published Monday, July 1st, 2013

5-at-10: Happy July with the Braves mid-term report, UTC football and being jealous of global soccer mania

Say good-bye to June. Hello July and we know August is right around the corner and with that comes discussion of football. And heat. And heated football discussions. Yay.

Before we get there, a couple of programming notes. One, we're headed to the lake later this week, so if you have mailbag questions, the sooner you send them, the more likely they will get in. Deal? Deal.

Second, and we were remiss for not dealing more with this last week — and we'll discuss it at length tomorrow — but keep an eye on the TFP's summer series of 13-in-'13 where we look at the top 13 football players of all time from our area at the following positions: quarterback, running back, receiver, offensive line, defensive line, linebacker, defensive back, athletes and kickers/punters. We started last Friday with the quarterbacks and we'll continue tomorrow with the running backs and proceed every Friday and Tuesday with new lists through July. It's going to be a fun discussion that will end with readers voting for who they think is the best at each spot and we'll run the results in our high school preview section. Deal? Deal.

From the "Talks to much" studios, we believe that children are the future, teach them well and let them lead the way.

  • photo
    Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman, right, is high-fived by teammates after hitting a three-run home run in the third inning of the Braves’ win over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Sunday.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Baseball halfway

Your Atlanta Braves are 82 games into the 2013 slate. That means Sunday's 6-2 win over Arizona was the first step beyond the halfway point.

The Braves are 48-34 and have baseball's largest divisional lead at 6.5 games in the NL East.

They have done this by being outstanding at home, losing only one series in 13 at Turner Field.

They have done this with no more than three players playing at an All-Star level. Freddie Freeman and Craig Kimbrel seem to be no-doubters for an All-Star invite and you can make a hard case for Mike Minor being included, too.

They have done this with a parade of punchouts, a showcase of swinging and missing, a wave of whiff and a cavalcade of called third strikes. This bunch is flawed — and we knew it in March — because they strike out at near-historic levels. The Braves have 723 Ks, almost 40 more than Boston — the next major league team on the list. (Yes, Houston has the most, but the Astros are a major-league team in name only. Seriously, combined they make less than A-Rod.)

Reliant on power and pitching the Braves have claimed top-billing in an under-achieveing NL East.

They're fine and they are flawed. How would you grade them? Like the season, they are incomplete.

That said, we're very impressed with the improvement and growth of manager Fredi Gonzalez. Sitting in one of the most second-guessed gigs in the South, do you remember the last time you thought, "Man, Fredi, what are you DOING?" We can't either.

Compare that to a couple of years ago, when you thought that at least once every game.

————

Comfortable college football countdown: UTC

We stated last month that with college football now closing fast — we're eight weeks from this Thursday from the opening act, but who's counting — that we would spend each of the next six weeks looking at some of the college football teams of interest to those around these parts.

Last week did Auburn. This week we'll stay closer to home and look at UTC.

As we get comfortable with the college football countdown, we'll spend Monday covering the basics and if you have questions, feel free. We'll also all-but guarantee a mailbag question about the team in question.

UTC

2012 record 6-5 overall, 5-3 in the SoCon

Highlights: Defensive end Davis Tull was the best defender in the Southern Conference. Quarterback Jacob Huesman looked the part of a star-in-the-making.

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    UTC coach Russ Huesman watches a scrimmage at Finley Stadium.
    Photo by Angela Lewis /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Lowlight: The angst that centered around the quarterback fallout after Terrell Robinson was injured, replaced, quit and relocated to wide receiver.

Fallout: It's impossible for a Johnny Mocs Fan to not be somewhat bi-polarized about 2012. The Mocs were close — three of their five losses were by a single score, and two of those were in overtime — to ending their close to 30-year-postseason drought. The gradual improvement has lifted UTC to a consistent 6-5 level. Five years ago that would have been a pipe dream; today, it has become merely satisfactory as opposed to a wishful trajectory. That is high praise and a high challenge for UTC coach Russ Huesman and the program he has reconstructed.

And as our UTC football ace Johnny Frierson tells us here, the expectations have increased. And so have the stakes.

Biggest question: Who other than Huesman and Robinson will make plays with the ball in their hands?

Second biggest question: With a roster talented enough to be deservedly ranked in the preseason top-20 and be among the preseason SoCon favorites, will the transition of two new coordinators be seamless?

Secondary thoughts/talking points (and please feel free to share yours, too):

• Again from Frierson's report in today's TFP: UTC has 18 players with at least 10 career starts. There are 34 seniors and juniors on the roster. That's nice.

• How will that experience handle the first close game? UTC has not fared well recently in tight games, and learning how to win in games that are decided by a play here or there is part of the maturation process of a successful program.

• There are several local players on the UTC roster that are going to play and play well for the Mocs, highlighted by Jacob Huesman and Robinson. Here's saying that two others will provide them some much-needed support on offense. The 5-at-10 believes former Bradley Central receiver James Stovall and former Red Bank running back Keon Williams will have monster seasons in 2013. Call it a hunch. Call it opportunity meeting operators.

• If the light comes on and he plays hard and stays healthy, Derrick Lott will get the attention of dozens of NFL scouts.

Whatcha' got?

————

Head-scratchers

OK, the NBA started free agency this morning, and everywhere we turned the talk was, "Where will Dwight Howard end up?"

Here's a better question: "Who cares where Dwight Howard ends up?"

Is there a bigger Tin Man-perceived-superstar in sports right now than Howard, who is one-dimensional and apparently has a ceiling of little more than Dikembe Mutombo 2.0 or Shaq Lite? Dude tried to follow the LeBron plan — leave one team, form a super trio, start snappin' necks and cashin' checks — but belly-flopped in L.A. in the worst fashion.

He was exposed as someone who pouts and appears to lack the work ethic or intensity to be a champion.

So now he's going to command max money from some team desperate to make a splash and pool resources in today's super-trio NBA. Houston appears to be the front-runner, but a signing this bad screams Atlanta Hawks, right?

———

This and that

— We love the draft. You know that. We have found the limits of that love, however. Not a single iota of interest in the NHL draft. How'd the Bruins fare Spy?

— Want to know something that will blow your hair back? SEC media days are like two weeks away. CUH-razy.

— And it dawned on us that we're not as big an NBA fan as we may seem, considering the free agent stuff doesn't move our meter much. In truth, we enjoying watching LeBron.

— Matt Kenseth gambled on a late pit stop — taking only fuel — and benefitted as Jimmie Johnson spun out late to win the NASCAR race at Kentucky Speedway on Saturday. Kenseth has won a Sprint Cup-best four times this season, but no one looks stronger than Johnson, who led 182 of the 267 laps Sunday and also has a commanding 38-point lead in the standings. With Johnson and Anthony Davis and that Russian woman on GloboGym's Dodgeball team, has there been a better time for unibrows in recent memory?

— Kenny Perry rallied to beat Freddie Couples to win the Senior Players. It's Perry's first major title. Side question: Is there a more overrated golfer ever than Fred Couples? Discuss.

———

Today's question

On a weekend that featured the 5-at-10 spending almost all of it outside, feel free to freely fill us in on any sports topic we may have missed.

That said, our question is one of perception.

Does the U.S. of A. care about any singular sport the way the rest of the world cares about soccer? Did you see the Brazilians celebrate the Confed Cup? It was like winning the Mega-Millions while celebrating your college football team winning the BCS title while your first kid was being born. There were 9-year-old on the podium banging their chest and howling at the moon.

And we assume winning the Confed Cup is like winning the SEC compared to the World Cup's BCS.

Sure we root for our athletes at the Olympics, but is there one common thread in our sporting culture like soccer globally?

Thoughts?

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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Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
jomo11 said...

Jay- with the recent suspensions, It looks like Vandy may actually have SEC talent . . . .AND Dan Uggla continues to get meaningless hits and homeruns when the team is either way ahead or way behind, AND batting avr OVER .200. Man, he is worth all of that $13 million a year !

July 1, 2013 at 10:25 a.m.
MocTastic said...

The biggest addition to UTC football is the new Offensive Coordinator,Jeff Durden, who actually knows and believes in the spread offense. There wont' be as many close games this year because the defense will rock and the offense will score more points.

July 1, 2013 at 11:18 a.m.
BIspy4 said...

Bs did OK. Traded a few picks to get Jagr, who won't be re-signed, so there weren't many chances to land the next Vincent Lecavalier. Not much to get out of draft since the Bruins have few unrestricted free agents. Got a Swedish defenseman in second round.

Davis Tull the best defender in the SoCon? Accuse me of looking through blue and white-colored glasses if you will, but I was still pretty partial to one Brent Russell and to JJ Wilcox, third round pick of the Cowboys, as SoCon's best defensive players last year. Russell was always at least double-teamed. Not to demean young Mr. Tull's abilities (his brother Jethro by the way, awesome. Oh, come on, you knew that was coming), but Mr. Russell packed a mean punch. Even on the field.

July 1, 2013 at 11:25 a.m.
jgreeson said...

From friend of the show StuckinKent —

Going to go all funky new aged stats on you....

Mike Minor and Freddie Freeman lead the Braves with 1.9 WAR (Wins Above Replacement).

Minor's is good for 40th among pitchers in the big leagues. Freeman's is good for 56th among hitters in the bigs. (All these numbers per ESPN.)

And, yes, I do think Minor deserves to be an All-Star. I think it's obvious. He's been the best pitcher on one of the best pitching staffs in baseball.

Kimbrel's 1.4 WAR is good for 57th among all pitchers.

July 1, 2013 at 11:26 a.m.
Todd962 said...

I can only imagine how many strongly worded emails you received this morning(hundreds I assume) regarding your omissions of Groundkeeper Willie and Bert (from the famed duo Bert and Ernie) on the good times of unibrows. I can understand their beef. Those two fellas faced some tough years of ridicule while dealing with the mustache migration. The least we could do is give the fellas that paved the way a tip of the hat for their efforts to bring this new found fad to the forefront of today's culture scene. They're on the Monobrow Rushmore for sure.

The Confed Cup is like an invitational or exhibition of sorts, unless my memory fails me. I think it is the top team from each FIFA Continental Division and they come together as a hype up or tuner for the World Cup. No actual relevance or significance for anything, which makes their reaction even more frightening.

The Brazilian passion for soccer is what I could only describe as mental. Imagine how much you love your child and what you would do for it and that is how they feel about a game. It will be interesting to see how well Brazil plays host for the World Cup next year. Lets hope they win or get knocked out with no controversy. Because what happens when a stadium of 200,000 maniacs that has been waiting a lifetime for this moment turns on you? I have visions of the promos for World War Z, a sea of green and yellow clad people turning over buses and raining havoc down, the likes of which we have never seen. Should be awesome either way.

July 1, 2013 at 11:35 a.m.
JonathanMCook said...

Jay,

Slight break in the weather in the mornings which is nice (even if slightly rare). I wasn't expecting UTC to be the next on the list but considering I never follow the 5 at 10 when I'm at home, I'd say now then never.

I did like reading Frierson's story this morning over breakfest. Assuming no ensueing drama occurs, I don't forsee anything short of an 11-1 season for the Mocs given the top heavy roster in juniors and seniors.

Speaking of home, I will be starting my trek back to the 423 this Thursday. Tonight, I have a contest over at the Tavern in Richardson and on Wednesday a brief set over at Hyena's.

I hate the fact the Titan's Cheerleader story appears to remain within the "in-state" area. Otherwise, I'd have some fun with it in my set. But I got more then enough to play with. Still trying to secure a spot this Saturday for the open mic at Alfonso's place in the Bee-nard. Pony Express moves faster then their Facebook response time. D:

If I do land a spot, I will post it here.

July 1, 2013 at 11:57 a.m.
BIspy4 said...

Something you didn't mention this morning 5 that you brought up in a different way last week.

Did you ever think you would read this: Jeff Francoeur designated for assignment.

July 1, 2013 at 12:25 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Jomo —

Don't go getting spoiled by Uggla's lofty, borderline-Gwynnish-.205 average.

MT —

While we are not as hopeful as JMC, we think the baseline for the Mocs should be 8 wins and could be convinced it's 9.

Spy —

We should have phrased that a little differently. The GSU Eagles' linebacker may have been the most talented — third-round pick in the league is no joke — but we'll easily state Tull was the most productive SoCon defender.

And Francouer being out of work is mind-blowing.

Stuck —

We're a fan of the new cyber-stats, but they are not all created equally. That, and well, you know how much we love Kimbrel.

Todd —

Rushmore of unibrow?

We'll take Jimmie Johnson, GK Willie, A-Davis and Billy Buckner, who pulled off the rare uni-stache, uni-brow combo. That's dual coverage sir.

Bert finished a close second with Joe Flacco a surprising third.

JMC —

If the Mocs go 11-1, well, then they are the No. 1 seed in the playoffs and will be home for the duration of the playoffs. We're good with that.

And post away if you get a gig around these parts. Good luck.

— 5-at-10

July 1, 2013 at 1:47 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

Struggla's average is more Gwyneth Paltrow than Tony Gwynn.

July 1, 2013 at 2:08 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Spy —

That comparison of Struggla's average also works for the weights of Gwyneth and Gwynn.

Tony Gwynn swallowed a lot of aggression — along with a lot of pizza during his career. And for those of you who only remember the round hitting machine that became the veteran Tony Gwynn, please know that he had 56 stolen bases in 1987 and was drafted by the then-San Diego Clippers in the NBA draft in 1981 after playing hoops at San Diego State.

July 1, 2013 at 2:14 p.m.
MocTastic said...

edited

July 1, 2013 at 2:34 p.m.
LaughingBoy said...

I want to see improvement in the run game-by the running backs, in the kicking game, and for a receiver or two to step up before I believe the Mocs are a playoff team yet. I want to see continued improvement each year or they will be one and out even if they get in with Appalachian State and Georgia Southern moving up next year.

July 1, 2013 at 3:01 p.m.
JonathanMCook said...

Jay-

Did post I will be performing not this Tuesday (duhh!!) but next Tuesday at the Laughing Skull over in the A-T-L. It an't the Comedy Catch but it's still "within these parts".

But seriously, I will keep pushing and hopefully will hear something back from them this week.

July 1, 2013 at 3:13 p.m.
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