published Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

5 at 10: NFL power rankings, college recruiting and the Vols' coordinator search

From the "soon to be determined studios" here we go...

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    Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson performs a Lambeau Leap after scoring a touchdown against the Detroit Lions during an NFL football game Sunday, Jan. 1, 2012, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Matt Ludtke)

NFL Power Poll

We kind of glossed over the NFL playoffs this weekend other than Tebow's heroics and the Falcons implosion.

Here's an idea, a Power Poll of the top five teams left.

1) Green Bay: The Packers are the Super Bowl favorites — in Vegas as well as the heartland. (And we all know Tim Tebow is the favorite in the heavens. You got to admit that 316 stuff is a little crazy. Let's just move on.) That said, Sunday against the New York Giants may be the Packers' toughest test. What do the Giants do very well? They pressure the passer. What is the Pack's biggest weakness? Protecting the passer.

2) New England: The Pats host the Denver Tebows on Saturday night and New England is a 13.5-point favorite. Wow, that's a ton of points, right? Especially since Tebow has the power of the light on his side. (All jokes aside, that 316 passing yards, John 3:16 coincidence is kind of head-scratching, huh?) Here's what we know Tebow can do: He can bring the topic of religion and football together like no one else since that guy wore the rainbow wig and held up the John 3:16 sign a generation ago. He could easily swing the Republican primary any direction he saw fit. (And if you don't believe that, well, you underestimate Tebow's power in the Christian community.) He can have less than a full season as a starting quarterback and dominate the playoff discussion despite the fact that there are six former Super Bowl MVPs still in this postseason. One thing we don't think Tebow can do: Win on Saturday against Tom Brady and the Patriots.

3) New Orleans: The Saints are a road favorite — laying 3.5 at San Fran on Saturday. New Orleans has been unbeatable at home and have been football's Wilt Chamberlain — they've been scoring at record clips (thank you, we'll be here all week). But look at the game's three phases, and this is a lot closer: New Orleans is the best offense still in the playoffs, granted, but San Fran has the best defense and the best special teams left in the playoffs.

4) Baltimore: The Ravens got a very nice draw. Think Ray Lewis and Co. aren't licking their chops about getting a rookie quarterback in Baltimore after a week of rest. The 7.5 seems a little low for us; we like the Ravens comfortably.

5) San Francisco: See above. And remember this name Aldon Smith, the 49ers rookie pass rusher. If the 49ers are going to find a way to beat New Orleans, it will be because Smith and Co. have gotten to Drew Brees frequently.

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    UT football coach Derek Dooley talks to the media at Neyland Stadium.
    Photo by Angela Lewis /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Vols' DC updates

The search for Tennessee's defensive coordinator continues, and with each passing day a new name (or two) appears and a new level of consternation is added to the process.

Reports from Knoxville have Alabama linebacker coach Sal Sunseri interviewing today for the opening. Hey, we all saw Alabama's linebackers put on a clinic in Monday night's 21-0 whipping of LSU in the BCS title. Sunseri obviously had a hand in that, but we'll offer this caveat: hiring defensive assistants off Nick Saban's staff should always be viewed with a well-trained eye. Yes, new UT AD Dave Hart got an up-close view of the Alabama staff during his time in Tuscaloosa, so he should know Sunseri's skill level. But coaching defense for Saban is like coaching offense for Steve Spurrier, you may be in charge of a part of it — maybe — but that's Spurrier's offense and Saban's defense and there's no debating it. Period.

That said, if Sunseri is the front-runner, that at least allows the Vols and coach Derek Dooley to say this was all part of the plan from the beginning. Is that true? It could be. But there have been a river of unattributed sources throwing out names from Randy Shannon to Kevin Steele to Phil Bennett to Ron Zook to even Buddy Green.

Sunseri's late addition to the list at least offers some plausible explanation why the Vols have not pulled the trigger in this crucial time. Being coachless — especially a coordinator — during the recruiting days of January turn each day into a dog day — it feels seven times longer to the fan base and the potential recruits.

We thought from the start that Dooley needed a home run hire in the public view. None of the names above appear to be a home run hire, although you could make an argument that Shannon still has enough name recognition to qualify. Dooley still needs a big-time hire, but as each pitch goes speeding past, it's becoming more and more apparent that the time to swing for that home run is now. Especially with a monster recruiting weekend just days away.

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    Alabama's Barrett Jones poses with the Outland Trophy after the College Football Awards ceremony in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., Thursday, Dec. 8, 2011.(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

First wave of college football recruiting is now

High school seniors will be making visits and decisions in the coming days about where they are going to play college football. Big-time college football followers (like the 5-at-10) will worry too much about which four-star is leaning toward which SEC school.

So it goes.

That said, the biggest recruiting additions for several SEC schools are already on the roster. Here are the five schools that can instantly improve their outlook for 2012 by convincing the following players to return for one more college run (Arkansas is already a big winner with running back Knile Davis deciding to return):

Alabama: The Tide got an early gift when All-American offensive tackle Barrett Jones elected to return for his senior. If any of the group of potential first-rounders of Trent Richardson, cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick or linebacker Dont'a Hightower, that would be a huge plus. Richardson seems like a lock to leave, considering the position he plays and that he is a top-5 projected pick and far and away the best running back in the draft.

LSU: There appears to be talk that Tigers cornerback Mo Claiborne — a projected top-10 pick — may be interested in returning. If that's the case, the Tigers secondary would be the nation's best — by leaps and bounds.

Georgia: Tight end Orson Charles and safety Baccari Rambo have last-minute decisions to make. Neither figure to be first-round picks, but each is coming off a strong year and each will test well at the combine.

Auburn: Tight end Phillip Lutzenkirchen and running back Onterrio McCalebb have decided to return for their senior seasons. That's big — especially for McCalebb considering the vacancy left by Mike Dyer's decision to transfer — but there's one more Auburn player weighing his future. Receiver Emory Blake — the Tigers' only consistently productive wideout — has submitted paper work and has not made a decision.

South Carolina: Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery has declared for the draft as expected (wonder if he'll send Lane Kiffin a shoutout at the draft about pumping gas), but the strength of this record-setting Gamecocks team was their defense and losing standout cornerback Stephon Gilmore hurts. If any other defenders leave, including oversized safety DeVonte Holloman, the toll will be felt.

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    Alabama's AJ McCarron celebrates after the BCS National Championship college football game against LSU Monday, Jan. 9, 2012, in New Orleans. Alabama won 21-0. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

This and that

— We have the winners and losers from the Winners/Losers Bowl-a-palooza contest. With Alabama winning the BCS title, Big Shot won the whole thing and gets a BCS prize pack that includes a shirt, a program, some cups, some other trinkets and a Visa gift card. Congrats. There was a three-way tie for last between C-Vol, BBlackmon and Uch. We broke the tie by seeing which of these three got the fewest of the higher-value games. They each had LSU in the seven-point game, but C-Vol correctly picked just one of the four-point games, so he won the losing part. Well-played — or not. C-Vol, shoot us an e-mail and we'll give you a couple of options from the prize vault.

— Wow, the 5-at-10 was bemoaning the lack of viewing options Tuesday. Yes, it was the post-bowl season hangover. Then we stopped on the Ohio State-Illinois basketball game and realized two things: Sweet shooting strokes, Brandon Paul is a big-time Big Timer. Dude went for 43 points — including seven in final 43 seconds — in a 79-74 over No. 5 Ohio State. Paul scored the Illini's final 15 points and completely took over; two conference games with ranked teams on the road are fun. Kids getting jacked up and going Dickie V-level of nuts for the camera.

— Another nice game on last night was No. 4 Baylor escaping with a 75-73 win over Kansas State to remain unbeaten. Side question: What kind of bizarro world are we in when the Baylor Bears have collected a Heisman Trophy, capped a 10-win football season, stormed to No. 4 in the men's poll and No. 1 in the women's poll and are a combined 31-0 in basketball this season? Hey, here's a thought, why has no one hired Baylor's AD? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

— According to the Palm Beach Post, Nu'Keese Richardson has retired from football, which is not unlike the 5-at-10 retiring from politics. Think about it: Richardson played less than a season at UT and dabbled at some other smaller schools before "retiring." The 5-at-10 was an SGA officer at Auburn, serving on the student government for a year. Background: Richardson was the former UT receiver that was a four-star high school recruit who Lane Kiffin took great pride in flipping from his long-standing commitment to Florida. Richardson was part of the "Hamburglary" when Richardson, Janzen Jackson and Mike Edwards tried to rob two guys who had nothing more than a cheeseburger outside a convenience store. Here's a wild prediction: That will not be Richardson's last brush with the authorities. Call it a hunch.

— Remember about Friday's mailbag and if you have any other suggested names for the 5-at-10 studio — either tributes, zingers, what have you — let us know.

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    LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson (9) lays on the ground after being hit during the second half of the BCS National Championship college football game against Alabama Monday, Jan. 9, 2012, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Today's question

We're going with two questions today.

We asked last week for predictions for the lasting bowl images from this college football postseason. Now we want to hear about your favorite moment from the bowl season. It can be your team's win in Hawaii — shoutout to CJoyner — or a big play or a tight game. Heck, if you're a West Virginia fan it could be the joy of a month's worth of offense (70 flippin' points) in four quarters.

Question Two: It's obvious the BCS folks are looking at change (granted, we believe that BCS power players reluctantly are going to bring change before change is forced upon them). What type of system should college football embrace? Yes, we all concur a playoff is better than a bowl set-up, but at what cost? Is a playoff system worth lessening the best regular season in all of sports (and you know our answer on that)? Discuss.

about Jay Greeson...

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 ...

Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
patrickd said...

Thoughts on this clip of Will Blackwell from Monday night's game? Seems to be poor sportsmanship if you asked me.

January 11, 2012 at 10:22 a.m.
jomo11 said...

Jay, Buddy Green would be a very good DC for UTK, but how do you think that will play with Vol fans from the Chattanooga area, who turn their nose down on anything related to UTC ?

January 11, 2012 at 10:37 a.m.
Eustice_Chase said...

Ladies and Gentlement...Austin 3:16 says I just whipped your ___! Tebow 3:16 says.. I'll steamroll you Stunning Steve any day!

and so the battle is on!

Austin enters the ring in his traditional Black on Black/ double knee brace ensamble shooting double birds to anyone and everyone.

Tebow Enters the ring after flipping a tire off of a D-9 dozer....and twirling 20 ft chains over his head like an Oregan State Majorette... he bows... and crosses over in the Squared Circle

Austin goes for the Collar and Elbow Tie up...Tebow dodges and liver kicks Austin...picks him up over his head ala Lex Luger and makes Austin Submit via Human torcher Rack....or as the Tebow calls it...the Crusifiction!!!!

Tebow then helps Austin up...wishes him well and he rides off into the Sunset with The Denver Broncos O-Line Carrying Him on the thier Shoulders....(camera shoots up to the rafters to show John Squared...Elway and Fox...clapping in approval...but telling the media otherwise.....)

January 11, 2012 at 10:40 a.m.
jgreeson said...

P-Davi —

That clip screams frustration from a player that realizes the dream is done. That, or Blackwell thought that he was stomping on Jordan Jefferson's hand and maybe a mashed hand would send him to the bench and bring Jarrett Lee in.

Jomo —

We think Buddy Green does work. Good work. But how that name plays with a fan base starving for a splash is a fair question (although we think it would be more about the lack of sizzle with Green than his UTC ties to be honest).

Cue the Gordon Solie: OH MY WORD, is that EC's music. It is. IT IS EC's MUSIC.

Welcome back to the fold EC, it's been too long. And your wrestling scene-setting is awesome. Allow us to add the following:

A hoodie Bill Belichick is Austin's manager and a suited up Tom Brady with Gisele dressed to the 9s also in his corner.

When Tebow starts walking down the aisle, the entire area drops to a knee and "Tebows" to Stone Cold goes nuts.

We'd like to think that Stone Cold would win the first match — maybe even knock out Tebow and pour beer down his throat (maybe even Tebow's first beer ever) to set up a pay-per-view rematch that could be part of a three-night package with on a weekend with Mayweather vs Pacquiao fight, the biggest MMA action you could think of a Tebow-Stone Cold rematch. It would be the biggest Pay-Per-View action ever. EVER.

Welcome back EC.

— 5-at-10

January 11, 2012 at 11:37 a.m.
Eustice_Chase said...

Thank you, thank you ( as the theme song to Welcome Back Kotter plays in the background) Its been a while but me and the sweathogs finally got the oppurtunity to come back and play.

Barret(jackson) Jones coming back for his Senior Season is huge... almost as huge as the gaps he will be making for whoever runs the ball for the tide.... Roll Tide

Can we not even get a mention of Kobe draining 48 last night...angainst the...well...its not important who the Lakers were playing...what is important that after 16 seasons Kobe is still the standard in the (David Stern & Jimmy Hoffa..i say Jimmy Hoffa because you know Teamsters love their pro basketball) NBA

January 11, 2012 at 12:16 p.m.
fechancellor said...

There's a new sheriff in Oaktown, and his name is Reggie Hammond, uhhhm McKenzie.

10 Ring, I love this hire of a former Vol and Raider who has climbed the ladder for 18 years in the wildly successful Packer organization to fill a billet not filled previous "Behind (or in front of) the Shield," a real live GM.

I also fully endorse Mr. Mark Davis's--there will be only one Mr. Davis--admission in his presser that he knows what he does not know.

The first day on the job, Mr. McKenzie, in a decisive move, cans Head Coach Hue Jackson. Jackson, Cable and Lane Kiffin were hires made by Mr. Davis, since no quality NFL coachs would submit themselves to his atrophied acumen.

Mr. McKenzie's hire lifts the Silver and Black into the NFL mainstream, thus we may see or first quality coach in Oaktown, since Chuckie was bundled off to Tampa Bay.

10 Ring, as you may deduce, I'm very excited these dramatic turns of events, however, $10 million over the cap with virtually no draft picks will test Mr. McKenzie early.

What do you think, 10 Ring? Can Mr. McKenzie bring order to the Raider galaxy? Is this move also a possible harbinger of things to come such as a Raider return to LA?

January 11, 2012 at 12:39 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

perhaps Auburn breathed a sigh of relief that 5 at 10 was on the SGA ... and not a liaison to the Pan Hellenic Council.

January 11, 2012 at 12:49 p.m.
Redlegs11 said...

Favorite bowl moment was sitting with 9 year old son only a couple hours removed from seeing the joy in his face following his first ever high with Bo Jackson and having him reply after a second blocked Virgina punt by Auburn unsolicited "Punt, Virginia, Punt" and realize what an awesome job you have done raising your child to this point that he so easily recalls "Punt, Bama, Punt" nomenclature that happens 30 years prior to his birth!

January 11, 2012 at 1:10 p.m.
Redlegs11 said...

That should be high fIve with Bo. There was no synthetic weed Involved that I was aware.

January 11, 2012 at 1:12 p.m.
jgreeson said...

EC —

We put the NBA in 5-at-10 timeout for 54 days — or double the days 27 into the NBA season before the deal was reached. The NBA can re-appear in the 5-at-10 later this month. (Loved the Hoffa reference, though.)

FE to the C —

Thought about you when the Raiders started shaking things up. No first rounder this year, but if Palmer can be a reliable starting quarterback, that's OK. Big-named coach would be a big start, and your right, an owner who is willing to admit what he doesn't know is HUGE (ask any Dallas Cowboys fan).

Spy —

Be nice. And if the 5-at-10 had been on the Pan Hellenic Council, we'd had outlawed Lamar Latrell's special "javelin" that was aero-dynamically designed to maximize his limp-wristed throwing style. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

— 5-at-10

January 11, 2012 at 1:14 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Redlegs —

Got to say that's the best bowl story we've heard in a long time. "Punt, Virginia, Punt," brought a tear to my eye.

— 5-at-10

January 11, 2012 at 1:24 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

I am nice. Sometimes. On even-numbered days. Between 3 and 5 in ther afternoon.

Favorite moment from the bowls ... hmm ... Michigan State's tying touchdown in the fourth quarter? Yeah, I'll go with that.

So was Hue Jackson fired by the new GM? Or was it ...

the Ghost of Al Davis?

Wow. Just thought of a new horror movie series. Instead of Scream whateverthenumber, the next one would be Scream: Al Davis. No stupid teenager in a black cape and a mask based (somewhat) on Munch's painting "The Scream" but rather a dude in shades with chains and a running suit terrorizing the neighborhood. This needs to be green lighted. Today.

January 11, 2012 at 2:03 p.m.
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