Morning folks and don't forget about Friday's mailbag. Let's get to it.
Here we go...
Vols linebacker Nigel Mitchell-Thornton, No. 37, shouts encouragement to his teammates from the sideline. Staff photo by Jake Daniels/Chattanooga Times Free Press
UT spring fling — linebackers
Injuries have landed at linebacker for the University of Tennessee football team. Hard.
So much so that the No. 1s at this moment are a career back-up (Nigel Mitchell-Thornton), a walk-on (Shane Reviez) and a converted running back (Daryl Vereen). Step away from the ledge Johnny Vols Fan, this week ends with the third Saturday in April, not the third Saturday in October.
There is time to find answers — be it playing five DBs, others getting healthy and/or some new faces in August — but the current state of the Vols' linebacking corps is tough to answer.
It figures to be more athletic in the coming years, which is a good thing.
It figures to add some star power in August with freshman A.J. Johnson's arrival — a big-time recruit from all indications.
It figures to be aggressive, a hallmark of new LB coach Peter Sirmon's over-achieveing NFL career.
And if there's one good thing to all the injuries this spring — here is our UT ace Patrick Brown's RECAP of the situation in today's TFP, available around the greater Chattanooga area — this fall UT will have more depth at linebacker just by having more guys work with the starters in the spring.
In this Jan. 3, 2007 file photo, Becky Foreman, left, and Julie Jenkins, both of New Orleans, hold their signs showing their sentiments about former LSU coach Nick Saban during the Sugar Bowl NCAA college football game between LSU and Notre Dame at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Andrew J. Cohoon, File)
College football concerns
Here's a question for you, and we'll make it multiple choice to make it easier: Would you rather your college football team...
a) Win the conference title
b) Win the rivals/scout/whatever recruiting national championship
c) Have your rival busted by the NCAA
Here's hoping you instantly picked A, but that this is even a question makes the 5-at-10 somewhat sad about the state of college football. Friend of the show Quake was talking a little bit about this on SportTalk last night, and let's go "O' Brother Where Art Thou" for the rest of this rant:
The current state of fandom leaves college football "in a tight spot."
The star players are "relatively unaffiliated," (religiously speaking, that is) and when the penalties eventually come down, they done R-U-N-N-O-F-T to the NFL.
Plus, the rapid rate of accusation and information leaves the NCAA as a geographic oddity (two weeks from everywhere).
The rules have become so intricate — a by-product of all the coaches ("He's a suitor"), programs, boosters ("Friend, you're folding money's come unstoved"), etc. looking for loopholes — that sneezing without saying bless you may/may not be a secondary violation.
And with the "talk-smack" nature of today's college football fan — especially 'round these parts — fans naturally want to win, but they want to avoid hearing their rivals talk junk with as much vigor. So in today's SEC, where winning the league title has meant winning the national title for the last half decade, that means the only way to knock at least one SEC rival from their pedestal — and in turn to stop the crowing — is hoping the NCAA comes to town.
And let's face it, if you're hoping the NCAA is investigating someone, well, you better not hope too much. Or remember as Delmer said, "Yeah, look at me," the NCAA will look at everybody eventually. They just start near the top, because that's where the most interest is.
In this image made with a slow shutter, Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Tommy Hanson throws a pitch in the third inning of a spring training baseball game against the Boston Red Sox, Wednesday, March 16, 2011 in Kissimmee, Fla. Atlanta won 4-3. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Braves baseball at its best
The game was quick — 2-and-1/2 hours is flying by today's standards — the pitching was good and the offense scored more than two runs. That, ladies and gentlemen, is Atlanta Braves baseball at its best.
Tommy Hanson was strong. He hit his spots and threw three pitches — fastball, slider, change — for strikes. There was a point early that informed the 5-at-10 that Hanson was on his A-game. In the second inning, Hanson allowed a leadoff double to Mike Stanton and fell behind Gabby Sanchez 2-1. He dropped a perfect breaking ball in for a strike — a pitch that Sanchez would never be looking for, and would not have been able to hit if he had been looking for it. At that point the over/under number of runs needed for Hanson became two.
And Holy Screaming Baseball on the Jumbotron at Old Fulton County Stadium, when Jason Heyward connects, it's a scary proposition for a first baseman.
Dude can crush.
Couple of interesting stats: Every Braves regular got a hit (and, yes, Nate McLouth started) and it was the smallest announced crowd in Turner Field history at 13,856.
Tonight, two of the NL's best pitchers that don't play for the Phillies go at it when Tim Hudson faces Josh Johnson.
Feeling the draft
The 5-at-10 loves the NFL. You know this.
As of this morning, we are officially two weeks and a day away from the first day of the NFL draft. Color us excited.
The questions swirling about this draft are strong and forceful.
Who will the Panthers take? Who should the Panthers take? How will the Raiders make us scratch our heads and go, 'Do what?' This is a glorious time.
We've only got a little more than two weeks, which means we must tackle the top 10 questions heading into this draft. Here's you challenge: What are the biggest questions heading into the draft.
We'll start with, "Who is the most sure-fire first-round stud?"
Von Miller, the Texas A&M linebacker/defensive end, has made a strong push since the season ended — dude is a serious workout monster — but there's little doubt in the 5-at-10's view that LSU corner Patrick Peterson is the biggest lock in this draft. And despite Miller's best efforts, it's not that close.
Peterson is 6-foot-2 and 219 pounds and has a low 4.3-speed in the 40. By comparison, Eric Berry, who was the No. 5 pick last year and had a Pro Bowl rookie season with the Chiefs, entered the draft at 5-11 and 200 pounds with somewhere around a 4.4 time in the 40. And remember, Berry had the glorious combo of being a safety with corner speed; Peterson is a corner with safety size, which may be even more impressive. And more rare/valuable. Plus, Peterson is an elite kick returner.
A lot of folks say you have to spend the No. 1 overall pick on a tackle (offensive or defensive) or defensive end or a quarterback, but here's an interesting stat for you: There are 32 NFL teams (No, SteelerFan, that's not the interesting stat), so that means there are 64 starting NFL cornerbacks (Again, not the interesting stat — wait for it). Of those 64 starting corners, 44 were either first- or second-round picks. Yep, that's right around 70 percent.
Again, this is not saying Peterson will go No. 1, but when the draft gets reviewed in five years, here's saying there will be a lot of folks saying Peterson should have gone No. 1.
Georgia head coach Mark Richt looks on from the sidelines during the fourth quarter of the football game against LSU in Athens, Ga., Saturday, Oct. 3. LSU won 20-13. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
This and that
— The University of Georgia coaches must address the hole on the offensive line left by Trinton Sturdivant's injury. The good news is they have to be used to it by now. Sturdivant's third ACL tear leaves an opening at tackle, and our UGA ace David Paschall breaks down the contenders to fill that job HERE. Here's an interesting part of Paschall's story: "Georgia first-year line coach Will Friend said [A.J.]Harmon and Justin Anderson rotated at first-team right tackle Tuesday opposite Glenn, who seems set as the left-side starter." Harmon has played in all of seven games [each was a blowout] and Anderson has spent time as a reserve on the offensive and defensive lines.
— Every NBA team is in action tonight — a first since the late 1950s — as the league concludes its regular season. We'll examine the playoffs more in the days ahead when we know the matchups for sure, but the 5-at-10 saw some of the Bulls-Knicks last night. Holy Buckets, Derrick Rose is playing ball.
— The Tennessee Titans have few playmakers other than Chris Johnson. Now one of the other top offensive threats is being offensive again. From a Foxsports report: "Titans wide receiver Kenny Britt faces three charges stemming from a police chase in his hometown of Bayonne, N.J., according to reports.Britt was charged with eluding an officer, lying to an officer hindering apprehension, and obstructing government function. Police say the incident occurred Tuesday afternoon when Britt was caught driving 71 mph in a 50 mph zone. When an officer attempted to pull the vehicle over, Britt accelerated and wove through traffic before exiting, the police report said. Britt and his passenger, Jerel Lord, were seen walking away from the parked vehicle on a local street and were questioned by police. Lord, who police say attempted to run before being apprehended, also faces three charges including one of marijuana possession. Britt admitted ownership of the Porsche but denied having been behind the wheel. The two men were released on summons and will have a hearing, though no date has been set. The three-year veteran out of Rutgers caught nine touchdowns and amassed 775 receiving yards for the Titans in 2010 despite missing four games due to injury. Britt has had prior run-ins with the law. He was arrested in January 2010 for failure to pay for three outstanding traffic warrants. Britt also was questioned about his involvement in a Nashville bar fight in October." Looks like we can go ahead an add wide receiver to the Titans draft needs, too. That's it, they need to draft either Julio Jones or Nick Fairley, whichever one is there, and play to lose 15 games next year, refund half the season-ticket prices, and go after Andrew Luck. Anybody got a better plan?
Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...