Monthly Archives: November 2015

Chris Burke on life as an analyst, Tennessee baseball’s golden age and the Vols’ chances in 2015

When Chris Burke was hired as a college baseball analyst at ESPN in April, 2012, the former major leaguer and Tennessee All-American wasn’t sure how much work he would have to do. ESPN was expanding its college baseball inventory, but had never made the sport a major priority.

Everything changed for Burke, though, when ESPN and the SEC announced the creation of the SEC Network in 2013. The network launched last fall, and it covered baseball extensively in the late winter and early spring, providing Burke opportunities not only at games but in studio to analyze the conference in which he once played.

“When I first got into it, I was unaware that the network was in the works,” Burke said Friday when he was in Knoxville for Tennessee baseball’s alumni weekend. “You weren’t quite sure how much work there was to be had. Now all of the sudden, it’s seasonal, but there’s plenty of work. As a baseball nerd, as a college baseball guy — fortunate to play in the big leagues and have a long professional career but I’m a college baseball guy — to be able to cover it for a living is a joy.” Continue reading

Five Factors: Explaining Tennessee’s 27-24 win over South Carolina

Advanced college football statisticians believe there are five factors that most accurately determine what teams win games: explosiveness, efficiency, field position, finishing drives, and turnover margin. They have come up with statistical formulas to measure those factors beyond what can be found in a typical box score. This season, we will be following Tennessee’s progress game-by-game using these formulas. The Vols’ figures for Saturday’s 27-24 win over South Carolina follow.

Formula Explanation: Average yards per play
UT Offense: 5.4 yards per play
UT Defense: Allowed 4.9 yards per play
UT Offense: 5.6 yards per play
UT Defense: Allowed 5.6 yards per play
Commentary: In the first quarter, Tennessee averaged 8.05 yards per play and South Carolina averaged 1.75. In the final three quarters, Tennessee averaged 4.36 yards per play and South Carolina averaged 5.67. Tennessee had just three plays of over 20 yards after the half, and all three were third-down passes by quarterback Joshua Dobbs. Continue reading

Tennessee escapes with 27-24 win over South Carolina

WHAT HAPPENED: Tennessee junior nickel back Malik Foreman forced a fumble that ended a late South Carolina drive to preserve Tennessee’s 27-24 win over South Carolina in front of 101,253 at Neyland Stadium on Saturday night.

The Vols improve to 5-4 overall, 3-3 in the SEC. South Carolina falls to 3-6, 1-6.

Tennessee appeared headed for a blowout early with two easy touchdowns on its first two drives. Redshirt sophomore running back Alvin Kamara capped an eight-play 67-yard drive with a 4-yard touchdown run on the Vols’ first posession. Senior wide receiver Von Pearson caught a 37-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Joshua Dobbs to put an exclamation point on the second.  Continue reading

Serrano calls Nick Senzel “the total package,” discusses other developments of fall ball

Tennessee baseball coach Dave Serrano met with the media on Wednesday to discuss the developments of the fall practice period. Notes from his press conference as well as his interview with the News Sentinel follow.

— Nick Senzel improved his Major League Baseball draft profile this summer with a monster season in the Cape Cod League in which he earned MVP honors. Serrano said he looked every bit the part in the fall.

“I see more of a calmness with him,” Serrano said. “And I feel his power has come out now. I don’t know if that’s so much him just growing into that, or if that’s the coaches and what they’ve done with him. A lot of times, Nick was lining them to right center, he was a pure hitter. Now he’s starting to really stay inside some balls and get the bat head through there and drive the ball. I’ll just talk about scout day where he put on a show for the 30 plus scouts that were there. His first at-bat, he comes up and hits a line drive over the right center field wall just to the center field side of the scoreboard. Two at-bats later, he hits another line-drive out to left center. He shows power to all fields. He’s a tough out. He’s a great athlete, if you have him on the clock, he’s going to give you great times down the line. He runs from first to third as good as anybody. He’s just the total package. I see a calmness in him as he’s gotten more mature with all the at-bats he’s had. Like I said, moving him after two years as our second baseman to third base, he hasn’t really flinched at all. He still has to get better there. He knows that. We know that, but I feel like he’s developing each and every day, and I’m excited to see what the season brings him.” Continue reading

Butch Jones transcript

From the helpful folks at UT sports info:

(Opening Statement)

“Before we get started, I would like to say congratulations to Luke Hochevar and the Kansas City Royals for winning the World Series Championship. I believe he was the winning pitcher, and I am a big, big baseball fan. I would like to say congratulations to him on being a world champion today. Going back and revisiting Saturday night, I really thought we played complimentary football. I thought all three phases really complimented each other. We were able to generate explosive plays and control the field position. On third downs, I thought, in terms of situational football, we did a good job prior to running the clock out in the fourth quarter. We were 9-14 on third down conversions. Defensively, we were able to get off the field as well. Kentucky was a big-play, quick-strike offense, and if you take away the one big play, we really limited the momentum plays. On the road, one of the key factors to win is limiting momentum plays and not letting the crowd get into it. I thought our players had a great business-like approach. Now, it’s what we do with that moving forward to the next challenge. South Carolina comes in here as a very hungry football team. Coach Elliott has done a really good job of infusing energy and excitement. They are playing loose. They are a hungry football team. We all know what Pharoh Cooper brings to the table. He is one of the most explosive and dynamic players — not only in our conference but in the country. Defensively, with Coach Hoke, you see some different things schematically. They are playing with a high level of energy. They are big and physical up front. They have the luxury of playing ma-to-man on the back end. It’s going to be a great challenge for our football team this week to continue to improve and prepare. We are not anywhere near where we need to be, in terms of a finished product. When you watch the video, it’s never as good or as bad as it seems. We have to continue to work on the small details, from the fundamentals to doing things right in different situations. We are looking forward to going back to practice today.” Continue reading

A random discussion on bowl projections/possibilities

Threw out ESPN’s bowl projections on Twitter, which caused a brief discussion on Tennessee’s bowl possibilities. (Brett McMurphy has Tennessee playing Indiana in the Music City Bowl. Mark Schlabach doesn’t have Tennessee in a bowl game, but since he has Duke and Georgia projected to play each other in both the Belk and the Music City Bowl, and that would be a pretty neat trick considering the Belk Bowl kicks off at 3:30 p.m. on Dec. 30 in Charlotte and the Music City Bowl kicks off at 7 p.m. in Nashville.)

But anyway, just wanted to give a primer on how bowl selection on the SEC actually works and how those forces come into play with the current situation.

This is the SEC’s page on bowl selection. Obviously, the College Football Playoff makes its decision first (The Cotton and Orange Bowls), followed by the rest of the New Year’s Six Bowl games (this year the Rose, Sugar, Fiesta and Peach Bowls). The Citrus Bowl then gets first choice of the SEC teams remaining.  Continue reading

Vols receive votes in AP Top 25

Tennessee received two votes in this week’s Associated Press Top 25 poll, which marked the first time the Vols have received any votes since their Oct. 3 loss to Arkansas.
Tennessee defeated Kentucky 52-21 on Saturday, improving to 4-4 overall, 2-3 in the SEC.
The Vols began the season ranked No. 25 in the AP poll and moved up to No. 23 after a season-opening win over Bowling Green in Nashville. They lost to Oklahoma 31-24 in double overtime the following week to fall out of the Top 25. They continued to receive votes the following three weeks, but losses to Florida and Arkansas led to a loss of all of their Top 25 support.
The SEC has six teams in this week’s Top 25. LSU is ranked No. 4 followed by Alabama at No. 7 and Florida at No. 22. Ole Miss is ranked No. 19, followed by No. 24 Mississippi State and No. 25 Texas A&M.
Tennessee is the only other SEC team receiving votes.

Five Factors: Explaining Tennessee’s 52-21 win over Kentucky

Advanced college football statisticians believe there are five factors that most accurately determine what teams win games: explosiveness, efficiency, field position, finishing drives, and turnover margin. They have come up with statistical formulas to measure those factors beyond what can be found in a typical box score. This season, we will be following Tennessee’s progress game-by-game using these formulas. The Vols’ figures for Saturday’s 52-21 win over Kentucky follow.
Formula Explanation: Average yards per play
UT Offense: 7.0 yards per play
UT Defense: Allowed 5.4 yards per play Continue reading

The very post-game, post-game blog: Tennessee pounds Kentucky 52-21

WHAT HAPPENED: Tennessee scored 28 straight points after falling behind 14-10 to defeat Kentucky 52-21 in front of 60,886 at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington.

The Vols improved to 4-4, 2-3 in the SEC. Kentucky fell to 4-4, 2-4.

Tennessee marched down to Kentucky’s 15-yard line on its first possession, but Kentucky safety Marcus McWilson blitzed and sacked Tennessee’s Joshua Dobbs, who fumbled into the hands of defensive lineman Cory Johnson, who ran 77 yards for a Kentucky touchdown.

Two possessions later, Tennessee tied the game with a bruising 28-yard touchdown run by Dobbs. The Vols then took a 10-7 lead early in the second quarter on a 44-yard field goal by kicker Aaron Medley.

Kentucky took the lead on the ensuing possession, however. To that point, the Wildcats had managed just 2 yards of offense. Kentucky drove 75 plays on 14 yards and scored on a 1-yard run on fourth-and-goal by quarterback Patrick Towles.

On Tennessee’s first play from scrimmage on the following drive, however, Dobbs found wide receiver Josh Malone on a fly route down the right sideline for a 75-yard touchdown pass, the longest pass of Dobbs’ career and the longest passing touchdown by Tennessee since 2011.

That pass put the Vols up 17-14, and began a stretch of four straight possessions on which they scored touchdowns. On the next drive, redshirt sophomore Alvin Kamara broke loose for a 63-yard run that took the Vols to the Kentucky 1-yard line. Dobbs scored on a 1-yard run two plays later to make it 24-14, the lead Tennessee took into the locker room at halftime.

The Vols scored on their first drive of the half when running back Jalen Hurd took a screen pass and ran 37 yards for a touchdown. Linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr. intercepted a pass from Towles on the next possession and returned it to the Kentucky 4-yard line. Hurd scored on a 4-yard rush on the next play to make it 38-14.

Tennessee finally answered with a four-play 75-yard drive and a 39-yard touchdown pass from Towles to wide receiver Patrick Towles. However, kick returner Evan Berry took the ensuing kickoff back 100 yards for a touchdown. Tennessee forced Kentucky to punt on the next drive, and cornerback Cameron Sutton returned the punt 84 yards for a touchdown to make it 52-21.

WHO MADE IT HAPPEN: Dobbs completed 16 of 26 passes for 233 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 51 yards and two scores on just seven carries.

Malone caught four passes for 103 yards and that touchdown, becoming the first Tennessee wide receiver with a 100-yard game since Alton “Pig” Howard had 109 yards against South Carolina last year.

Hurd had just 61 yards on 18 carries with Kentucky’s front making it difficult to run the ball. He scored a touchdown, however, and was just under 100 total yards with the 37-yard reception. Kamara had 70 yards on just four carries and two catches for 13 yards.

Berry had his third kickoff return for a touchdown this season. Sutton had his punt return and also broke up what could have been a touchdown pass in the end zone.

WHY DID IT HAPPEN: Kentucky hadn’t been very good against the run all season, but the Wildcats put most of their focus into stopping Hurd and they were mostly successful, holding him to just 3.4 yards per carry. However, that focus made Kentucky particularly susceptible to quarterback keepers on the zone read option. Dobbs averaged 7.3 yards per carry on his seven carries.

The focus on Hurd also opened the downfield passing game. The Vols converted eight of 15 third downs, in large part because of that passing game. Dobbs’ 75-yard pass to Malone was against single coverage, which UT receivers often faced.

On defense, the Vols mostly kept the ball in front of them and even though they had just two sacks, they again brought extensive pressure on the quarterback.

And of course, they got two touchdowns on special teams, continuing what has to be one of the best return game seasons in Tennessee history.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN: Kentucky was the best all-around team remaining on Tennessee’s schedule in its final five games of the season. It was the only one with a winning record, and it had the advantage of having the Vols at home on Halloween night.

But the Vols outclassed Kentucky from the beginning. The Wildcats’ strip-sack fumble skewed reality for a while, as Tennessee had 174 total yards to Kentucky’s 2 at one point when the game was tied 7-7. The Vols finished with 482 yards to Kentucky’s 349, and could have scored 70 points if they so desired.

That speaks well for Tennessee’s hopes of running the table. North Texas might be the only remaining walkthrough on the schedule and South Carolina gave Texas A&M a run on Saturday. However, the Vols should be heavily favored against the Gamecocks as well as Vanderbilt at home. Tennessee’s road game at Missouri on Nov. 21 could still prove challenging, especially with Missouri leading the SEC in scoring defense. However, if the Vols put together as complete a performance as they did Saturday, beating the Tigers shouldn’t be too much of a problem either.