Tomorrow night Tennessee will wrap up the first full weekend of college football in the second Chick-fil-A Kickoff game in Atlanta’s new stadium, against Georgia Tech. Vols head coach Butch Jones is looking forward to the game, but is already suggesting the Yellow Jackets may have the edge by experiencing the brand new football mecca in person for a full practice session.
“They already have an advantage on us because we were told that they were inside the dome practicing with full pads for a two-hour practice (Tuesday),” Jones said, according to the Associated Press. “They got a phone call. We’ll have to make the most of our walkthrough on Sunday when we get there, and I know our players are looking forward to it.”
How much of an advantage it is for Georgia Tech allegedly getting a practice in at the new stadium remains in question, but the allure of a brand new stadium is something to be at least mildly concerned about. The fancy video screen wrapping around the stadium could draw wandering eyes at times, but when the game begins the focus is still on what is happening on the field.
Georgia Tech getting a chance to workout on the field is hardly surprising giving the distance between the new stadium and Georgia Tech’s campus. And why wouldn’t Georgia Tech want to take advantage of the opportunity to get in some reps at the new stadium when given the chance?
Tennessee’s biggest problem won’t be that Georgia Tech got to practice in the stadium already as much as it will be trying to slow down the signature triple option offense employed by Georgia Tech, and overcoming the loss of a pair of key starters.
When you really think about it, a watch list for a college football award is nothing more than a way to keep public relations staffers in college football programs busy this summer. There’s nothing wrong with that, and it is nice to have a number of key players for the upcoming season highlighted whenever possible (unless you are a Big Ten team going to Big Ten media days). But a watch list is generally pretty pointles sin the long run for most awards. This is especially true for a watch list of college football coaches.
The Dodd Trophy watch list was released today with a list of 19 coaches from many of the top programs around the country. Yep, a watch list for head coaches. Silly, right? It really is the easiest watch list to put together.
The award watch list, compiled by the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, includes four coaches from the ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC, two coaches from the Big 12 and one from the American Athletic Conference. You know all of the names, like national championship coaches Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, and Dabo Swinney; household names like Jim Harbaugh, Mark Richt, Bill Snyder, and Chris Petersen; and conference championship coaches like David Shaw, James Franklin.
Some notable names not on the list? How about Jimbo Fisher of Florida State? Fisher has a playoff contender in Tallahassee and is the ACC favorite. He also has a national championship ring. Not having Fisher on a preseason watch list for top coaches seems like a bad oversight. Not having new Big 12 coaches Tom Herman (Texas) and Lincoln Riley (Oklahoma) also feels like a swing and a miss if pulling together a list of potential coach of the year candidates. If we are not going to just list all 130 head coaches in FBS, it seems silly to have such a weird collection of watch list candidates when Butch Jones is on the list.
Five coaches on the watch list are former winners of the Dodd Trophy; Snyder, Petersen, Swinney, Saban, and Paul Johnson. Paul Chryst, Ken Niumatalolo, and Petersen were finalists for the award last season as well.
2017 Dodd Trophy Watch List
- Paul Chryst, Wisconsin
- James Franklin, Penn State
- Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech
- Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State
- Jim Harbaugh, Michigan
- Clay Helton, USC
- Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech
- Butch Jones, Tennessee
- Gus Malzahn, Auburn
- Jim McElwain, Florida
- Urban Meyer, Ohio State
- Ken Niumatalolo, Navy
- Chris Petersen, Washington
- Mark Richt, Miami
- Nick Saban, Alabama
- David Shaw, Stanford
- Bill Snyder, Kansas State
- Dabo Swinney, Clemson
- Kyle Whittingham, Utah
The Tennessee Volunteers may need to start asking for volunteers to get through the spring if the start of the offseason practice schedule is any suggestion. On Monday, Tennessee head coach Butch Jones announced eight players on Tennessee’s roster will be ruled out for the start of spring practices. A handful of others will be limited as well.
According to Saturday Down South, those players are safety Micah Abernathy, defensive back Rashaan Gaulden, defensive linemen Kyle Phillips, Shy Tuttle and Kendal Vickers, wide receivers Josh Smith and Brandon Johnson, and offensive lineman Brett Kendrick. The reason for those players being listed as out is not reported, but Jones suggested they are simply not in shape to go all in this spring at this point.
“We need to get them back at full strength,” Jones said. “I do think there will be competition.”
While these players may be down and out for the spring, there is no reason to fear they may be unavailable in the fall. Jones seems optimistic all players will be back and ready to go over the summer, which should be an encouraging sign. Abernathy also tied for the team lead in interceptions with two.
Abernathy was Tennessee’s second-leading tackler in 2016 with 69 tackles, including a team-high 52 solo tackles.
Following a somewhat disappointing season in Knoxville, changes are in the air for the Tennessee Vols coaching staff. Among the first changes of the offseason comes at the defensive back coaching position.
Tennessee has announced the addition of Charlton Warren as the new defensive backs coach for the Vols. It is the same role he previously filled at North Carolina for the past two seasons. Warren will replace Willie Martinez, who will not be returning to the Tennessee staff in 2017, according to a released statement from the university’s athletics department.
“Coach Warren is a passionate, knowledgeable and driven football coach that has an outstanding history of developing defensive backs on the collegiate level,” Tennessee head coach Butch Jones said in a released statement. “He also has a great reputation as one of the top recruiters in the country with strong ties to our recruiting areas. We feel extremely fortunate to add someone of his caliber to our coaching staff and our defensive meeting room.”
Tennessee finished ranked 10th in the SEC in passing defense, allowing an average of 230.7 yards per game through the air to opposing quarterbacks. The Vols allowed the fifth-lowest opponent passer rating and picked off 11 passes while allowing 18 touchdown passes, which actually fared well among SEC peers even if just around the middle of the pack or just toward the bottom half of the conference in each category. For a school that prides itself on its defensive backs, a change was necessary.
North Carolina owned the ACC’s top pass defense in 2016, allowing just 180.8 yards per game and 11 touchdown passes. The one downside was having just one interception recorded in 13 games. Every other FBS program had at least three interceptions last season. How UNC only picked off one pass all season long is quite a remarkable feat considering how respectable the pass defense was last season.
In truth, there are things far more important than college football. That appears to be the message of Tennessee head coach Butch Jones, who says his players have already become champions of life after being locked out of a shot to play for the SEC championship in Atlanta next week. Alabama will face Florida in the SEC Championship Game for the second striaght season. The Gators clinched the SEC East with a win at LSU, thus locking out Tennessee form a shot at the division crown.
You can understand the point jones is trying to make by saying that no matter has or has not happened on the gridiron this fall or the past four years, the senior class at Tennessee will leave the program as strong individuals ready for whatever comes at them next in the NFL or life after football. You want your head coach to be able to prepare players for life after college, but in a season in which Tennessee was the preseason favorite in the SEC East and this was supposed to be the year the Vols take advantage of a down division, the comments by Jones do little to satisfy those rooting for the Vols, who have been starving for an SEC championship and more.
But this is what Jones does to reach out to his players and connect with recruits. Selling a message like this is essential for some in college football, but ultimately the message comes across better if, you know, the team wins an actual championship on the field.
Tennessee let an SEC East Division slip right through their hands this season and will go back to the drawing board in 2017 looking to find a way to take the next step that appears to be a steep one for the program under Jones. But at least they’ll all be life champions.