In what I hope to make a regular piece, here are my Ps N Qs (Positive/ Negatives/ Questions) for the Tennesee game. I started this before we had the unfortunate news about Kevin Prince -- and there is obviously one BIG question for Saturday, but let's look abck one last time before looking ahead:
(1) “We Dare You to Cross this Line… Oh, Crap, You Did…” — Big props to CB for adjusting from last week. Our push at scrimmage was a lot better than it was last week against the lighter SDSU O-line. I was most concerned that we wouldn’t get pressure on Crompton and the grits-fed SEC line, but just about every D-linemen had a critical play flushing or flattening the Vol QB. AND, HUGE PROPS to our backup DTs on the goal line stand at the Mason-Kiffin line in crunch time.
Proof of how far we’ve come — in South Bend, people lamented how we put no pressure on the Irish QB by rushing him with only our D-line. Last night, on the Vols’ last 2-3 offesnive plays… we only rushed the 4 linemen. Of course, when Price is healthy, it’s like we really are rushing 5 guys.
If, if, IF!!!! we can keep this up consistently, this could be our best combination of strength and mobility on the D-Line since the days of Leisle and the Ball twins.
(2) Traffic Control — Aside from the one overplay by Carter in the red zone, and the ill-advised, but not at all dirty, face mask penalty on Ayers, our LBs did their jobs well — gum up the middle routes for receivers and lock up the runners. No game-killing runs, and something like 13 tackles for our defensive QB, Carter. Seeing Ayers chase down receivers at his size was a brief sign of freakish impressiveness to come.
(3) First-rate Secondary — Holy. Mother of. Heaven. I must admit, I was not ready to christen Rahim Moore as a ‘freak’ before this game. Sorry, but some of the SDSU passes last week just SUCKED, especially the double-reverse flea-flicker canned ham atrocity that passed for a Divison 1 pass attempt. However, Rahim’s closer than a sweater vest red-zone pass coverage in the 1st half, his jump on the receiver for his 2nd pick (the 1st pick was on a pass with all the aerodynamics of beanbag chair), and his sound tackling makes me think this kid could be for real.
I still want to see how Rahim does against a QB that doesn’t have the visual acuity of Ralphie after he shoots out his glasses with his red Ryder BB gun… but for now, if he gives opposing coaches more to stress over, so be it.
That being said, we MUST also give props to Courtney Viney. The guy is shorter than ME, but his heart is as big as my car. He may likely still get overpwoered by bigger, more physical WRs down the line, but he was certainly not afriad to mix it up and wrench players down to the ground on tackels and in coverage. Kid manned up big time.
(4) Magic Legs — Jeff Locke doesn’t have a normal left leg. He’s like something out of a Tarantino flick, with a gosh-darn piece of military armament where an otherwise human extremity should be. Punts AND kickoffs were, if not weapons, were great rebreathers for our offense. Bravo.
No disrespect to Kai, but let’s leave Kai to doing what he does best — GPS guided kicks coming from all angles and ranges. I don’t blame a guy for missing his 1st 50+ yard kick after making all EIGHT of his previous ones. Plus, watching him drain one right after a WTF formation penalty just proves how money he is.
(5) Federal Reserve — Jet Ski is shifty, speedy, and can throw down a very nice run-block. Coleman brings some good brute force to his runs. But isn’t it nice to know we’ve got Milton “Fort” Knox in reserve, too? Bringing a small back that just WON’T go down easily and make people miss is pretty dang scary for a No. 3 back. If, if, IF!!! they continue to develop, we could have our best 3-deep RB by committtee since the 97-98 seasons.
(6) Crowned Prince — bloodied, battered, flat-out beat-up… but NOT broken. I won’t repeat everything that’s been said already, but I’ll leave it at this: when our Yoda says a kid has “it,” he DOES. Prince is not a QB king yet… but be patient, and give him time. Even Cade’s 1st 2 seasons were rocky as all get-out…
(1) Snap, Debacle, Pop — OHHH boy. I know Prince is new… I know Maiava is a transfer… but come the heck ON! Somebody get Kevin and Kai running track baton relay drills at 5 am, doing a bucket brigade for LAFD on the weekends — hell, force them to sit across frome ach other at training table to make sure they don’t have problems passing a ketchup bottle to one another. Maiava was an All-American Freshman Center; he’ll do better.
(2) Jumping the Gun — I lost count of how many offside and false start penalties we had yesterday. I just know TWO of them by our D extended Vol drives for scores. Bullough adjusted VERY well to the concerns over QB pressure. here’s the next hurdle for the new DC.
(3) Tight End, Loose Grip — Logan Paulsen was a reliable receiver two years ago, with a great blend of size and mobility. Now, coming off of an injury year, we’ve had two straihgt games where he’s dropped a pass in his hands. While I trust NC’s apparent game plan to spread the ball around to as many receiver options as possible — probably to make KP as comfortable with as many targets over the long haul — this is starting to be a concern. Our TEs blocked VERY well on end runs, but we need them to catch the ball a few times, too.
(4) Growing Pains — Not trying to bash the improving OL, but hey, we knew it wouldn’t be all positives for them coming in. Tennessee proved to be a tough test, and while our guys proved (as they did alst week) that they can open great running holes and really get downfield to block on stretch and sweep runs (especially our TEs like Paulsen and Moya), our guys must continue to work on their pass-blocking. At least a couple of Tenn’s blitzers came in untouched, right thru the pocket, and Kevin got his bell rung a few times.
(1) Red-Zone Playcalling — I’m curious as to why NC called three straight running plays on Tenn’s side of the field while we were nursing the lead in the second half. Were they trying to protect KP from getting hit on a drop-back, or were they trying to eat a few more precious seconds for the D unit to rest? Given our still young O-line, plus our depth cocnerns on defense, is this something that may continue?
(2) Single-back Per Series — Anybody else noticing Jet Ski and Coleman being substituted only per series, and not in between downs? It’s still early in the season, so it’s hard to tell if there any glaring differences in productivity and skill-sets between our backs. Still, can other teams exploit this in terms of D-schemes and personnel?
(3) New Depth — We’ve seen our D-line reserves step up on one of the biggest stages in Div 1 football. Will we get the same kind of production from our reserve LBs, which was one of the biggest areas of concern pre-season?
(4) What Redshirt? -- For every person who questioned why Brehaut got a series at the end of a game well-in-hand to burn his redshirt, here's the answer. I actually don't have a problem with CRN calling the end zone rollout on 3rd down -- if Prince had thrown the ball out of bounds, or just taken the safety sooner, we might not have an injury issue this week. Nevertheless, here is where we are -- and we have a No. 2 QB who at elast got some "live" snaps against an opposing defense. the key question will be, though, whether the playbook keeps getting opened, or whether we back up a couple of chapters to accommodate the new guy.
Ok, enough from me. Back to work.