.

      -2016 Vanderbilt- 2011 Kentucky loss, Part II. The beginning of the end for Butch Jones.

    • Dude! I don’t know how I missed this until just now, but that was a monster debut. Thanks for taking the time. And for the kind words. And for making me go back to see what I said at the other site after the 2012 Missouri game. Not a particularly happy day, but fair, I guess.

      Really glad to see you here.

  • In the quiet of the early summer, we’ve often spent time with Tennessee’s history. Way back in the summer of 2009 at Rocky Top Talk, we counted down the 50 Best Games of the Fulmer Era. The following year we […]

  • While we’ve been kicking around ideas for Tennessee’s non-conference future in football and looking at what the rest of the league has done in that department, Tennessee’s basketball team announced two games for […]

  • Earlier this week we all went a few rounds on Tennessee’s non-conference scheduling habits; I argued if you don’t want to schedule the likes of Oklahoma but you don’t want to schedule the likes of Kansas, the Vols […]

    • To be a big boy, you gotta play the big boys.

      Overall, I think the non-conference schedule should be pretty much balanced. We should keep having a marquee game most years and one cupcake, hopefully with at least an ounce of respectability. You have to have the marquee to not only get respect around the country, but to appeal to the committee choosing the playoffs (I realize this is looking way ahead), and to test your own team.

      Finally a pair of middle-of-the-road types. Ones that the Vols should expect to beat most times as long as the Vols play a decent game. But enough threat that if the Vols play poorly they could definitely lose. Or that rare flukey game where the Vols play alright but the other team plays perfect and wins. That just right amount of a threat.

    • Personally I wouldn’t mind playing a Kansas, Oregon State or an Illinois instead of an FCS team every year. You get a second Power 5 non conference game with the difficulty of a mid major. Deceiving, but it would appear a lot better on paper.

  • So John Adams lit the familiar off-season flame of non-conference scheduling today, arguing the Vols shouldn’t be scheduling the likes of Oklahoma in the future. The Sooners are back for a home-and-home in Norman […]

  • In this year’s Gameday on Rocky Top preseason magazine, I wrote a narrative review of Jeremy Pruitt’s defenses at Florida State, Georgia, and Alabama. The numbers from Tallahassee and Tuscaloosa represent a […]

  • Jason Witten is retiring after 15 years with the Dallas Cowboys. The former Vol will be neither gone or forgotten:

    Breaking: Jason Witten is retiring from the Cowboys and joining ESPN as an analyst for Monday […]

  • You never have to apologize for a Boyz II Men reference.

    Also, that’s a 75% blue chip ratio among incoming freshman in 2019. Great start, no panic.

  • I seem to recall a handful of stories about Kirby Smart being surprised at some cultural things in Athens in year one because he was used to Alabama/Saban.

  • If tomorrow’s game actually is a 1’s vs 1’s, 2’s vs 2’s situation, the release of the rosters today may tell us more about how Jeremy Pruitt’s first team will look than the actual Orange & White Game itself:
    🍊 OR […]

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