5-at-10: UT football, Braves promise and big boy programs threaten college football

5-at-10: UT football, Braves promise and big boy programs threaten college football

July 23rd, 2013 by Jay Greeson in Sports - Columns

Gang, let's move at a quick clip.

From the "Talks too much" studios, come on feel the noise, girls rock your boys.

Tennessee Year 1

Let's believe that the Vols are in Year 1 of the rebuilding effort. That's a fair assumption, right?

Butch Jones, Tennessee's new head football coach, speaks during a 2012 news conference.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

Recruiting is going swimmingly, the hopes of this fall rest on four question marks at quarterback and really only have a light at the end of the tunnel with a seven-win ceiling. So, the lengths of success and disappointment are somewhat muted. It's a honeymoon period with a mail-order bride - there's some good, some bad and possibly some really ugly.

That's mostly a good thing in Year 1 for Butch Jones, who has done admirable work in rebuilding the connections and the recruiting ties that made Tennessee a power program from 1992-2002. There have been blips UT flashes since then of course, but the slide has been pronounced and magnified by the successes around the league and the emergence of former also-rans like South Carolina and Vandy in recent years.

Tennessee needs good vibes and positive steps. That's one of the reasons the epic recruiting roll that has the Vols atop the rankings of Rivals, Scout and 247 is such a big thing.

Yes, those rankings mean little in the grand scheme of things of today. And yes, every UT commit could change his mind and go somewhere else between now and February. But to dismiss the roll and the cause and effect that has Jones and Co. in the conversation with some of the most talented players from around the country at a time when the program seems fractured is noteworthy at least and bodes well for the days ahead.

As for the season on the horizon, David Paschall and the TFP sports editor broke it down on yesterday's Press Row - our radio show Monday-Friday from 1-3 on 105.1 FM. There are five games against top-15 opponents that appear to be tough sledding. A slew of the others are winnable, and there are if-games with Auburn and Vandy in Knoxville in Novemeber.

The Vols' biggest question hinges at who will be taking the snaps, and in truth that question likely has multiple answers. The key to these Vols finding the postseason rests on whether Jones and Co. have found an answer before the midseason bye week. If Tennessee is set at quarterback - this is not to imply excellent, rather just set and comfortable and improving - heading into the late October double-up of South Carolina and Alabama, then six wins seems very doable for these Vols and seven is in the conversation.

If a rotation or a platoon or 'riding the hot hand' is still the M.O., well, there's always this awesome recruiting class.

----

Welcome Back

OK, there was little on the TV last night after getting the tots down, so the Mrs. 5-at-10 joined us watching the end of the Braves game.

Atlanta Braves left fielder Reed Johnson, right, leaps in the air, celebrating Braves center fielder Jason Heyward's ninth inning catch of Justin Turner's flyout to seal the Braves 2-1 victory over the New York Mets in a baseball game Monday, July 22, 2013, in New York.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

"This is the first time we've watched the Braves in a while," she quipped. She was right. And we were rewarded.

The Braves scored twice in the rain in the ninth inning to grab a 2-1 win that was saved by Craig Kimbrel, who was saved by a game-ending diving catch by Jason Heyward, who returned to the lineup after his 15-day DL stint.

Heyward's catch was excellent. He raced into left-center field, extended at the last moment and caught Justin Turner's sinking line drive as two Mets runners were churning around the bases. It was one of those diving catches that doesn't get made without truly extending and it was timed perfectly.

It also showed a couple of strengths that we some times take for granted with this Braves bunch. Sure we know that Uggla and the Uptons could strike out at the Bunny Ranch, but let's be positive for a moment.

Defensively, this bunch is both rangy and solid, with gold-glove potential at short, first and in a couple of outfield spots. The bench is spectacular - considering the number of injuries this club has suffered through and the fact that they still have the largest lead in baseball. The bench delivered again Monday when pinch-hitter Reed Johnson singled in the winning run with two outs in the ninth. (Side note: Johnson is hitting .379 as a pinch hitter this year. Well-played indeed.)

We know these Braves are going to struggle to score runs in the postseason, when the competition improves and every at-bat is magnified. Well, the opposition could face the same hurdles.

Thanks Braves for a fun end to the evening.

----

Let the speculation begin

At the Big 12 media days, conference commissioner Bob Bowlsby pulled no punches. He echoed the sentiments and the whispers of the other big five conferences that the current NCAA structure needs a serious examine.

His quotes are telling - and foreboding. Give it a read:

• "It's probably unrealistic to think that we can manage football and field hockey by the same set of rules. I think some kind of reconfiguration of how we govern is in order." (Translated: We want to pay our football players.)

• "I really do think we need to reconfigure the leadership of the [NCAA]. I don't think we can at this point in time move forward, and we certainly haven't been able to configure an agenda that made the changes we need to make." (The NCAA enforcement issues give us a great chance to flip the switch and keep all the football money for ourselves. If you don't like, we'll take our helmets and go somewhere else.)

And just to be sure that he was not talking about tweaks to the current system, here's one more:

• "This is not a time when trimming around the hedges is going to make very much difference." (Tweaks and policy mean nothing - we want to keep all the scraps from Longshanks football playoff table.)

Bowlsby was quick to say that he does think solutions can be found within the NCAA, but Bowlsby's alarm comes a week after Mike Slive did something similar in Hoover at the SEC media event.

Here's the 5-at-10's personal view of what the power conferences want:

1) They want to control the college football playoff money the way they controlled the BCS playoff money. They are willing to allow the NCAA to keep it's bargaining power in regard to March Madness - the NCAA basketball tournament, which generates about 95-percent of the NCAA national office's revenue - but the future 10-figure contracts for the college football playoffs is a different matter.

2) They are looking at ways of trying to pay stipends to athletes in the revenue producing sports only. They want this to only apply to them and to the power sports that are football and men's basketball. This is contingent on point 1, and is offered more as a cover-our tail proposition and a huge recruiting tool rather than a measure of sharing. (Side note: The power conference presidents are not into sharing. At all.)

3) They want the NCAA rule book overhauled and in a lot of respects neutered. They want the rules-breaking coaches to pay the price, and there's merit to that in most cases. But when school's lack control, there has to be consequences - the power leagues want those consequences as tepid as possible. Every president and commissioner is terrified of a Penn State deal.

This is not the first time we're hearing this, nor will it be the last. The big-boy schools will continue to float the "we'll take our crystal football and go home" rumors and innuendoes until they get what they want. Is it a threat? Sure, it is. These academicians do not want to have to swallow their text books and join a semi-pro football league any more than the fans want to see it. But those same academicians want even less to lose money from the chemistry program because of revenue sharing with the FCS schools and the small conference folks.

Plus, after watching Boise State share in the revenue while spending significantly less, they have to slam that cracked door before a real playoff opened the chance for dozens of other programs.

Donald Trump

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

And if you don't think this could happen, here's saying all it would take is three whispers to the right people - Trump, Jerry Jones and Rupert Murdoch could have a $1 billion and broadcasting rights settled by lunch - and the bids would be enormous.

Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson told CBSSports.com columnist Dennis Dodd: "It will surprise me if they [BCS conferences] don't get what they want." And then... "The other five conferences will have to decide at what level we can afford to participate in it."

The discussions even have a nomenclature - folks are floating the Division 4 tag - and the possibilities of that upper crust league reworking the rules - of recruiting, of scholarship limits, of fees rights and player payment - are endless.

Small schools such as UTC better hope the NCAA figures out a way to avoid that, because if the big five split off, the future is bleak for everyone else. In fact, if the big five split and take whomever with them they want, here's saying that will be Div. I football and everything else will fade into some hybrid of Div. III with limited and partial scholarship deals.

Strange times indeed.

----

This and that

- The interwebs around these parts almost melted yesterday when some rumors were floated that former Ridgeland star Vonn Bell was part of THE latest crew to find trouble at THE Ohio State University. Late last night, Vonn texted our prep ace Stephen Hargis and said he was not in any of that mess and not in trouble with the team. Bell was not among the four Buckeyes mentioned in the release about their off-the-field misgivings. That is all.

Danny Ring has transferred from the Naval Academy to play defensive tackle for UTC.

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

- Nice addition for the Mocs, getting Danny Ring from Navy, as UTC football ace Johnny Frierson tells us here. We believe with a couple of breaks, this UTC football team could be playing well into December, and the depth and talent of this monster defensive line is a monster reason for those lofty expectations.

- Ryan Braun has accepted his suspension without pay for the rest of this season because of PEDs. Shocking, we know. A-Rod's suspension should be coming soon. Two quick things about Braun, who now is with Raffy Palmeiro in the "No WAY I did this.... except when I did this" group: 1) Is there any baseball player from this generation that would shock you to hear used PEDs; 2) Did you see that when defending Braun during the last round of accusations, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said on The Twitter he was willing to bet his salary on it? OUCH-standing, and where will Aaron be sending that $4.5 million check.

----

Today's question

We're going to flip the script. If you have a question, bring it. Whatcha' want to discuss?

That said, if you need a talking point, we're always open to the question about whether there is a MLB player from the last 20 years who would shock you if he was in some PED mess? Well other than Roger Clemens of course.