published Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

5-at-10: Monster UT win, Combine questions and the next wave

Gang, remember Friday's mailbag and some times you win, some times you lose and some times it rains. Think about that.

From the "Talks too much" studios, let's remember what we do in life echoes in eternity.

And then there was life

There was a time in the last couple of months that Johnny Vols Fans wondered if UT basketball coach Cunozo "The Conz" Martin was the guy for the job.

Any more questions?

One game in February does not make a season; that's not how college basketball is structured. One game in February — when that one game is against the class of the SEC with the pressure of the season's tiniest of tiny NCAA tournament hopes hinging on the outcome — can change a great deal, however.

There once was a glimmer of NCAA hope for this UT bunch, a projection of solidity that the thought of extended struggles seemed out of place. Then there was Jeronne Maymon's injury. And the internal struggles about changing roles. There was the shaken confidence and the uncertain uncertainty of a team looking for a leader, a lead dog and a lead guard at the same time. It bottomed out against Georgia, a painful, head-scratching loss that still may cost the Vols a spot in March Madness.

Oh yes, the flickering NCAA tournament dream that was so delicate it could have been crushed by a whisper three weeks ago has gained strength. It has gained a foundation. It has gained steam.

Not because of an inspired night in February — no, this six-game winning streak is more than that. Still, the "Hey, is it crazy to think these guys are in the NCAA conversation" thoughts and looks were punctuated by this one night in February.

Such is life in sports, where big wins and big losses change perception and as a result change reality. Is "The Conz" the same coach today as he was two months? Of course. The difference is beating No. 8-ranked Florida 64-58. "The Conz" is not different, but his team surely is.

Is the difference finding confidence? Is the difference finding Trae Golden? Is the difference finding an All-SEC player like Jordan McRae and letting him become comfortable as the first option? Is the difference finding the clarity of spreading the floor around the beastly man-child that is Jarnell Stokes and letting him do man-child things? (Side note: If this basketball thing does not work out for UT's Stokes or Florida's Patric Young, each needs to spend one summer catching passes. The 5-at-10 loves the draft — you know this — and each could have a 10-year career as an NFL tight end.)

As our ace columnist Mark Wiedmer shared here, the Vols' win over the Gators was a load of fun for everyone. As our UT ace Downtown Patrick Brown reported here the win was hard-earned. Those guys were there. They shared the knowledge of what happened.

Our question is how? How does the switch flip? That's one of the beauties in sports. The wise 5-at-10 Sr. always phrased it "That's why they play the games" and that's a big part of it. It's also why there are a river of cliches and adages that we've all heard and that our grandkids will also know by heart. Winners never quit. Keep working hard. Even Nick Saban's non-stop discussion of "The Process."

There is magic when the cosmetic tumblers click and a sports team connects to show you what is possible. These Tennessee Vols are sharing what's possible — an image that seemed impossible three short weeks ago.

The difference? Hard to pinpoint but unquestionably easy to see.

And maybe that's because of the constant that is Cuonzo Martin.

————

Combine combinations

OK, the winners and losers from the NFL combine are in, and despite the text books of numbers and times and stats, we are flushed with questions. Here are a few:

• How does Cornelius Washington register exactly 0.5 sacks during the 2012 season? Washington — a 6-foot-4, 265-pound defensive end/linebacker who our SEC ace David Paschall tells us here ran as fast as Vandy tailback Zac Stacy and posted a vertical jump that matched Cordarrelle Patterson — was among the big winners at the combine. That makes his total lack of production even more puzzling.

• How does Damontre Moore come to the biggest job interview of his life that unprepared? The Texas A&M defensive end was a top-10 pick this time last week but he ran a 40 in the 4.9s and posted a position worst 12 reps benching 225 pounds. To paraphrase the late John McKay, he was slow but he made up for it by being weak. Moore cost himself seven figures.

• Where did all these physical freaks come from and why are they all playing defensive end? Wow, if you are looking for a pass rusher, this is the draft for you. Even if you do not count Washington (long on combine, short on game production) or Moore (long on game production, short on combine), there figure to be as many as 12 defensive linemen in the first round of the draft. That screams good news for a team like Atlanta, which picks 30th and needs front-seven defensive help.

• Who doubted these guys? Not the 5-at-10. The book did not change for several familiar faces — Cordarrelle Patterson entered the event as the top-ranked WR, Dee Milliner entered as the top CB — who firmed up their lofty rankings with fine showings. As for the SEC, we think there's at least 12 first-rounders and could be as many half of the 32 picks.

———

Combine currents

Is there an overall trend emerging from the combine? Maybe.

First, the fact that the combine has earned the nickname the "Underwear Olympics" is excellent.

Second, there's a voice louder than a whisper and more quiet than a conversation that there feels like there's some angst at LSU. A record-number of juniors applied for the draft. Defensive end Sam Montgomery told reporters that he took games off against the lesser teams. The Honey Badger. Maybe it's the Tigers' turn. Maybe it's a bad fortune-telling for the future.

Finally, as mentioned before, the talent flowing from the SEC is eye-popping. And it's not stopping any time soon.

Here are five guys who will be center stage at the 2014 combine:

South Carolina defensive end/freak Jadeveon Clowney

Alabama tackle Cyrus Kouandjio

Texas A&M tackle Jake Matthews

Tennessee tackle Tiny Richardson

LSU receiver Odell Beckham

There also will be at least three SEC quarterbacks creating a stir at the 2014 combine: Johnny Football, AJ McCarron and Aaron Murray.

————

This and that

— Congrats to C. Vivian Stringer for winning her 900th game. Which is more impressive — 900 wins or the fact that she may be the first person that we can think of who rocked the full-time initial? Well-played, C. Vivian, well-played indeed.

  • photo
    Trevor Bayne (21), Carl Edwards (99), David Gilliland (38), Terry Labonte (32), David Ragan (34) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (17) collide between Turn 1 and Turn 2 as Jeff Gordon (24) and Marcos Ambrose (9) drive by Sunday during the NASCAR Daytona 500 Sprint Cup Series auto race at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

— Some of the NASCAR fans who were injured last Saturday at Daytona are looking at lawsuits. Move along, nothing to see here.

— Speaking of NASCAR, there was a time when the epi-center of the sport was North Carolina. Want to know how many drivers in the Daytona 500 field were born in the Tar Heel state? One, Dale Junior.

— Did you hear about the youth hockey coach that got jail time for tripping an opponent during the postgame handshake? Here's the video that got Martin Tremblay 15 days in the joint.

— More NFL combine: There are talks that the date of next year's combine will be pushed back, in part so that the teams that go deep into the playoffs can have more time to scout. It also would push the draft into May, and one of the appeals of that is May is a sweeps month. TV rules sports.

— Spring training's strangeness: OK former Florida Marlins infielder and LSU quarterback Josh Booty won "The Next Knuckler" competition on the MLB Network. He beat a host of other former quarterbacks such as John David Booty, Doug Flutie, David Greene and Ryan Perrilloux. For winning and learning to throw a knuckler, Josh Booty got a try out with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Of course he's still property of the Marlins. A Booty dispute? At 10 in the morning. Shut your mouth.

The Tennessean reported here that former SEC freshman of the year Warren Norman will not play football next year for Vandy because of knee injuries. Tough break for a guy that was going to get a lot of touches with Zac Stacy moving on to the NFL.

Today's question

As always feel free to discuss the events of Tuesday, including the Vols' inspired effort against the Gators.

But if you need a talking point, a comment from Stewwie on Tuesday got us thinking. Did you know that of the non-premium channels on your cable/satelite plan, ESPN is far and away the most expensive, asking cable systems for more than $5 per household a month? Also, did you know that there is proposed legislation that has been stalled in committee for years that would allow cable subscribers the choice to order an a la carte cable plan? That would be pretty boss.

That brings us to Stewwie's offering that he could get by on five channels a month. We concur. The question is, what are those five channels? (Take ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC off the top. Those are freebies.)

Discuss, and War Bubble Talk in Knoxville.

about Jay Greeson...

Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...

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sportsfan said...

Jay - Did you see Stokes' brother in the stands on last night's ESPN broadcast? Apparently, the young man is in 8th grade. He looked like a college freshman. ESPN showed a photo of him immediately prior to him squashing another 8th grader during a middle school football game. There was no mention of the ambulance that was called to remove the opponent from the field after the tackle. I hope Butch saw the game last night.

February 27, 2013 at 10:19 a.m.
chas9 said...

As far as I'm concerned, The Vols are in if they win two of the last three, which I expect them to do. With Memphis losing and Belmont and MTSU over-rated, Tennessee is now officially the best team in Tennessee.

Heck, the way they played against UK and UF, they could beat anybody. Neither IU nor all the other temporary #1's are invincible.

UT did it with poise, confidence and energy. Those qualities with their solid players would make them a tough opponent in The Dance.

McRae had fun having a dominating game. He reminds me of Tayshaun. It's great to see him play with such relish. Stokes was powerful and Golden's impact was bigger tan his stats.

The Gators are not a #1 seed. They don't play well on the road.

If The Vols dance, Cuonzo may be SEC coach of the year. Anybody who wondered if he was the man for the job was nuts.

But if Bama shares the regular season championship, Grant deserves votes, too. They have to win at Gainesville to do that.

Pre-season, UT was picked to finish 4th in the SEC, Bama 6th, so The Vols will finish as expected, while The Tide will have exceeded expectations.

If a Nerlens-less UK wins the championship and goes dancing, Calipari gets votes, too.

Mizzou, picked third, is the biggest flop.

And have you ever seen a coach age into a more professorial look than Tubby has?

February 27, 2013 at 10:25 a.m.
orangeguy said...

Nice to see a team in orange play their absolute tails off in big games. Proudest I've been to be a Vol anything fan in a while. Team is on a tear. Hopefully they finish the drill & get into the dance.

My question for you is, why is college officiating so bad? There were numerous questionable calls both ways last night. And we all know how terrible the football side has been for some time.

5 channels? Food Network, History, Discovery, ESPN, Disney (3 boys + no Disney = a very agitated Mr. & Mrs. orangeguy).

February 27, 2013 at 10:43 a.m.
Stewwie said...

5 Channels:

ESPN and ESPN2 for me, Hallmark and ABC Family for Mrs. Stewwie, and Disney Junior for Lil' Stewwie.

February 27, 2013 at 10:55 a.m.
Huesmania said...

Five Channels? Pshhhh... I only need 3. FSN South & Sports South (why do they pretend to be 2 different channels?)to watch the Braves. And, since you gave me Fox for free, I'll take the NFL Redzone (in HD of course) to watch during the commercials of my Falcons games.

Mrs. Huesmania can have the other two. Early Vegas line has her taking Bravo and TLC.

February 27, 2013 at 10:55 a.m.
orangeguy said...

Oops... Not in baseball mode yet. Substitute Discovery & Disney for FSN & MLB Network. We can deal with the kids not having Disney. Teach 'em to play outside or something...

February 27, 2013 at 11:05 a.m.
JonathanMCook said...

I know that the 5 at 10 eats, sleeps and breathes sports but as someone who views them a-la carte, the current columns read to me like a Charlie Brown teacher talking (whann-whann-whann-waaa-waaaa-waaaa). And I hate "Cactus League Month" in "Surprise, Arizona" because there's no media coverage outside of DMN reports and Dr. B's clone on 103.3 at 5 PM Big D time. But at least the non-sports inquiries keep everything interested. Did hear JR this morning via streaming audio talk about the Ex-Vol Strength Coach "thug" and what he did lat night. What is it with people and personal venditas.

I would be more excited at this time if a) the Mocs were playing well ::sneaker, sneaker:: and b) The Lady Mocs had another powerhouse rival to play. Instead, I have no interest until the tournament begins.

To answer today's question, it's kinda an interesting one. I would go with Cartoon Network, Comedy Central, Fox Sports Southwest, History, and FX. All these channels believe it or not I actually watch more than five shows on. Fox Sports Southwest mainly for Ranger games. Most everything else because of modern technology, I can get at Netflick or Amazon. If we can six, I would pick Food Network.

February 27, 2013 at 11:11 a.m.
chas9 said...

Does your beer taste watery lately?

OG is correct in observing there were some bad calls in the game.

Te'o was slow in the 40. He says he can do better, but he says a lot of things. Is the once mighty man slipping away from relevance?

Before anybody rails against Saban for offering a scholarship to an eighth grader, have a look at Dylan Moses' video.

Congrats to C. Vivian. Another women's coach is about to achieve a milestone. Three games back, UK's Matthew Mitchell passed second place all-time Lady Cats' wins coach (Chattanoogan) Sharon Fanning and with one more win, he becomes the winningest ever at UK. Long way to go to catch Stringer or Summitt, but he's young (42). And he gives humorous cooking tips on his coach's show. Most coach's shows are pretty dry.

A. Bartlett Giamatti, T. Boone Pickens, D. Wayne Lucas, F. Lee Bailey, F. Scott Fitzgerald, G. Gordon Liddy, H. Ross Perot, J. Edgar Hoover, J. Paul Getty, J. Wellington Wimpy, J. Fed Muggs, L. Ron Hubbard, T-Bone Walker, T. Rowe Price, W. Somerset Maugham.

February 27, 2013 at 11:22 a.m.
jomo11 said...

With Jay Graham gone, do the Vols have zero African-American full time football coaches ? thats bad

February 27, 2013 at 11:35 a.m.
jgreeson said...

Jomo —

Tommy Thigpen is UT's linebackers coach, and he's black.

9er —

Nice alphabet soup.

These Vols — the Vols of the last six games — are indeed dangerous. If they muscle their way into the dance, they are looking at a possible 10 or 11 seed maybe. There's no No. 2-seed out there than wants to see this bunch in round two, you know?

JMC —

Waaaa-wa-waaa-waaa. We think the Lady Mocs are built for potential NCAA tournament success.

Orange —

Concur. Monster win for the Vols and The Conz, who is now 3-0 against Billy D and the Gators.

And we'd have to watch baseball on the iPad and let the kids have Disney Jr.

Huesmania —

Welcome to the show. Feel to swing by anytime, don't cost nothing.

If we gave the Mrs. 5-at-10 two (and here's saying she'd likely get three), we know one would be TNT, which would be aces. The other would be one of those nature channels.

NFL Network is an inspired choice.

Stew —

Great idea for today's question. Thanks.

February 27, 2013 at 11:50 a.m.
BIspy4 said...

C. Thomas Howell, one of the Wolverines from "Red Dawn"?

February 27, 2013 at 1:38 p.m.
BIspy4 said...
<p>ajc.com had a photo gallery of some of the fastest times in combine history. While there was no mention of Alexander Wright, they had Vincent Bo Jackson running a 4.12 and Deion Sanders running a 4.21.

And, I'm sure just a coincidence, but many of the guys with the fastest times the last couple of years have been drafted by the Oakland Raiders. Not that they or the team has done anything with all that there speed.

February 27, 2013 at 1:48 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Spy —

You know who needs an initial? Wilford Brimley.

A. Wilford Brimley maybe?

And C. Viv is maybe the first female... we totally slighted Harry S. Truman.

Know who else needs a letter? Pat L. Sajak, that's who.

February 27, 2013 at 1:55 p.m.
chas9 said...

Is that S Harry or Harry S? And Truman's S had no period after it. You can look it up.

February 27, 2013 at 3:22 p.m.
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