As part of Tennessee Hate Week, we brought Joel from Rocky Top Talk over for a chat about the upcoming struggle between chaos and civilization game. Joel, like brave soldier Justin Harrell, is fighting injury in the form of a kidney stone, but represented the Vol Nation brilliantly in the questions below.
O: 1. Erik Ainge: faster, stronger, and better, or waiting to crack at the slightest pressure from a quality defense? Inquiring minds want to know.
J: Yes, yes, and yes, all mentally. And . . . maybe. We'll know when he gets hit. Amazingly, Ainge has barely been touched this season and has not been sacked even once. This is a truly tectonic statistic (okay, a slight exaggeration) given that Cal supposedly had one of the top three defensive fronts in the nation and that David Cutcliffe had to be diagramming
plays in the preseason using question marks and exclamation points instead of Xs and Os.
Still, Ainge's 2006 mettle really hasn't been tested yet. He has made good decisions under mild pressure, though, throwing the ball into the Tennessee River instead of into a crowd of opposing linemen at the goal line when under pressure. He also regained his composure quickly after throwing his only interception in the first game against Cal, following it up with
three TD passes on his next three attempts.
If pressed, I'd say that Cutcliffe has indeed put Humpty back together again, this time for good. But as my Magic 8 Ball said when I asked it the same question, Ask again later.
Don't forget: This is Eric Ainge, too.
2. Tell me about your latest beastly set of linebackers who fall for misdirections. And on that note, how the hell did they give up nearly 300 yards of rushing to Air Force?
The Tennessee media raised their collective eyebrow this spring when defensive coordinator John Chavis said that he thought this group of linebackers would be better than the group he was replacing. The early returns are that he may, in fact, be right. The leader in the middle
is senior Marvin Mitchell, who in two games has racked up 19 tackles, three of them for a loss. To his side is Ryan Karl, who's had 16 tackles, two tackles for a loss, and one sack.
The star of the group, though, is Jerod Mayo, who was named the national defensive player of the
week for his performance against Cal. Mayo's had 17 total tackles and four tackles for a loss, and his three sacks leads the SEC and ties him for sixth nationally.
As a group, these guys are fast and talented, but they are indeed inexperienced, and yes, they tend to fall prey to their enthusiasm and over run a play here and there.
The Air Force game remains an unsolved mystery. If you haven't seen the tape, go have a look. You simply could not tell who had the ball on any given play. I blame the illegal and unconstitutional use of classified military technology designed to befuddle opponents. I thought I heard theleft guard singing a Red Hot Chili Peppers tune just prior to the snap. Anyway, it's hard to tackle the guy with the ball when you don't know who's got the stupid thing.
Oh, and watch out for redshirt freshman linebacker Rico McCoy, who's backing up the other three. He's going to be really, really good.
UT's called in experts to figure out how Air Force ran them over last Saturday.
3. Who should we imagine as the boogeyman in our closet for this week who
wears an orange jersey?
Britton Colquitt. I'm thinking this one comes down to field position, and he'll be our best weapon if that's the case. Perhaps the best of the Colquitt kicking clan, Britton will be motivated by last year's loss, which he contributed to by taking the Gator bait and attempting the fake punt. He didn't punt even once last week, so he's well-rested, too.
See also, the aforementioned Mayo, safety Demetrice Morley, who's the most talented athlete on the team, and running back Montario Hardesty, who was ahead of Arian Foster on the depth chart last year before he tore his ACL. He'll probably start in place of Foster this Saturday, and he's got boogeyman moves.
4. Conversely, who is currently knocking on the door of your nightmares
and wearing a blue and orange jersey?
Tony Joiner, and he's got an orange-and-blue hued sack full of condiments.
Saw some video of freshman receiver Percy Harvin this morning, and he looks scary good.
5. Name the most appalling things you've seen fans from both sides do to another fan in this rivalry. You have to have seen this with your own eyes, counselor, and the offense cannot include the wearing of jorts.
Oh, this question had so much promise, and yet I'm going to whiff. You'd think that with a seating capacity of roughly 104,000 it would be easier to get tickets. I've been to a lot of games, but, shame of all shame, I've never seen a game against the dreaded Gators. So if you rule out jort-wearing, I'm left with whatever made it onto the airwaves and into the papers, which isn't much. I've heard the stories about Gator fans throwing urine-filled cups in the general direction of Tennessee coaches' wives, but I suspect that the legends of horrific fan behavior are exaggerated.
Then again, that could explain why Tide fan Chris Bice told Warren St. John in Rammer
Jammer Yellow Hammer that he'd go to any away game except Florida because that's where he "might end up killing somebody."
6. If Tennessee wins...how grandiose do your visions of the future get?
I'm actually sticking with my preseason predictions at this point, even if the Vols beat the Gators. You'll recall that during our preseason podcast with Rusty, I said I thought that Tennessee would split its games with Florida and Georgia, and that Georgia would win the East. Even if Tennessee wins, I still think we
lose to Georgia and LSU. Perhaps one more as well.
But if Ainge can continue to lead the nation in passing efficiency, things could get interesting.
We liked this Erik Ainge better.
7. Name Tennessee's principal weaknesses, and how Florida may exploit
Tennessee's offensive line has done remarkably well in the first two games considering preseason expectations. Florida's highly touted defensive line will need to test them to see if they've been good or lucky. If the Gator d-line beats the Vol o-line, we'll also find out whether Ainge reverts to 2005 in the face of adversity or whether he is indeed a new man.
8. Name Florida's principal weaknesses, and how Tennessee may exploit
I frankly don't see any weaknesses. Perhaps the o-line, but it would appear that this would be a weakness v. weakness match up, especially with star defensive tackle Justin Harrell out playing
with one arm.
Here's the game plan as far as I can tell: (1) hit Chris Leak; (2) contain,contain, contain; (3) hit Chris Leak; (4) protect Erik Ainge; (5) hit Chris Leak; and (6) punt the ball really, really, really far.
9. How's Phil looking? He appears to be just under cruising weight, if you ask us.
Phillip's looking tense. Angry. Dissatisfied. He's thinner and grayer.
Hungry, you could say.
10. Your bold prediction, which you may not weasel out of under pain of
horrendous insult, is:
Somebody will bring a sign to the stadium that says, "We Must Protect this Cheese."
Oh, and . . . hmmmm . . . 27-24, Tennessee.