Bowl Season



ACC vs. SEC Nashville, Tenn.
LP Field
Dec. 30
6:40 p.m.

The folks at Carolina March were nice enough to answer some questions about the Tar Heels.

BS: 7-5 may be considered a disappointment considering the preseason goals of top 20 and contending for an ACC title. However, considering the huge personnel losses due to misconduct, it may be considered a success. How would you rate this year and how were the 'Heels able to get to a bowl game this year?

Carolina March: It's both a dessert topping and a floor wax; a success and a disappointment. Compared to what people were expecting in July, 7-5 is a step back, but with all the losses on defense and the chaos the team was thrown in, they did very well. The offense really stepped up when they were expected to be a drag on the team, which makes it even more infuriating when you stop and think of what could have been had so many defensive players not gone off and done stupid things, but there were some good a wins and a couple of near misses that you have to look at as good things.
BS: The offense did improve from last year, especially in the passing game. How much of the offensive improvements would you attribute to T.J. Yates? Also, please comment on the offense in general including personnel.

Carolina March: A fair amount, actually. He really developed a rapport with his tight ends in particular, as UNC has come to rely on the short passes underneath the defense. There's a lot of talent in the wide receiver corps, especially Dwight Jones, but the offensive line rarely gives Yates enough time for deep passes. The running backs have been depleted by injury and the various scandals, but Anthony Elzy has stepped up admirably.
BS:The defense did struggle more this year, giving up nearly 6 points more per game than last year. Please talk about the defense's performance including some personnel.
Carolina March: Well, they lost a lot of people, and in an unexpected fashion right before the start of the season. So they were younger than expected, and rather suspect in the secondary particularly. This had a bigger cost on special teams, actually, as a lot of those players were shifted to the defense; kick and punt coverage has been abysmal all year. Luckily, Tennessee is at the bottom of the SEC in most offensive categories, rushing especially, so I'm not too worried about that side of the ball.

BS: If you had to choose one player who will have a breakout game in the bowl game, who would it be?

Carolina March: Dwight Jones. Tennessee's defense isn't great, and if there's anyone who's been under the national radar, it's Jones. He could have a Hakeem Nicks-type game, easily, and really up his profile.

Thanks a lot. Check them out at

Graysnail, a writer for was nice enough to answer some questions about Tennessee.

BS: The Vols were 2-6 and 0-5 in the SEC before winning their last 4 games and qualifying for a bowl. How would you rate head coach Derek Dooley's job in his first year?

Graysnail: Is “incomplete” a possible response? As far back as 2008, it was pretty obvious that 2010 was always going to a season of reckoning; most of the offensive line and a good chunk of the defense was graduating (or, in Eric Berry’s case, ascending to a higher plane), which meant things were going to be difficult regardless of our coaching situation.

Then Phil Fulmer got fired, and Lane Kiffin came in.
Then Lane Kiffin left for USC, and Derek Dooley came in.
In the meantime, two recruiting classes didn’t see coaching consistency, numerous players transferred, and poachers abounded; if the team could make it through this season without any depth-related disasters, then it would be a success. (Whether you consider the end of the LSU game a disaster is in the eye of the beholder.) As it happened, that measure of success went by the wayside early - there were a few weeks when Tennessee literally couldn’t field a dime package due to injuries and suspensions in the secondary.
Even with depth, this was going to be a hard season. The way the schedule set up, the general expectation was a tough first half of the season followed by an easier last month, although only a few people expected Oregon to go on a rampage like they did. Personally, I was expecting 6-6, but even the most irrational orange glasses-wearing fans couldn’t get past 8-4. Dooley did as well as I could reasonably expect, but he was never going to be judged by most based on his 2010 results; quite frankly, we were happy to be playing in late December, but it wasn’t that we wanted a bowl game - we wanted the extra practices.
That’s how this season has gone for Tennessee fans; we’re happy to be here. We’re happy to be here because of how useful these practices will be toward the future, and as a result, we can’t really judge Dooley’s 2010 until we see how his 2011 goes.

BS: The offense improved towards the end of the year. However, they were not great in the rushing game, ranking 100th in the nation. Please comment on the improving offense including some personnel.

Graysnail: Tennessee’s rushing attack wasn’t much to write home about, but it’s not entirely due to being ineffective. It doesn’t help your rushing attack when you’re 110th in the country in rushing attempts per game. With that being said, how often do you see a guy who’ll top 1,000 yards on the season on a rushing attack rated 100th? Tauren Poole had a great season; the problem was that he was the only guy on the ground who was doing anything. David Oku and Rajon Neal basically were around to give Poole a breather.

So how’d the Vols get it done? The second half offensive revival came from two main changes, possibly related: Matt Simms was benched and OC Jim Chaney took the offense back to the halycon days of Drew Brees. Simms, for whatever reason, didn’t have full enough command of the offense to feel comfortable lofting deep passes or making decisions in any classic spread-type four and five-wide sets. Current QB Tyler Bray, on the other hand, thrives on the deep ball and simplified decision making which has seen the emergence of WR Denarius Moore as a go-to receiver for Bray. Tennessee’s offense has exploded thanks to the Bray-Moore combo (highlighted during a two-week, 102-point explosion against Memphis and Ole Miss, which isn’t exactly the toughest competition but at that point we weren’t complaining).

BS: The defense gave up 24.7 points a game. What is the key to stopping the North Carolina offense and who are the key players on the defensive unit?

Graysnail: TJ Yates is the Tar Heels’ biggest offensive threat - and, by extension, Owen Spencer. That matches up well with Tennessee, who doesn’t do spectacular in either rushing or passing defense but makes up for a mediocre pass D with a very opportunistic secondary. Janzen Jackson led the team in interception return yardage, but Prentiss Waggner was the breakout danger, returning 3 picks for TDs on the season.

Johnny White seems decent enough as a rushing option, but forcing Yates into a mistake or two is probably Tennessee’s best chance at victory. I don’t think Tennessee’s going to win the special teams battle (punt returns have been non-existent all season, which is just asking to hemorrhage field position), so turnovers are the easier, field-flipping choice - and the Vols don’t force fumbles, which makes this simple.

BS: If you could choose one player to have a breakout performance in the bowl game, who would it be?

Graysnail: Justin Hunter. He’s shown big-play potential at receiver before, and he’s probably the best slot option for the Vols (behind the aforementioned Moore and possession receiver extraordinaire Gerald Jones) and the next deep threat on the team once Moore graduates. If it’s not Hunter, then it’ll be dual-threat WR Da’Rick Rogers, who Dooley managed to swipe from Georgia at the 11th hour last year.

In all honesty, though, they’re both pipe dreams. The Vols have played a ton of freshman all season; if there was going to be a breakout performance, we’ve probably seen it already. I think most people would be happy to see Bray complete 60-plus percent of his passes and call it a day, but that doesn’t strike me as a breakout performance.

Thanks a lot to Graysnail. Check him out at .

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