Insider Mailing: Here Come The Sooners Edition

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    Neyland Stadium-1-3

    If Butch Jones and his squad of assistant coaches challenged Bob Stoops and his squad to a dance off to settle the mad disses to Neyland that Stoops has been dealing out lately, which side is more likely to get served? – A.J. Toth

    Bob:  It all depends A.J.  Legend has it that Stoops and his clan of football coaching brothers were the The Jonas Brothers of Youngstown back in the day.  That’s right, that trio reached boy band status prancin’ around in their banded-waist/no belt required coaches shorts, flat out OWNING the mean streets of Y-town…even taking down Jim Tressel in his prime!  If that’s the format for a dance-off this weekend, then I have to say that I’m afraid Butch and every individual he can bring to the fight are in for a long night.  However, if the host team gets to call the dance format, well then…hide your children and get ready for a war, because Butch and his crew can Riverdance like it’s 1994!  Man I’m excited about this concept, could have flashmob implications!!!

    Daniel: Tennessee would have to bring in some help:

    Houston

    Houston: Suddenly, I no longer have anything to say regarding this question.

    John: It’s a great question, albeit one I didn’t have the answer to, so I watched the trailer for Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo in hopes of finding the answer.

    Yeah. Still nothing.

    Reed: Butch isn’t a great dancer … but we don’t even know if Stoops can move at all, so I’m going Butch and Co. with the victory.

    When Neyland goes crazy and we beat OU, what is the proper way to celebrate? – T.J.

    Bob:  Well first off, let’s not storm the field!  Sure, the Vols are pulling out of the quicksand that was the last 9-10 seasons, but this is a proud program, and it’s time to act like we’ve been there.  With that in mind, I fully advocate that if you’re in the stadium Saturday evening, and you’re sitting near a Sooner fan, AND Tennessee wins the game, you should get in front of them at games end and say something to the tune of “nice game…hope you enjoyed Knoxville, now get on your stage coach and head back to Dodge City or wherever it is you came from!”  See?  Civilized.

    Houston: I’d say stay in the stadium as long as possible to soak it all in. Sing Rocky Top and chant “I said it’s great to be a Tennessee Vol” in unison with other fans as you leave the stadium. Maybe listen to a little bot of post-game radio. And then head to a good watering hole to celebrate in proper fashion until early Sunday morning.

    But that’s just me.

    John: I’m going to celebrate by going home, hitting the sack and heading out to a soccer tournament in Fountain City first thing Sunday morning. Because folks who organize soccer tournaments are obviously heathens who have no regard for UT Football and or any potential celebrating which it may spawn.

    Where is Dillon Bates? – Ray

    Daniel: He’s still around. I noticed he was on several special teams units in the opener against Bowling Green. He doesn’t seem to be much of a factor in the defensive conversation at this point, which, big picture, surprises me a bit, but remember that he’s only a redshirt freshman and has missed a ton of time with various injuries. He’s a good, talented player. His time will come I bet, but he’s help on special teams for now.

    Houston: Still recovering from the shoulder injury last season. I think it’s just going to take hime some time to get comfortable with it. I expect him to make an impact on special teams this year, but, keep in mind, he’ only a redshirt freshman. He still has a lot of time to develop.

    Hey guys, was it a concern for you to see Moseley and Foreman (two of the vol’s fastest straight line players) getting ran by? Furthermore, do you see Tennessee playing less man to man coverage this week as a result? – John from Cleveland
    What really happened to the Vol secondary against Bowling Green? – Ron

    Bob:  Definitely concerned about what we saw on Saturday in the defensive backfield.  And you know that Oklahoma took notes too, as that kind of deficiency that the Vols DB’s showed (mostly in the first half) could play right into OU’s plan to leverage their speed on the outside in that Air Raid attack.  One thing’s for sure: we need more Todd Kelly Jr. in the mix this weekend!

    Daniel: It was a concern. We’ve gone in-depth this week on various platforms about all the issues in the secondary and why they may have happened, but at the end of the day, it was unacceptable to let Matt Johnson have the eighth-best performance ever by a Bowling Green QB in school history. I thought Moseley and Foreman had bad days, and while they were asked to cover some decent receivers on an island a fair amount, they still can’t get beat that many times if the Vols are going to have the type of year that many expect.

    I think, regardless, you’ll see more variety in coverage this week – and definitely more help over the top, which I think the full return of Todd Kelly Jr. will help with as well. Ideally, the Vols want to rush with four men as much as possible this year and then mix and match with seven guys in coverage behind them, making it very difficult for opponents to move the ball in large chunks. But if they can’t get consistent pressure up front, which they really didn’t against Bowling Green, they’re going to have to have to take more chances blitzing. I’m really interested to see how much of the Bowling Green performance was an aberration and how much of it was indicative of problems the Vols may have consistently this year.

    John: Two thoughts here. First, yes, what we saw against Bowling Green was disconcerting. Granted, there have been injuries, but there’s also legit depth at the position. So, again, troubling stuff. However, secondly, things got a little better in the second half and I have a feeling the secondary will be just fine in the long run. In fact, something tells me that after OU, concern may shift a little to the OL. The season is so manic.

    Reed: I’ll have a full answer for you around 10 pm Saturday.

    How much stock can we put into the OL’s performance when BG’s defensive line wasn’t particularly impressive? – @gmannVOLS

    Bob:  Frankly, after the challenges the o-line has had the past few seasons, I’ll happily take the Bowling Green performance and proclaim it a significant step forward.  Of course the big-boy games still await us, and that will tell the true tale of how far this offensive line has come, but having nearly 3 individual 100 yard rushing performances in the same game is no small feat for any o-line, regardless of the opponent.

    Daniel: I agree with Bob that it it was definitely a great sign to have that kind of success against any defense. But just like I think some people didn’t realize how talented Bowling Green’s offense was coming into the game, some also perhaps didn’t – and still don’t – realize how bad that defense was. It was the second-worst defense in the MAC (a league known for bad defense in general) last year, and lost many of its best players off that unit. So while it was a nice confidence booster and step forward for the Vols, and I don’t want to take that away from UT, they’ll have to step up against some better defenses before we can declare that the offensive line has taken a huge step forward.

    I do like the starting five they settled on, however, and with talent like Hurd, Kamara and Dobbs running behind it, I do feel better about the offensive line overall more so than I did a few weeks ago.

    Houston: They look stronger and they appeared to be on the same page. Putting up 400 yards on the ground is a great day, regardless of who you play. Are they Arkansas? No. Are they much-improved over last year? Yes. We will learn a lot about them this Saturday.

    John: Certainly a step in the right direction. That said, I think we’ll learn a ton more against the Sooners.

    Is it possible that Saturday will mark the loudest Neyland Stadium has ever been? – @foxtjn
    What turns crazy Neyland into nervous Neyland? – @richmon_325

    Bob:  To the first question, I’d say yes,  it’s very possible that Neyland could go “all the way to eleven” on the loudness meter Saturday, particularly if Tennessee gets on the good foot early and jumps out to a two or three score lead.  Conversely, if Oklahoma flips that script and gets out to an early lead that’s more than one score, then I believe the overall vibe in Neyland will range somewhere between uptight and hostile.

    Daniel: Think it can be up there if things go well, hard to say if it can be the loudest ever – that’s a high standard. The entrance of a backup quarterback for Oklahoma, several sacks from Eric Striker or the Vols settling for a bunch of field goals would certainly flip Neyland into nervous mode.

    Houston: Based on numbers alone, I’ll say no. With only 102,455 in the stands, they’ll be almost 7,000 short of the record crowd. Oklahoma will also travel well, so it probably won’t be the loudest ever. That said, it can still be the best crowd ever if they are continuously loud on all three downs and don’t sit on their hands throughout the game.

    Nervous Neyland happens if the Vols trail early and are struggling to move the football on offense. If it starts to resemble Florida from last season, then the crowd could start to fizzle a bit.

    John: I’m going to say no to @foxtjn’s question. But only because I try to stay away from the “right now is the best (or worst) it’s ever been” statements. However, if UT gets up early, I do think it’ll rank right up there as one of the loudest games ever. And as far as what turns crazy Neyland into nervous Neyland? I’ll direct you back to last year’s Florida game. If the Vols fail to capitalize on turnovers in plus territory, or if the Vols turn the ball over in their own territory, Neyland gets tight. I’ll never forget the weird vibe during the break between the third and fourth quarters in last year’s Florida game. That guitar solo (Back in Black, was it?) moments after Worley had thrown a pic. That’s a perfect example of crazy Neyland to nervous Neyland right there. Tennessee had a two-score lead at home after three quarters against a team it hadn’t beaten in a decade, yet most folks were sitting on their hands as they watched some dude channel his inner Angus Young while the Pearl scratched records. Surreal.

    Reed: Tennessee’s 1998 victory over the Gators will forever go down as the loudest stadium environment I’ve ever seen. Stoops was in town for that one as Florida’s defensive coordinator, but I don’t expect Saturday to top it. As for nervousness? One injury, a couple of bad turnovers or busted coverages and Nervous Neyland appears.

    How would you compare Bowling Green’s OL to OU’s? – @fredridiculous

    Daniel: In general, Oklahoma has more pure talent, but less experience on the offensive line than Bowling Green. The Falcons had five returning starters there, while Oklahoma only brings back one player (center Ty Darlington) who has been a full-time starter for an entire season. The tackles – (former Vol commit) Orlando Brown and Josiah St. John are big, talented guys, but have very limited experience. Brown just played in his first ever collegiate game against Akron, so it’s safe to say he’s never gone against what he’ll see on Saturday. This will also be the first big test for guard Jonathan Alvarez and the other guard, Nila Kasitati, has been in and out of the lineup the past few years, but does bring a fair amount of experience compared to some of the others.

    The Sooners lost four pretty big pieces from that offensive line last year, and, frankly, even those guys struggled with UT’s defensive front some (remember Oklaholding?). So Tennessee should pose a pretty big challenge for this unit if the Vols play at the level we’ve seen in the past.

    Reed: The photo workroom in Nissan Stadium was right by the Bowling Green locker room. As I was walking out on the field for the first time, Bowling Green’s entire offensive line emerged from the locker room right by me. I was impressed with their size and reach (especially for a MAC team) and they backed up that initial impression with their play Saturday. Overall, I wouldn’t be surprised if, today, BGSU’s OL unit isn’t better than Oklahoma’s. The Sooners lack experience and struggled at times against Akron. Tennessee should be able to put pressure on them Saturday evening.