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Tennessee Preparing For “Red” Team, Not Alabama

Red team is ready1We at aren’t big on coaches who refuse to say the names of rivals.  Woody Hayes famously wouldn’t say Michigan.  Gerry DiNardo wouldn’t say Tennessee.  Dan Mullen won’t say Ole Miss.  There are plenty of other examples out there.

Yesterday, the world learned of a new one.  Tennessee’s Butch Jones is trying avoid the word, “Alabama,” this week as his fresh-off-an-upset Vols prepare to face their longtime rival in Tuscaloosa.  UT players aren’t getting ready to play Bama this week, they’re getting ready to play “the red team.”

Silly?  Perhaps.  But at least Jones has provided his team with a reason — other than “hate” — for his use of the “red team” moniker.  So says Vol receiver Alton “Pig” Howard:


“Mentally, just by their name, when teams hear that name, they’re mentally beat already before they step on the field.  I give them credit, but we’ve got warriors on our team as well.  We’re ready to go to war.”


(A short pause for the literalists out there to bark about a player comparing football to war… blah, blah, blah, got it.)

The fact that Jones is playing name games in order to make his players more aware of the fact that they’re facing a football team — not Gods — actually seems rather smart.  Unfortunately for Tennessee, the Volunteers would have a much better chance at Bryant-Denny Stadium if some generic “red team” were scheduled to show up… rather than top-ranked Alabama.

Remember what the noted football guru Shakespeare said: “A rose by any other name.”

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Calipari Apologizes For Cursing Freshman Jones

In the aftermath of Alabama’s upset of Kentucky last night, John Calipari was caught cursing at freshman Terrence Jones by ESPN cameras.  Not surprisingly, he’s now come out with an apology via Twitter.  (I wonder if Woody Hayes would have ever apologized via Twitter?)

Jones scored 17 points for the Cats last night to lead them in scoring, but UK’s coach has been riding him pretty hard about his selfish play of late.  Last night, Calipari drew up a final shot for Doron Lamb.  Instead, Jones took the final wild miss from near halfcourt as time expired.  Calipari then reacted with some salty language.

And here’s how he reacted to his reaction on Twitter:

“First of all I want to apologize for my language at the end of the game.  I got caught up in the emotion of the game, but that’s no excuse.”

“Sometimes you don’t realize in the moment that what you’re saying is on national TV.  The BBN deserves better and so do my players.”

BBN would be “Big Blue Nation.”

And in case you’re wondering, Calipari called Jones a “selfish mother…” shut yo mouth!


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The Workhorse Backs Of The SEC

When it comes to SEC rushing attacks, you might think that Auburn’s Cam Newton is the player most responsible for his team’s rushing yards.  After all, he does lead the SEC in rushing when counting in-conference games only.

But Newton ranks only 7th in a category we call our Workhorse Back Rankings.  Now don’t get me wrong, for a quarterback to rank 7th in a rushing category is fantastic.  It’s just not tops in terms of who’s most important to his team’s rushing attack.

Below you’ll see that we examined the records of the SEC’s top 10 rushers (conference games only) and compared their totals to their teams’ totals.  The results were a little surprising.

Workhorse Back Rankings

Rush Yds
Team  Rush Yds
% of Team Rush Yds
T. Poole (UT)
M. Lattimore (USC)
K. Davis (Ark)
W. Ealey (UGA)
M. Ingram (Ala)
S. Ridley (LSU)
C. Newton (AU)
T. Richardson (Ala)
C. Relf (MSU)
M. Dyer (AU)

* In no way does this suggest that Tennessee’s Tauren Poole is having a better season Marcus Lattimore, Mark Ingram or Cam Newton.  What it does show, however, is his importance to his team.  Poole has accounted for nearly 85% of the Vols’ rushing yardage in SEC games.  Keeping him healthy is key for Tennessee.

* South Carolina’s Lattimore is having a tremendous freshman season.  The Herschel Walker comparisons of the season’s first two weeks were a bit over-the-top, but Lattimore has shown that he’s capable of more than running over and around defenders.  He’s shown — as a first-year player — that the pressure of being the Cocks’ top weapon isn’t too much for him.

* Arkansas’ running game has awakened a bit in recent weeks to finally take on a complimentary role in the Hogs’ Ryan Mallett-led offense.  Knile Davis has been a big part of that emergence.  And his name is not one that fans outside of Arkansas would expect to see so high on a list of “Workhorse Backs.”

* Alabama and Auburn are the only two schools to land two players each in the top 10.  There’s no surprise in Tuscaloosa where Ingram and Trent Richardson were expected to be bell cows.  But at Auburn, Ingram and Mike Dyer have been a pleasant surprise.  Before the season, many would have had their doubts if you’d told that the Tigers’ quarterback and true freshman tailback would be their leading rushers.

* Newton isn’t the only quarterback on our list.  Mississippi State has developed an offense that Woody Hayes would enjoy watching.  And the player accounting for 40% of the Dogs’ rushing yards (and cloud of dust) is signal-caller Chris Relf.

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More Choke Talk, Less Chalk Talk

Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham spoke last night about the choke sign he showed to Florida’s Chas Henry before Florida’s game-winning field goal on Saturday.

“As a competitor, sometimes you get caught up in the heat of the moment.  I wish the situation hadn’t happened.  It was a tough, hard-fought game.  They won it, and I’m ready to move forward and finish out the year strong.”

When asked if he felt like he needed to apologize to Florida’s kicker, Grantham said, “I’ve kind of basically said what I’m going to say.”

Should he have apologized?  Yes.  And there is a difference between saying “I wish it hadn’t happened” and “I’m sorry I did it.”  But I still don’t believe this to be the greatest sin ever committed on a college football field.  Which apparently puts me in the minority.

Jeff Schultz of The AJC says Grantham’s actions were flat-out wrong:

“It’s over the line.  It’s not even a close call.”

Yes, it was wrong.  But what should the punishment be?  Hanging?  Stoning?  Personally, I’ve always been partial to the Iron Maiden.

Tony Barnhart, also of The AJC, has an opinion about punishments:

“… if I’m in charge at Georgia, three things would happen today:

**- Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham will be informed that he’ll be watching Saturday’s game with Idaho State from somewhere other than Sanford Stadium.

**- His wallet will also be considerably lighter because I’m taking a sizable chunk of his $750,000 salary.

**- He would know, in no uncertain terms, that if he ever repeated the behavior in question again and it could be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, he would be fired on the spot.”

There’s more…

“But before Mr. Grantham moves on he is going to apologize to Chas Henry and apologize to the University of Florida.  Then he’s going to apologize to the University of Georgia for embarrassing the institution on a national stage.

“Then he will accept a one-game suspension and a fine and keep his mouth shut.”

Wow.  No one respects the opinion of Barnhart more than me, but a “sizable” fine and a suspension for a gesture?  To be honest, I did a double-take when I read the headline of his latest piece. 

Sure, Grantham has brought some embarrassment to Georgia over his choke sign, but that’s partially due to our own tendency to overreact to anything and everything.

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Overreaction To Choke Sign More Stupid Than Actual Choke Sign

New defensive coordinator Todd Grantham didn’t do Mark Richt any favors when he chose to give Florida kicker Chas Henry the choke sign on Saturday.

Richt is already on the hot seat and those who are frustrated by Georgia’s losses are now using anything they can against the man they blame.  Off-field arrests — Richt’s fault.  A coordinator who acts immaturely — Richt’s fault.

Richt is the CEO of Georgia football so the buck will indeed stop with him.  Fine.  But aren’t we going just a tad over the line on the Grantham thing?

The coach gave a choke sign to a player.  It was juvenile.  It was a bad example to set.

But it was most certainly not Woody Hayes clocking a kid on the sideline.

The word “overreactors” should be sewn onto our national flag.  It should be written on the bottom of our coinage.  And 90% of the overreactors out there are driven by talk radio hosts looking for ratings and bloggers who know they’ll get more eyeballs by feigning outrage.  At anything.  At any time.

The media stirs things up and a good chunk of media members don’t care whether their stirring is fair or not.  Ugh.

Listening to and reading some of the responses to Grantham’s choke sign, I’ve come to the conclusion that either Grantham, Richt or both should be fired for the heinous act that was perpetrated against Florida’s poor kicker on Saturday.  Double-ugh.

Grantham will have the choke sign pop up whenever he attempts to land a head coaching job.  Richt has had another log thrown on to the fire beneath his seat.  Trust me, the punishments have already been handed out.

So can we all please move on?  Grantham is a football coach, not a UN ambassador.  The guy’s whole life revolves around teaching one group of young men how to hit another group of young men.  We aren’t talking about brain surgery here.  So when Desmond Tutu gives someone the choke sign, alert me.  Then I’ll be shocked.

But a football coach?  Sorry.  Grantham acted stupidly.  That doesn’t mean the rest of us have to stupidly overreact.

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