Do Herbie Awards Dis' Vols?

Tennessee's problems on offense have been well documented and debated the last two years, but the just released Herbie Awards shed new light on what has become a perplexing problem.

If you're not familiar with the Herbies, you probably know their creator — ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit — who has published his awards in advance of the college football season since 2001.

What can we glean from the 2004 Herbies?

Apparently, Herbstreit believes Tennessee is strategical challenged and woefully short of top tier talent. For instance: three of the top eight "defensive wizards" are in the SEC, but none at UT. Nick Saban tops Herbie's list while Georgia's defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder is No. 6 nationally and Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong is rated No. 8.

Saban also heads the list of Sergeant Carters in college football which are the master motivators of the game. Likewise, LSU offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher makes the list of "Offensive geniuses" at No. 8. He is the only SEC coach to break through in that category which is led by Maryland head coach Ralph Friedgen.

No coach from Tennessee's staff shows up anywhere under the Sideline Superstars. But they shouldn't' feel anymore slighted than UT's players or fans which also failed to impress Herbie.

However Vol opponents Georgia, Florida and Auburn get plenty of respect as does LSU. Carnell "Cadillac" Williams is rated the nation's best running back while LSU's Justin Vincent is No. 4.

Under offensive "Difference Makers" Georgia's Fred Gibson is rated No. 5 at wide receiver and LSU center Ben Wilkerson is one of five players recognized on the offensive line.

Georgia QB David Greene is rated No. 2 at quarterbacks "I'd Want Under Center" while Alabama's Brodie Croyle and Florida's Chris Leak make the quarterback list as "Ready to Step Up" at No. 2 and No. 3, respectively.

In the Dominating Defenders category that features front 7 performers, Georgia's David Pollack is rated No. 1 under defensive ends while Florida's Channing Crowder is rated No. 5 at outside linebacker. No, UT's Kevin Burnett doesn't show up on that latter list although he is rated among the linebacker for the "All Uni" team — a collection of players that look good in uniform.

The secondary called "Back End" is liberally sprinkled with SEC DBs but none from Tennessee. Georgia's Thomas Davis is No. 2 under free safeties and LSU's LaRon Landry is No. 4. At cover corner LSU's Corey Webster is No. 2, but UT's Jason Allen is a no show.

The only legitimate player category Tennessee breaks is the New Kids of the Block with Erik Ainge and Brent Schaeffer listed as co-No. 7. Other SEC new kids include: No. 2 Georgia running back Danny Ware, No. 6 LSU wideout Early Doucet, No. 10 Florida defensive end, Jeremy Mincey and No. 11 Alabama wide receiver Matt Caddell.

Notably, Florida and LSU are two of the five schools listed under "Campus Awards" and the Gators also check in at No. 3 for best students.

Herbstreit appears to go out of his way to slam Fulmer. In his "Do Not Miss These Games" he has Florida and Tennessee with the comment: "This game is always intense, but both Zook and Fulmer may need this win." Also listed in this category is the annual Tennessee-Alabama showdown with the following comment: "An already bitter rivalry took another turn thanks to Phil Fulmer turning state's evidence against the Tide. Fulmer was afraid to go to Birmingham for SEC Media Days, but Bama won't be afraid to stick it to the Vols in Knoxville."

Herbstreit takes a final shot at Fulmer in the Notre Dame at Tennessee contest writing: "Here's guessing by November, there's some heat on Ty Willingham and Phil Fulmer. Here's further guessing the winner here can rest easy for a little while."

Apparently, Herbstreit would never guess Fulmer has a record of 113-28 at Tennessee or that the Vols average 108,000 fans per game. But he does have them listed at No. 16 nationally this year.

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