Good season for UT: 9-3

The Sporting News does not have Tennessee in its preseason Top 25. Neither does SI.Com.

But has the Vols No. 9.

No. 9 after a 5-6 season?

The website author says the Vols have enough talent to rebound, that David Cutcliffe will provide a shot in the arm and that Arian Foster will be UT's next great NFL running back. It says the offensive line will be fine behind All-America candidate Arron Sears and that Justin Harrell and Turk McBride are NFL ready defensive tackles.

That's why UT is a top 10 team.

Why it might not be: The inconsistency of quarterback Erik Ainge and the defense losing its top two tacklers.

What does UT need to do to reach the BCS Championship game?

``Play like the NFL farm club it is. Few teams can touch the Vols on straight athleticism and next-level caliber talent, so now it's up to the coaching staff to prove that last year was a total fluke.''

Last year might have been a fluke, but has overrated Tennessee's talent. The Vols don't have the best talent in the SEC. In fact, the talent level is closer to fifth than first.

Tennessee also has a brutal schedule that features games against preseason top 25 teams California, Florida, Georgia, LSU and Alabama.

UT fans don't want to hear it, but given UT's talent and schedule, a 9-3 record would be a good season.


If Vanderbilt's Jay Cutler is taken in the first round of Saturday's NFL draft, it would mark a record fourth consecutive year in which an SEC quarterback will have been taken in Round One.

Rex Grossman of Florida was a first round pick in the 2003 draft, Eli Manning of Ole Miss was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2004 draft and Auburn's Jason Campbell was a first rounder in 2005.

That streak will surely end next season. Chris Leak of Florida is the best quarterback in the SEC and he projects to be a second-day pick. LSU's JaMarcus Russell has the athletic ability, but he was too inconsistent last year.

There's not another quarterback in the SEC this season that even projects to be drafted, much less in the first round.

When Alabama's Brodie Croyle is picked this weekend, he will be the first Alabama quarterback since Jay Barker in 1995 to be selected. That 11-year drought is the school's longest in almost 60 years, according to the Birmingham News.

This is the same school that produced Bart Starr, Joe Namath and Ken Stabler.

From 1956-79, Alabama developed seven NFL quarterbacks. Since 1980, only three have been drafted: Walter Lewis, Mike Shula and Barker. None played in an NFL regular-season game.

Since 1996, only Alabama and Mississippi State from the SEC have failed to have a quarterback drafted. Florida has had the most (seven).

Between 1977-97, the SEC had one quarterback (Tennessee's Heath Shuler) taken in the first round. Since 1998, five SEC quarterbacks have been first-round picks, with Cutler soon to become the sixth.


Georgia has produced more NFL players than all but two SEC programs over the past five years and ranks high in the SEC in current players in the NFL.

Does Richt use that as a recruiting tool?

``I don't think we go crazy with it,'' Richt said. ``When kids come on officials visits, they see the kids who have been first-round picks. They find out we're three or four in the nation in current players in the NFL. They're kind of surprised and taken aback.

``I'm not real big on hype and convincing guys they'll go straight to the NFL after three years. I'm more inclined to help them understand this is a team at Georgia. We'll help them grow as young men and get a feel of reality and not a bunch of fluff. Some guys like that kind of thing. Some guys don't. Hopefully we're recruiting guys that want to put the team first. If we're doing that, we've got a chance.''


During the SEC Spring Football Teleconference, Kentucky coach Rich Brooks got a bit confused.

Brooks was asked about improving one of the SEC's worst defenses in 2005.

He said the linebackers will be much better, that defensive tackle Myron Pryor played like ``gangbusters'' during the spring and that some recruits will make an impact.

``I feel good about our depth,'' Brooks said. ``We can rotate more players and stay fresher than we've been able to. In all my years at Tennessee, we've worn down in the fourth quarter because we didn't have depth to rest players.''

Say what? In all my years at Tennessee? I wonder how that will play in the Commonwealth.


SI.Com has picked Ohio State as its preseason No. 1 team with four SEC teams in the top 15 and a fifth in the top 25. Tennessee is not among them.

SI.Com has LSU No. 5, Auburn No. 10, Florida, No. 11 and Georgia No. 13. Alabama is No. 22.

California, UT's opening opponent, is No. 8, one spot behind Southern Cal.

NOTES: Florida ended the spring with 49 healthy players; 13 potential starters missed the spring game. … Kentucky had 31 surgeries last fall, by far the most under Brooks. ``It was almost like a twilight zone,'' Brooks said. … Georgia's Mikey Henderson was one of the team's most ``dominating'' players in the spring, Richt said. Henderson make a quick transition from defensive back to receiver. … Mississippi State coach Sly Croom said he does not approve of playing a spring game against another team because fans would put pressure on you to win, rather than play as an exhibition. ``I'm not in favor of adding another game in any way, shape, fashion or form,'' he said. … Arkansas coach Houston Nutt said he considered moving Robert Johnson to receiver, but when backup quarterback Alex Mortensen said he planned to transfer, Nutt asked Johnson to remain at quarterback, where Johnson had a solid spring. … One of South Carolina's top players in the spring was junior college linebacker Jasper Brinkley, who has a twin brother, Casper Brinkley. Casper will report in August. … Two key Ole Miss players to watch this fall: running back Ben Jarvis Ellis, a transfer from Indiana, and defensive lineman Peria Jerry.

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