Disclaimer: This is meant to be informative and humorous. If you are still upset by the walk-ons allowing the first teamers to score 69 points, then you may want to wait a few days before reading. Without any further delay, here we go…
*The "What are you thinking" Award: Robert Boulware
I hate to start this ceremony on a negative note, but this guy really, really, really hurt himself on the football side of things. Willie Miles is gone and left a corner slot wide open. It looked as if Boulware and Larkins would compete for the job leading up to spring practice. When spring Media Day rolled around, it was revealed that Larkins would be a tailback and Boulware would basically miss all of spring due to track obligations.
I am not at all trying to tell someone how to go about living their life, nor am I going to get into the football vs. track argument. Boulware is at Tennessee on a football scholarship and coaches were looking for another starting corner. If he was more worried about track, then that is fine. The only thing is that he basically committed career suicide as a football player by doing this. Okay let's try and make this a little more positive.
*The Staying Alive Award: O.J. Owens
This time last spring O.J. was battling with the decision of staying on the football team or leaving due to a glandular disorder that could flare up at any time. Owens would be a scout team player for the entire 2002 season. There were even some reports that he was leaving the team. Coach Fulmer acknowledged Owen's health problems many times. After everything, O.J. was still around for the 2003 spring practice session, which would prove to be his personal best as a Vol.
Partially helping his cause was the injury situation. Senior captain Rashad Baker would sit the entire spring while he healed his shoulder. Injuries to Chris Heath would leave Owens as the only free safety on the roster. He made the most of the opportunity from day one. On the first day of practice, he picked off a Casey Clausen pass and had a 40-yard return. He was third on the team in tackles in this past Saturday's Orange and White game with 7 total tackles. His health problems are by no means clear as O.J. would like, but he is positioning himself to make a splash in 2003.
*Playmaker of the Spring: Mark Jones (Did you expect anyone else)
Okay so I'll admit that this is not surprise. When Coach announced that Mark was going to spend the spring primarily at receiver it was a slight surprise just because the depth at safety was not great. As mentioned above, many untested players would have to fill in for the injured upperclassmen.
Mark Jones may have had the best Orange and White game of any Vol footballer in many years. Jones caught four passes for 152 yards, including touchdown plays covering 76 and 45 yards. His ability to make the "big play" is something that Randy Sanders did not have last season after Kelley Washington. The only problem seems to be the lack of depth at safety may mean Mark will have to pull double duty next year. That could also mean he could get worn out with the constant work.
Mark's versatility will make him a threat every time his is on the football in 2003 regardless of it is offense that is lined up on. Nine times out of ten, the best in the spring translates into the best in the fall. Keep your eye on number 10 starting in August.
*The Late-Push Award: Antwan Stewart
It looked as though Jason Allen would get the best of Stewart leading up to spring break in late March. Whatever happened over the spring break, it did good for Antwan. When the Vols returned to practice on the Tuesday after they returned from their off-time, Stewart began to overtake the job.
His best practice of the spring came on Thursday, March 27. He made several great pass breakups and picked off a Casey Clausen pass during the two-minute drill period where the offense was backed up close to the endzone. The play he made showed great awareness for the ball. Stewart's 6 tackles in the Orange and White game were solid, but he was outdone by Allen, who returned an interception off of James Banks for a defensive touchdown. The battle for the left corner job will push well into August, but one thing is for sure. Antwan Stewart will be there come gametime.
*The ‘Hoping you're the next Al' Award: Kevin Burnett
Since the end of the 1998 season, any linebacker that has suited up in orange, signed to play football at Tennessee, been recruited to wear the orange or watched a Tennessee game on television, they have ultimately gotten the Al Wilson comparison slapped on them at some point. So why should Kevin Burnett be any different?
Burnett did not practice fully this spring. His knee injury in the opening game against Wyoming in 2002, combined with his importance to the defense kept him sidelined for the most part during spring drills. It was not uncommon to see Kevin be jumping into teammates that were slacking or didn't make the play he thought they should have. It was also not rare to see a slight skirmish between the senior co-captain and another young, immature Vol.
The main difference seems to be that Al wasn't as vocal as Burnett seems to be. Coming off of a subpar 8-5 season, actions will be the only thing that speaks louder than words. Those actions will have to be very loud and very early in the '03 schedule.
*Walk-on of the Spring: Matt McGlothlin
This guy was probably the surprise of the spring. The one position where there was an opportunity to play your way into the mix, it was defensive tackle. Bam Bam, as he was nicknamed by Will Ofenheusle, was a load to handle this spring. Many underclass offensive linemen couldn't handle Matt and he even busted up many double teams that were thrown his way.
Clocking in at 6-0, 280, he has perfect leverage size for the tackle position. He registered 6 tackles in the spring game and a TFL. If strength and conditioning coach Johnny Long gets him whipped into shape this summer, McGlothlin will be one of the top four d-linemen on the team come August.
*The REAL Most Improved Award: Cody Douglas
Yeah, yeah I know that he won the most improved award from the coaches, but this one means so much more. At the start of spring Cody was listed as the second team right tackle and it was widely thought that he would push Sean Young for the starting job. Young was injured to start the spring, but would be back in action within a few weeks. That may have been too long of an absence. Cody is stilled listed as a backup, but he is a backup at two different positions.
‘Big Cody' is slated as Young's backup and is right behind Chavis Smith at right guard as well. Douglas is a trim 315 this spring. He has shown himself to be much quicker off the snap than he was during the season. He handled all defensive line teammates he matched up against very well. ''Cody's gone from being a really good prospect that we thought would be a good player for us, to being a good player,'' offensive coordinator Randy Sanders said. ''He's made a lot of progress and I think he's going to be a special guy around here the next two or three years.''
Going into the upcoming season, you can count on Cody Douglas being a key component to the offensive line and it all began with the Inside Tennessee M.I.P. award.
*The Best Track-Footballer of the Spring: Jabari Greer
This guy is so good that he never even laced up his football cleats once during spring practice. Recently during the Sea Ray track relays on campus, Greer won the Tony Wilson Award for track. The award is given to the most outstanding Sea Ray Relays performer in each event area. He also made up a 10-meter deficit to lead Tennessee to the shuttle hurdle relay title in 55.17, the second-fastest collegiate time this season.
Greer is already penciled in to start at the right/strong cornerback position, so the main thing he needed to so was provide a little leadership to Stewart and Jason Allen. At every opportunity Jabari could be found on the sidelines tutoring to his young pupils. From all early indications, Jabari Greer has made the most of his spring.
*Mr. Hollywood for the Spring: Jarrod Smith
When Jarrod came to Tennessee from Georgetown, there was a videotape/disc that was circulated through Big Orange boards of Smith throwing a football from his knees thought the goalpost from about 50-yards out. No small task. Because he is a walkon, not much was documented about him and the rumors continued to fly.
In actuality, Jarrod had a good spring. He is still in the midst of rehabilitating his injured knee and will set out the 2003 season. Smith could be a legit contender for the starting quarterback job in a year if he is able to get his knee back to where it once was. Regardless, Smith's name has been the big pop of the spring.
*The Moron Award: Montrell Jones
Montrell was suspended from the football team one week ago for a "violation of team rules." Although that is very bland, it is obvious that the problem had something to do with drugs. He had been suspended twice before during the 2001 and 2002 seasons, not to mention earning community service time for an incident in Louisville. He missed the '01 game vs. LSU and the '02 matchup with Rutgers. Jones was making strides at receiver this spring. He looked very much improved and ready to push for playing time this next season. Then the bottom fell out on him.
Let me just preach for a second. Trell, what exactly were you thinking? You had already been suspended for two games in two separate seasons AND had a run-in while you were at home. Coach Fulmer is a very, very understanding person, but at some point the man will draw a line and say ‘that's it.' I can understand personal problems and if that is the case, then you need to take the situation into your own hands. You have the potential to have a good career and more importantly than that, get your degree. Here's hoping you will get one more chance to correct on past mistakes. There are many, many people that are in their 40s and still paying for an education. At the absolute least, do not mess that up for yourself.
*The Nothin' Really Changed Award: Mondre Dickerson
Going into the spring practices back in March, there was an obvious need to make the situation at defensive tackle much clearer. Losing Rashad Moore, Aubrayo Franklin, Demetrin Veal and Ed Kendrick, all of which played huge roles in 2002, was going to be task for Dan Brooks. Dickerson is a senior on paper, but a sophomore in SEC experience.
"We are looking for consistency out of Mondre," Brooks said earlier this spring. "He worked hard in the offseason. He is stronger and that sort of thing. He's buying into what we want him to be. We are just looking for consistency day-to-day in his work habits and what he is doing."
His 6-5, 265 pound frame needed to be a little biggger, but Brooks was hoping to see Dickerson take over completely to make the footing on the defensive line a little more stable. Mondre improved but didn't become dominant this spring. With a summer under his belt, we may see a big change in him when two-a-days begin. I know Dan Brooks wants to.
*Athlete of the Spring: James Banks
The granddaddy of all awards was a closely contested race. Corey Larkins made a late push and Mark Jones would have made just as good a selection, but the player that looks to have the best future in orange of the three is Banks.
James did everything in spring drills with the exception of punting. He was a quarterback, wide receiver, punt returner and returned kickoffs. Banks' athleticism is absolutely phenomenal. I will admit that he did not have the greatest O&W game this past weekend. He dropped a long pass from Casey Clausen that hit right in his hands and was sure to be a touchdown. He moved around between quarterback and receiver all day long, which may account for some inconsistency in the game.
Offensive coordinator Randy Sanders moved Banks around like a spare lamp. He was changed around so much during the spring that managers would always take the orange, contact jersey in addition to the green, no contact shirt Banks usually wore. On one play in the spring, Banks fielded a punt, ran to the sideline, was pushed right back onto the field as a receiver and caught a pass on the very next play.
The fact of the matter is that Banks has proved what I thought going into spring. James must be able to play receiver and step in at quarterback should the need arise. He gives the team the second best chance to win of any quarterback on the team. Like many of you, I'm not keen on James being the backup and one of the top 5 receivers on the team, but that is just the way it is going to be whether we like it or not.
Well that's it. The First Annual InsideTennessee.com Awards are complete. Not exactly the Grammys, but you didn't have to put on a tux for these either.