published Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

5-at-10: Tennessee's troubles, Falcons vs. 49ers and NFL lists

Gang, strong effort Tuesday. Remember the mailbag Friday, and we're looking at going with 10 questions and shorter answers, so fire away.

From the "Talks too much" studios, let's flip the switch.

  • photo
    Tennessee's Jarnell Stokes warms up before an NCAA college basketball game
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Tennessee's troubles

Rupp Arena is a cool, special place. Fans that know the game. Fans that know how to lift their team and affect the opponent. (Side note: Former UT hoops standout Dane Bradshaw is a regular on Tuesdays on SportTalk on 102.3 ith Quake, Joe and Dr. B, who is a doctor after all, and last night he was talking about Rupp. It's almost always interesting stuff if you have the chance to tune in.)

Well, as magical as Rupp can be for fans, it's part jail sentence, part root canal for opposing teams.

Ask the Tennessee Vols, who scrapped and fought and dug in for a tug-of-war that featured glimpses of what Kentucky could be and what we hoped the Tennessee would be. It also featured more than a slideshow of the limitations on the Wildcats and the Vols

Tennessee played hard — Jordan McRae is performing at an All-SEC level; sophomore Jarnell Stokes is assuredly not — and had the lead at 54-53 with less than eight minutes to play.

Despite shooting 14 fewer free throws — hey it's Rupp and it's a special place after all — the Vols were in position to make the home crowd especially nervous in the final minute. Down 71-65 with 43 seconds left, Josh Richardson drew an offensive foul on Julius Mays that somehow was deemed a flagrant foul for swinging elbows.

So Richardson stepped to the line for two shots with the Vols getting the ball too. Richardson's first free throw missed everything and with the air ball the air was sucked from the Vols.

So it goes. A good effort but another loss — the Vols' fourth in a row — in what appears more and more to be a lost season.

————

Falcons vs. 49ers

We started Tuesday breaking down the Falcons-49ers NFC title game by comparing the quarterbacks on Tuesday. Matty "Ice, Ice Baby" Ryan had the QB edge and the one-hit wonder rap song edge over Colin Kaepernick, who looks a lot like Humpty from Digital Underground.

Today, let's look everywhere else. Deal? Deal.

Running backs

Atlanta has the artist formerly known as Michael Turner, who showed some life in the win over Seattle, and change-of-pace runner Jacquizz Rodgers; San Francisco has Frank Gore and Anthony Dixon, but its best runner is likely Kaepernick

Edge: 49ers, slightly

Receivers

Atlanta has the best pass-catching trio in the NFL with Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez; the 49ers have one of the best ever in Randy Moss, who contributes little beyond blocking and decoy patterns, and some young, emerging talent with Michael Crabtree and tight end Vernon Davis.

Edge: Falcons by a bunch

Offensive line

The Falcons have been better than expected; the 49ers are as good as advertised and feature four first-round picks on the offensive line.

Edge: 49ers

Defensive line

Another area that has surprised Falcons followers, especially since John Abraham has remained healthy and the front four delivered 20.5 sacks in the regular season; the 49ers have the Smith Bros. — Justin and Aldon (no relation) — in a group that has been able to create pressure without blitzing, which could be huge Sunday.

Edge: 49ers

Linebackers

Atlanta has a future star in Sean Weatherspoon, and Stephen Nicholas is dependable, and Akeem Dent has been much improved in the last two months; San Fran has Patrick Willis, who many consider to be the game's best linebacker, and Navarro Bowman, who may be playing better than Willis.

Edge: 49ers

Secondary:

The Falcons spent a lot of money shoring up this group, a move that has paid dividends all year; the 49ers have a slew of first-rounders in their back four, including busts-turned-booms Carlos Rogers and Donte Whitner.

Edge: Even.

Looking at the rosters, the 49ers are more talented and a more complete football team. Maybe that's why they are the largest road favorite ever in a conference title game.

One of the reasons is the river of first-rounders San Francisco has acquired, be them its own pick or acquired otherwise. Here are the 49ers who were picked in the first round:

QB Alex Smith (1st overall in 2005); WR Michael Crabtree (10th overall in 2009); WR AJ Jenkins (30th overall in 2012); WR Ted Ginn (9th overall in 2007); Carlos Rogers (9th overall in 2005); Donte Whitner (8th overall in 2006); Patrick Willis (11th overall in 2007); Leonard Davis (2nd overall in 2001); Joe Staley (28th overall in 2007); Anthony Davis (11th overall in 2010); Mike Iupati (17th overall in 2010); Randy Moss (21st overall in 1998); Vernon Davis (6th overall in 2006); Justin Smith (4th overall in 2001); Aldon Smith (7th overall in 2011).

That's 15 first-rounders on the roster, or roughly 30 percent of the 53-man roster.

————

NFL lists

All totaled, there were 74 underclassmen who declared for the NFL drafts. Players have until Friday to change their minds.

Let's review:

There were 32 players from the SEC. Of the teams projected to contend for the 2013 BCS title, only Oregon did not lose any underclassmen.

The draft class is rich in pass-rushers, running backs and wide receivers. That means there will be good value in the middle-to-back-part of the first round.

It is short on shutdown corners and quarterbacks — only two junior quarterbacks (Tyler Bray and Eastern Washington's Kyle Padron) declared for the draft. That means Kansas City is left with minimal value with the No. 1 overall pick (although left tackle Luke Joeckel could be a franchise guy) and Dee Milliner is going to make a lot of coin.

Barring any last-minute withdrawals, here are the SEC players leaving early:

Alvin Bailey, G, Arkansas

Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee

Knile Davis, RB, Arkansas

Matt Elam, S, Florida

Chris Faulk, OT, LSU

Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida

D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama

Michael Ford, RB, LSU

Kwame Geathers, NT, Georgia

Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee

Jelani Jenkins, LB, Florida

Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M

Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia

Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama

Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina

Corey Lemonier, DE, Auburn

Bennie Logan, DT, LSU

Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU

Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama

Barkevious Mingo, LB, LSU

Kevin Minter, LB, LSU

Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU

Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M

Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia

Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee

Jordan Reed, TE, Florida

Eric Reid, S, LSU

Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri

Darrington Sentimore, DE, Tennessee

Tharold Simon, CB, LSU

Spencer Ware, RB, LSU

Brad Wing, P, LSU

—————

This and that

— Wow, how about the stories that are surfacing about how big of a jerk Lance Armstrong was/is? This has nothing to do with doping or PEDs or what have you. We never understood why some of the people who have the world by the string act like that. Is it that hard to be decent to folks? Really?

— Cam Newton is headed back to Auburn to finish his degree. Hey, a whole bunch of us needed several "extra" years to finish Auburn. Cough. Cough. It's the Harvard of Lee County you know.

— Jason Heyward was among the 133 players who filed for arbitration according to MLB. Heyward messed around and posted a pretty stellar 2012 (27 HRs and 82 RBIs). Five other Braves — Kris Medlen, Jonny Venters, Martin Prado, Eric O'Flaherty and Cristhian Martinez — filed for arbitration. Expect each of them to get raises, and it will be interesting to see which of this group the Braves try to lock up long term.

— LeBron James needs 18 points tonight to become the fastest to 20,000 career NBA points.

— Wow, tough loss for Vandy last night when Ole Miss scoring-machine, trash-talking-machine Marshall Henderson drilled a 35-footer at the buzzer to force overtime in the Rebels' 89-79 win. Henderson finished with 26 points, and likely told everyone in Memorial Gym about each of them. That said, when UT and Vandy play, is it possible for each of them to lose?

———

Today's question

As always, feel free to chime in, but if you need a talking point, well, here are a few:

Which SEC underclassmen will be the best NFL player? Well, other than Darrington Sentimore of course.

Bigger disappointment right now: Kentucky's freshman class or Jarnell Stokes?

If you are the Braves, who do you go after long term — Prado, Heyward or Medlen, and let's guesstimate that Prado would be five years for $80 million; Heyward would be five years for $100 million and Medlen would be five years for $60 million?

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 ...

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jgreeson said...

Sorry that the comments were turned off from the start.

Fire away.

January 16, 2013 at 11:29 a.m.
jgreeson said...

From friend of the show Charlotte's Web

OK, I agree with you. McRae is performing at the all-SEC level and is carrying the team in scoring but Stokes is not. What has happened to Stokes? Is it the awe of the moment? Is it that the coach has changed his style of play? Is it that he has become accustomed to 5 to 10 minute stints, regardless of how effective he is, and expects to be summoned to sit the bench again? I don't know but something is wrong.

So, Mr. Sports Editor, how can you call out Stokes for a non-all-SEC performance and Richardson for missing foul shots and fail to call out the one who lost the game for us? That would be Mr. Hotshot Trae Golden, the one who does not believe in keeping his eyes on the ball but always knows where that basket is. How many times did he turn over the ball at Rupp? Time after time after time in quick succession. And how many shots did he make? Carelessness. Pure carelessness. If he wants to gaze at the stars rather than secure the ball and spot a receiver, leave him on the bench or at home. He has that flaw and the team suffers because of it. He is not what he could be. You sports writers need to give him his due rather than continue to let him slide.

I saw a change in the pace of play after that first controversial personal foul that took the officiating staff too long to sort out. They saw what we saw. It should not have taken so long "to get it right" as the announcers said.

And that's my 2-cents worth today.

January 16, 2013 at 11:35 a.m.
JonathanMCook said...

Jay,

Lots to cover:

"The figures likely won’t shock college presidents arriving in Grapevine, Texas, for the NCAA convention, but they will highlight their rising concern over out-of-control spending on intercollegiate athletics that threatens to sink budgets and compromise their academic missions. Some want the NCAA to do more to address the issue even if it can’t legally limit salaries."

I'm 10 minutes up the road. Anyone want me to spy on some stuff? (j/k)

However Jay, reading that article (nothing surprising to be honest as much as the staggering details to the numbers). Colleges in Europe and Asia are probably LAUGHING at us hard and loud but that's another issue for another day.

January 16, 2013 at 11:36 a.m.
JonathanMCook said...

On a sidenote, I read Paschall's article while eating breakfest regarding this year's attendence numbers at Finley and its reflection of a 20 grand drop in revenue. This may once again bring up a possible topic for upcoming Five at Tens. Allow me to quote from the Book of Eckstein:

And thou said "At that point in time, we were still in contention for the league title. We had a disappointing result against Appalachian State, when they ran away with it in the fourth quarter, but I would have expected much better for Georgia Southern....other games were a little less than we expected, and I really don't have an answer for that."

I do. 1) UTC has plateaued. Russ may have helped raised the program from the cellar but three winning seasons out of four years and nothing to show for it (i.e. Conference champion, co-champion, or post-season), would make any fan fickle no matter how hardcore they are. Until the Mocs start going 9-3 with post-season action, people will still stay away. 2) Non-sexy conference. With less than half the conference schools being private schools no one cares for (period) and all of UTC's biggest rivals having either left the SoCon or fix'n to leave the SoCon, there really isn't whole lot to get excited about. That said Jay, maybe it might be a good time to pull up my scenerio chart regarding UTC's fantasy move to the FBS in a "very special" Five at Ten (I can resend it to you if you lost/deleted it). I'm not saying this is the "ultimate cure all" to Finley's woes (It's definately not). But it would not shock me one little bit that "scenerio" is presented sooner than later.

Love to hear your thoughts on this

January 16, 2013 at 11:37 a.m.
chas9 said...

Streaking. A great sport that has fallen into disfavor. UK avoided an un-Catlike home losing streak and The Vols slid to 0-3, their worst start since Buzz Peterson's first year. (And another UT former head man was fired yesterday, Kevin O'Neill.)

As Weeds wrote elsewhere today, this Kentucky team is way less than the 2012 champs, but they will likely shape up and go dancing. UT's season is over, except for salvaging a shred of dignity here and there.

Unless he's injured, McRae should earn first team all-SEC honors. It's fun to see players develop as he has. Stokes may be pretty good, but not as good as we thought. Playing beside Maymon makes anybody better.

Yesterday's game didn't change my low marks for Golden (Charlotte said it well) or Richardson, especially the latter. Again, he showed no poise. Lots of players on both teams brick free throws, but had he hit both clutch FT's, The Vols had the ball and a three would have tied it. So instead of manning up, his first shot missed the rim worse than any I can remember and the second was ugly, too.

So for UT to come close at Rupp with these lackluster efforts, something is amiss with UK. First, they still don't play hard enough at times. Second, their communication and flow haven't developed.

Most serious, perhaps, is that they don't have a lock-down defender who can stop a hot player the way DeAndre Liggins did. McRae hit 23, The Aggies' Turner hit 40, and UL's Smith and Behanan hit 20 and 21.

But Wiltjer redeemed himself and Noel had his usual great stat line. Nerlens has lots of tools, but unless he gets tougher, the NBA will eat him alive. And did you notice that when the big guy gums his mouth guard, he looks a lot like J.J. "Dy-no-mite" Walker?

After IU's loss yesterday, Louisville will look all alone at the top if they beat The 'Cuse Saturday, and The Cards could be the story team Jay's looking for.

January 16, 2013 at 11:49 a.m.
jgreeson said...

Charlotte (not Jack) Webb —

Your thoughts are most definitely worth more than 2 cents. And feel to swing by any time.

Great point — the Vols have underwhelmed because in large part Golden has been tarnished.

JMC —

We'll use your Finley prose as a mailbag for Friday. Deal? Deal.

And quoting from the Book of Eckstein made us laugh out loud.

9er —

Great breakdown, and concur on UK's lack of a stopper is glaring. And it is the starting point for an interesting claim that this UK team lacks a cold-blooded leader who would grab your jersey and set a future millionaire straight for not hustling or playing D or what have you. In fact Jimmy Dykes made a great assessment that UK has a host of guys who would fight with one another to block a shot but no one that will dive on the floor for a loose ball. (Side note: Dykes has improved to the point that we no longer mute his analysis.)

And Good Times on the JJ shout out. Well-played indeed.

— 5-at-10

January 16, 2013 at noon
chas9 said...

Which is the bigger disappointment? Based on play up to now, it'd be the UK frosh, because expectations/attention/ink are always sky high at Kentucky, especially for any new five stars.

If we may project going forward, Stokes is likely to have the worse of it because UK has a chance at an OK season, while Tennessee's is likely to get ugly. It's easier for young players to improve when they're having a bit of success than when they're discouraged. And I expect Harrow to provide better steadying leadership than Golden.

January 16, 2013 at 12:03 p.m.
fechancellor said...

10 Ring, Tyler Bray a potential gem in the Third, but teams must not set aside his wonderlia score. Interested teams should also demand Bray take the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI-2).

Given Bray's prediction toward bad behavior off the field including posting to the Vol Nation we are "Summer time Vol fans" on whatever that would have him. Worse chucking beer bottles on to cars from his second floor flat. Then there's this business of a plea deal concerning Bray's aggressive water sports.

10 Ring, I haven't seem this PSA yet, might you know anything about it?

Odds or high that Bray becomes Ryan Leaf or Jeff George

January 16, 2013 at 12:21 p.m.
JonathanMCook said...

You read my mind Jay ::scary:: I was originally considering submitting that for Friday's Mailbag but given the fact this is not a "short question-short answer" type of inquiry, I didn't know it would make the cut.

So deal.

January 16, 2013 at 12:23 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

Interesting choices to lock up for long term. Gotta go with Heyward, tho. Dude figures to be the next face of the franchise, along the lines of Aaron, Niekro, Murph (Murph! not to be confused with SAAALLLL!!!!) and Chipper.

Haven't heard the stories about Mr. Cheatstrong being a heel in other areas. What gives?

January 16, 2013 at 12:37 p.m.
jgreeson said...

9er —

Agree with the disappoint values. And here's saying we're about a week or three from Coach Cal (CAAALLLLL!!!) calling the group together and saying, "Boys, here's your chance. We are at the crossroads and February is here. Either you are going to step into what a Kentucky basketball player should be or you are going to finish out the string. If you are ready to be a Kentucky basketball player great. If not, I'm going to bring in a load of talent next year that will be ready to be Kentucky basketball players."

FE to the C —

Yes, Tyler was ticketed for some sort of jet ski infraction during his summer of flubs.

And Jeff George is the high end of Bray's ceiling, because despite not getting close to the results his off-the-charts skills should have produced (seriously, Jeff George has as much natural ability as any QB we can remember. And yes we mean any and all QBs since 1980 — Peyton, Marino, Brady, et al.) George still threw for 27,602 yards and 154 TDs.

JMC —

You're in.

Spy —

We think they go long term with Prado and Heyward, and hopefully Heyward would take a hometown discount.

As for Sir Lance-a-crock (or Liestrong), well apparently dude was just an awful human being to be around and was a world-class bully and wrecked lives of people who did not do exactly what he wanted.

— 5-at-10

January 16, 2013 at 12:48 p.m.
chas9 said...

Yesterday on cbssports.com Dennis Dodd argued that Texas A&M football is the pick for #1 this coming season, because they get Bama at home and have the Heisman winner and other winners back. Good logic.

He has The Tide #2 and he bunches The Cocks, The Gators, and Gawga together mooing the second five.

Who's the worst human being, Armstrong, Tyson or Cobb?

January 16, 2013 at 1:15 p.m.
JonathanMCook said...

Newsflash Jay (In case you are interested)

::reading DMN at lunch::

First article on said NCAA convention (front page) is talking a proposal to do away with the limits regarding recruitment in phone, text, emails, smoke signals, etc. Also on the table will be the possbility of recruiters interviewing as early as junior year and doing away with the limited amount of published material a recruiter can mail a potentual commitment.

More to come.

January 16, 2013 at 1:17 p.m.
Stewwie said...

Jay, for the mailbag, remember by questions on the QB Rushmores and/or my college football playoff hypothetical from last week.

So Chip Kelly had a change of heart after all and is going to the Eagles. Wow.

I read through the list of UTC football commitments for next year on page D6 today, but did not see Tyler Roberson's name on there. Did he decommit at some point?

January 16, 2013 at 1:57 p.m.
jgreeson said...

9er —

We thinK Texas A&M is good, but they're not ready to replace the two linemen leaving early and their leading WR (in our opinion).

JMC —

Here's hoping the recruiting rules overhaul is not a big-time letdown. In fact we can make a hard argument for an early signing period for football.

Stew —

CUH-razy stuff about the Chip Kelly. Will he be Jim Harbaugh or Steve Spurrier?

Tyler Roberson is still committed; we had a miscue in the production process.

We may try to get to both in Friday's bag.

— 5-at-10

January 16, 2013 at 2:11 p.m.
JonathanMCook said...

Spy-

I can't speak for everyone in the other parts of the country but here in Dallas, the top sports story is the NCAA convention in my backyard (Grapevine). That and the Mavericks trickle win-streak. Also, the fact the interview is being showed on St. Oprah's network (which is a premieum cable channel in most markets) ::yawn::

Chase- Cobb. Hands Down. Armstrong basically hurt himself and no one else other than offer sour grapes for those who came in 2nd or 3rd in all those Tour De Frances. Tyson was more a semi-intelligent ape who unfortunately got exploited at a fairly young age and had no real guiding adult figure to help him develop a "healthy" moral compass (hope I explained that right).

Ty Cobb: I don't know the full details, but basically he made David Duke look like a Unitarian Universalist.

January 16, 2013 at 2:40 p.m.
WilliamRscott said...

I concur with Dr. JMC regarding UTC football. Let's pretend Sir Eckstein also managed McKenzie Arena. I wonder what he would say about Mocs Men's Basketball attendance this year [and last year...and the year before that].

  • Billy in Brainerd [UTC alum, Mocs Club member; FB, MBB, WBB season ticket holder]
January 16, 2013 at 2:41 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

Sorry, JMC, but the NCAA meeting is like Congress, only worse, because you can't vote them out. At least we get a reprieve of campaign ads from the NCAA. The NBA is dead to me and has been for years. Don't watch games; don't watch highlights. Could not tell you who is leading which division though it appears the Lakers are not very good this year, from the brief seconds I hear any sports talk radio before turning the dial to listen to static, or my iPod with 14,000 songs. Lots of Haggard and Cash. Lots of Haggard and Cash. And I won't bother to watch Lance "sort of" confess to Oprah about stuff some of us figured long ago he was doing. Is this gonna be one of those Pete Rose "I'm sorry it happened," which is tantamount to "I'm sorry somebody found out"? I may not get to see Tech-Duke on Thursday and there aren't new Burn Notice episodes until this summer. But I won't be watching Stretchthetruth Armstrong on Oprah.

January 16, 2013 at 4:19 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

I've not been to Rupp for a college game. But I did see the Kentucky Sweet 16 there some years ago. Now that was an atmosphere, especialy when they're selling mixed drinks right outside the door to take to your seat.

January 16, 2013 at 5:13 p.m.
JonathanMCook said...

::thumbs up:: dully noted Spy..dully noted.

January 16, 2013 at 6:06 p.m.
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