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

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

February 27th, 2013 by Jay Greeson in Sports - Columns

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.

Tennessee Vols coach Cuonzo Martin

Photo by Jake Daniels/Times Free Press.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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/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.