Talent's not the problem

Tennessee's slipshod play on offense through five games has fans offering all kinds of explanations. The most popular are:

A. Poor coaching

B. Poor execution

C. Poor quarterback play

D. Poor receiver play

E. Inconsistent blocking

F. Lack of discipline

G. Lack of execution

H. Lack of talent

Frankly, I'd be inclined to go with all of the above except for H. I simply can't accept the premise that lack of talent is responsible for Tennessee's general ineptitude.

My assessment of the Vols' talent level is not based on the number of prep All-Americans on the roster. I've seen too many blue-chip prep high schoolers flop at the college level to be swayed by that. What impresses me about Tennessee's talent level is that I see a host of future NFL players on the offensive roster.

Tennessee's quarterback play has been poor, no doubt about it. Except for the second half of the LSU game, the Vols haven't gotten quality QB play all season. Rick Clausen is limited physically (no mobility, modest arm strength) and Erik Ainge is limited mentally (his confidence appears shot). Even so, I think Ainge will play pro ball someday. He has great size and arm strength, plus a good mind and decent mobility. He has talent. He just isn't utilizing it.

Some fans are grumbling that UT's receivers are overrated. I beg to differ. I believe Robert Meachem, Jayson Swain and Chris Hannon will play in the NFL, and I wouldn't be too surprised to see C.J. Fayton and Bret Smith do so, as well. Only Fayton has played up to his potential this fall, but the problem at wideout is performance, not talent.

The offensive line is taking a lot of heat but I don't think talent is the problem there, either. I'm guessing Arron Sears will be a first-round NFL Draft pick someday, and I believe Rob Smith, Cody Douglas and Albert Toeaina will be drafted, as well.

Tailback Gerald Riggs and fullback Cory Anderson have NFL futures, also.

To recap: UT has one quarterback, three wideouts, four offensive linemen and two running backs who are good enough to play pro ball. That tells me they ought to be good enough to play college ball.

A lot of factors have contributed to Tennessee's sluggish start this season. Lack of talent isn't one of them.


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