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FOOTBALL 2012 ‘FAITH. FAMILY. FOOTBALL’

‘YOU’RE A HIGHLANDER’

Lambert looks for attitude adjustment as Indians kick off 2012 campaign »B4

Shannon looks for contributions from old and young alike as SHS eyes playoffs »B5

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FIELDS DREAMS In their final season on the gridiron, Scott and Oneida seniors look to lead their teams to lofty expectations »B2

CHEERLEADERS & BANDS »B10

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PICKEM PANEL »B12

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DISTRICT SPOTLIGHT »B11

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VOLS »B12


PAGE B2 —INDEPENDENT HERALD, THURSDAY, AUGUST 16, 2012

FOOTBALL 2012

Seniors have chance to make their mark Upperclassmen to be relied on for leadership By BEN GARRETT Independent Herald Editor

W

hen Scott High takes the field against Gibbs at Highlander Stadium tomorrow (Friday, 7:30 p.m.), it will do so with a small — just six strong — senior class. But those six seniors will begin a journey towards a goal that no other senior class in school history has had an opportunity to pursue. At about the same time the Highlanders are kicking off against their former region rival, Oneida and Greenback will renew their fierce rivalry about eight miles north at Dr. M.E. Thompson Field. The Indians will do so with a sizable — 16 strong — and talented senior class that will be looking to return the program to its overdue spot atop the district standings.

Coaches at both schools — Keith Shannon at SHS; Tony Lambert at OHS — will rely heavily on their respective senior football players from standpoints of both leadership and experience as they prepare to begin their inaugural seasons in their return roles as head coaches. “We started way back in January talking to our kids about developing leadership and accountability and we rely on them heavily,” Shannon said. “We have afforded them opportunities to lead and have encouraged that to take place, and we feel like this senior class understands that.” The Scott seniors have already accomplished something that no other players before them were able to achieve: three trips to the postseason. Prior to last year’s playoff appearance, no Scott player had ever been to the playoffs more than twice. But this year, the six seniors wearing the red and white will have an opportunity to cement a spot in the history of the school’s football program. “Our goals at Scott High never change,” Shannon said. “Our goals are winning seasons and going to

the playoffs. If our team this year achieves those goals, our seniors will have gone their entire career without missing the playoffs.” Just three years ago, when these six seniors were playing on Thursday nights at various Scott County middle schools, Scott was a program that had been to the postseason just once since 1994. Suddenly, the Highlanders have a playoff tradition. And this year’s seniors can be the first Highlander football alumni to experience the triumph of a careerlong run to the playoffs. In Oneida, Lambert will call on his seniors in much the same way as Shannon calls on his in Huntsville. “Let me tell you something about Houston Byrd and Zach Terry (both three-year starters on the line),” Lambert says. “These guys have done a good job trying to lead this football team. I’ve been pleased with them. Everybody can’t be a vocal leader, but these guys are taking on that role.” Those aren’t the only two leaders on Lambert’s squad, nor are all the leaders seniors. “You

don’t have to be a senior to lead,” he says. “One of our guys who is trying hard to be a leader is a sophomore.” Beginning with this year’s seniors, every class on the Oneida squad won a TMSAA championship as eighth graders. Several of the 16 have been starting at the high school varsity level since they were sophomores. That’s something that could pay off as Oneida attempts to battle its way back to the front of the pack in District 4-A. The last two years have been rough for the Indians in district play. Since winning back-to-back district crowns in 2008 and 2009, Oneida is just 2-11 against the top four teams in District 4 — Coalfield, Oliver Springs, Sunbright and Wartburg — and a combined 0-4 against its two oldest rivals, Coalfield and Sunbright. This year could be different. Oneida is picked No. 6 in Class 2A in the preseason by football prognosticator Murphy Fair, and the district’s coaches picked the Indians to tie with defending district champ Coalfield for the district championship.

And like their peers just down the road in Huntsville, this Oneida senior class will have a chance to make a little history. If the Indians make it a couple of rounds deep into the playoffs, this Oneida class will be the first in school history to make it to the quarterfinals in back-to-back years, and only the third to make two career trips to the quarterfinals or beyond since the state playoffs expanded in the early ‘80s. (The 1997 seniors made it to the Class AA semifinals as freshmen and to the Class A semifinals as seniors; the 1992 seniors made it to the Class A semifinals as freshmen and won the Class A state championship as seniors.) Both Shannon and Lambert will be quick to say that there are a lot of games to be played between now and November. And, to be sure, teams that don’t take care of business in September and October won’t be playing in November. But at two schools were playoff berths are no longer just hoped for, but expected, the chance to play for these historic goals is sure to be at the forefront of everyone’s mind.

Highlanders, Indians flip-flop to familiarity “Meet your old boss, same as your new boss,” The Who famously sang in 1971 (Won’t Be Fooled Again). In some ways, that old familiar song applies to the football coaching changeover at both local high schools during the offseason. When Tony Lamshannon bert officially accepted an offer from Oneida on Feb. 6, he returned to the school where he served as head coach in 2007-2008, and as defenLAMBERT sive coordinator in 20052006 and 2009. And in so doing, he cleared the way for Keith Shannon to return as head coach at Scott High School.

The switch puts each coach back in a familiar role. Lambert started his high school coaching career at Anderson County in 1997, where he served as defensive coordinator under Larry Kerr. He moved to Oneida as the presumed headcoach-in-waiting in 2005, and later amassed a record of 20-6 in two seasons as the Indians’ head coach. Shannon, who led Sunbright to the Region 2-A championship in 2000, had joined Scott High’s staff as defensive coordinator under former head coach Gary Sexton. Following the 2008 season, Lambert accepted an offer to return to Anderson County and succeed Larry Kerr before later deciding the move was a mistake and returning to Oneida as defensive coordinator under John Brewster. Ironically, it was Lambert’s quick departure from Anderson County that cleared the way for David Gillum to be hired by the Mavericks, which in turn led to Shannon being promoted to head coach at Scott High before the start of the 2009 season.

Lambert joined Shannon’s staff as defensive coordinator for the 2010 season, then was promoted to head coach at Scott High when Shannon opted to step away from head coaching duties last season. When Brewster was relieved of head coaching duties at Oneida following the 2011 season (he has since joined Grace Christian Academy’s staff as an assistant coach), Lambert was immediately considered a front-runner for the Oneida vacancy. Six weeks later, he accepted an offer to return to Oneida. After a difficult start to the 2007 season, Lambert’s Oneida teams won 19 out of 20 games

— the only loss coming to No. 2 Hampton in the second round of the 2007 playoffs after quarterback Torrey Slaven suffered an injury in the first round win — before a semifinal loss to Trousdale County in 2008. It was Oneida’s first semifinal appearance in 11 seasons. Shannon was named head coach at Scott High in February, a move that came with little fanfare. There was no formal announcement, at least not publicly; the decision wasn’t exactly a secret but was first announced publicly in the form of Director of Schools Bill Hall’s personnel report to the Scott County Board of Education in March.

In some ways, the announcement matched Shannon’s sideline demeanor — calm and reserved. But the Highlanders’ head coach is also consistently successful. Three of his last four seasons as head coach have seen his team advance to the playoffs. Shannon’s 2009 and 2010 teams at Scott High made backto-back trips to the playoffs, the first successive postseason berths for the Highlanders since the 1993 and 1994 seasons. Should the Highlanders make the playoffs this season, Shannon will become the first Scott High coach with three trips to the postseason, surpassing Sexton’s two postseason berths.

ONEIDA HIGH

SCOTT HIGH

2012 SCHEDULE

2012 SCHEDULE

DATE

OPPONENT

DATE

Aug. 17

Greenback

Aug. 17

Gibbs

Aug. 24

at West Greene

Aug. 24

York Institute

Aug. 31

at Wartburg

Aug. 31

at Kingston

Sept. 7

at Cumberland Gap

Sept. 7

at Claiborne

Sept. 14

Williamsburg (Ky.)

Sept. 14

Alcoa

Sept. 28

Oakdale

Sept. 28

CAK

Oct. 5

at Oliver Springs

Oct. 5

at Sequoyah

Oct. 12

Coalfield

Oct. 12

at Loudon

Oct. 19

at Sunbright

Oct. 19

at Cumberland Gap

Oct. 26

Jellico

Oct. 26

Stone Memorial

OPPONENT


FOOTBALL 2012

INDEPENDENT HERALD, THURSDAY, AUGUST 16, 2012 — PAGE B3

SCOTT HIGHLANDERS

ONEIDA INDIANS


PAGE B4 —INDEPENDENT HERALD, THURSDAY, AUGUST 16, 2012

FOOTBALL 2012

ONEIDA HIGH SCHOOL 2012

‘Faith, family, football’ is Indians’ rallying cry Lambert wants team to play with new ‘tude By BEN GARRETT Independent Herald Editor

B I

I

f you happened by an Oneida football practice this preseason, you might have heard a few F-words being tossed around. “A man stopped by practice one day and said, ‘Coach, I like some of these F-words I’ve heard about you throwing around at practice,” Oneida coach Tony Lambert said. “I said, ‘you mean faith, family and football?’ He just grinned and said, ‘You got it.’ “That’s what we tell our kids all the time: Faith. Family. Football. Football isn’t your god. You have to have priorities. But when it comes to football, you better have some priorities there, too. And that goes for what you’re doing in the classroom as well as what you’re doing on the field.” Someone else overheard and, next thing you know, “Faith. Family. Football” wound up on a t-shirt that made its debut when the Indians traveled to Cookeville for their first scrimmage of the fall. But Lambert said it’s more than just something that looks cute on a shirt. “We want our kids to play with the right attitude,” he said. “As coaches, we’re going to do everything we can to make sure our kids understand that. We’re going to coach ‘em hard and we’re going to love ‘em hard. And hopefully the results of that will show up on Friday nights.” Of course, there’s more to winning football games than just attitude. And when it comes to fundamentals, Lambert doesn’t mince words. “We have a lot of work to do,” he says. “And not much time to do it in. “We have got to become more physical. Right now we’re still learning how to be physical. We have to learn to be a better student of the game at times and understand the schemes.” But, he adds, “the potential is there to be a solid football team.” Oneida returns most of its starters — including 16 seniors — from a team that ended its season in the Class 2A quarterfinals a year ago. And while the Indians are a preseason No. 6 team in Class 2A according to influential football prognosticator Murphy Fair, District 4’s coaches picked the Indians just behind Coalfield. And that’s a-okay with Lambert. “There’s no question,” he said. “When it comes to our district, they’ve been at the top the last few seasons. Until someone beats them, they’re number one.” Oneida’s biggest concern is a lack of depth at key positions, particularly the offensive line and in the defensive secondary. “Two or three injuries could be devastating to us, because I know our weaknesses,” Lambert said. OFFENSE: A dynamic Oneida offense is anchored by a senior-laden defensive line. Zach Terry (left tackle), Christian Lawrence (right tackle), Houston Byrd (left guard), Adam Young (right guard) and Jesse King (center) are all seniors, and all of them have a bucket-load of varsity experience. Playing key minutes in the rotation up front will be Dustin Laxton, Jacob Flint and Tyler Stephens.

SENIORS AND COACHES: Oneida’s coaches pose with the Indians’ senior football players during media day last week. Pictured are, first row (left to right): Tyler Stephens, Dannon West, Corey Lay, Brandon Smith, Noah Duncan and Cody Burchfield. Second row: Jordan Barnes, Dusty Thompson, Tanner Boshears, Houston Byrd, Adam Young and Houston West. Third row: Offensive coordinator Jimmy May, assistant coach Mike Keeton, assistant coach Terry Stephens, assistant coach Matt Rhymer, Zach Terry, Jesse King, Christian Lawrence, Trevor Allen, head coach Tony Lambert, assistant coach Jim Burchfield and assistant coach Jason Pike.

Other reserves who could be called upon if needed include Tyler Henry, Bryce Couch, Tyler Botts, Brice Maxey, Preston Swindell, Nick Massengale and Tyler Swindell. Tanner Boshears will get the start at tight end for Oneida, with Lambert saying that the senior has “been a great leader for us in the early preseason drills.” Jordan Barnes will also see time at tight end, along with a freshman who is likely to be a big name around the Oneida football program for several years, Andrew Flint. “We really get bigger when we get Baby Flint into the game,” Lambert

said. “We’re going to use some two tight end situations from us and even some three tight end looks. Dakota Thomas, another freshman, can also go at tight end. Houston West, who Lambert calls “one of the most explosive kids in the district,” will anchor Oneida’s receiving corps, but don’t expect to see him lined up at wideout all the time. Oneida will try to get the ball into the hands of their senior playmaker in a variety of ways. “I think you have to,” See ONEIDA, page B7

ONEIDAINDIANS 2012 ROSTER NO.

NAME

GRADE

1

Matt Phillips

So

WR/DB

2

Jacob Adams

So

WR/DB

3

Cody Burchfield

Sr

WR/DB

5

Jacob Lambert

So

QB/DE

7

Cage West

Fr

QB/RB/DB

8

Dusty Thompson

Sr

WR/DB

9

Nate Bowling

Fr

QB/RB/DB

10

Houston West

Sr

QB/WR/DB

12

Capone Strange

Fr

WR/DB

13

Brandon Smith

Sr

RB/LB

14

Evan Sexton

Jr

WR/DB

18

Jordan Barnes

Sr

TE/DE

20

Corey Lay

Sr

RB/LB

21

Cole West

Jr

QB/DB

22

Noah Duncan

Sr

WR/DB

24

Justin Kennedy

Fr

RB/LB

25

Dannon West

Sr

RB/LB

28

Matt Williams

So

RB/LB

31

Chase Byrd

So

WR/DB

33

Jed Newport

So

RB/DB

40

Andrew Flint

Fr

TE/DE

44

Tanner Boshears

Sr

TE/DE

45

Trevor Allen

Sr

RB/DE

50

Houston Byrd

Sr

OL/DL

51

Jacob Flint

Jr

OL/DL

53

Tyler Botts

So

OL/DE

54

Adam Young

Sr

OL/DL

57

Tyler Stephens

Sr

OL/DL

58

Tyler Henry

So

OL/DE

59

Bryce Couch

So

K/OL/DL

62

Nick Massengale

67

ONEIDAINDIANS 2012 SCHEDULE DATE

OPPONENT

LOCATION

TIME

Aug. 17

Greenback

Oneida, Tenn.

7:30 p.m.

Aug. 24

West Greene

Mosheim, Tenn.

7:30 p.m.

Aug. 31

Wartburg

Wartburg, Tenn.

7:30 p.m.

Sept. 7

Cumberland Gap

C. Gap, Tenn.

7:30 p.m.

Sept. 14

Williamsburg (Ky.) Oneida, Tenn.

7:30 p.m.

Sept. 28

Oakdale

Oneida, Tenn.

7:30 p.m.

Oct. 5

Oliver Springs

Ol. Springs, Tenn. 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 12

Coalfield

Oneida, Tenn.

7:30 p.m.

Oct. 19

Sunbright

Sunbright, Tenn.

7:30 p.m.

Oct. 26

Jellico

Oneida, Tenn.

7:30 p.m.

POSITION

Fr

OL/DL

Brice Maxey

Jr

OL/LB

70

Jesse King

Sr

OL/DL

72

Billy Joe Blevins

Fr

OL/DL

74

Tyler Swindell

So

OL/DL

75

Christian Lawrence Sr

OL/DL

77

Preston Swindell

Fr

OL/DL

78

Zach Terry

Sr

OL/DL

85

Dakota Thomas

Fr

TE/DE

88

Jordan Burke

So

WR/LB

Oneida Office

18418 Alberta Street, Oneida, TN

(423) 569-8586 Central Office

250 National Drive, Helenwood, TN

(423) 663-2395

Huntsville Office

First of Campbell County

131 Bank Street, Huntsville, TN

2308 Jacksboro Pike, LaFollette, TN

Winfield Office

Bank Line 24 (423) 569-BANK

(423) 663-3461

24907 Scott Highway, Winfield, TN

(423) 569-6386

(423) 566-5326


INDEPENDENT HERALD, THURSDAY, AUGUST 16, 2012 — PAGE B5

FOOTBALL 2012

SCOTT HIGH SCHOOL 2012

Old and young alike factor into Scott’s plan Senior class small but experienced

By BEN GARRETT Independent Herald Editor

S

cott opens the 2012 season fresh off their third consecutive playoff appearance, something that had never happened in school history. Now the Highlanders have an opportunity to set their sights on a little bigger goal that’s never been accomplished: send off a senior class that has never experienced the feeling of missing the playoffs. There are just six seniors on this year’s squad, but what they lack in numbers they make up in leadership and experience. Several are multi-year starters on the offensive line, and all have stepped up when called upon to lead. “They’re a mature group even though they’re small in number,” Scott coach Keith Shannon said. “We feel like they give us a wealth of leadership, and we’re excited about that.” That senior leadership — “there won’t be any defenses or stunts that they haven’t seen and repped on the varsity field,” Shannon said — will pay dividends this fall, but most of the Highlanders’ starters are going to be underclassmen. That’s where the Highlanders’ sophomore class comes in. Not to overlook the juniors, who will certainly be big contributors in their own right, but it was obvious from day one that there was something a little different about last year’s freshman class. Several of them were varsity contributors as rookies — somewhat unusual at the Class 4A level — and the rest of them were making noise on Monday nights in JV games. This year, a number of those sophomores will play key roles for the Highlanders, particularly in the backfield, where kids named King and Hamblin will likely get plenty of reps as Scott goes back to a spread — “but still run-heavy,” Shannon said — offense. Shannon acknowledges the expected contributions of his youngsters, saying that it will pay dividends further down the road, but adds that age isn’t all that. “When you put on your hats and turn on the lights on Fridays, it doesn’t matter if you’re a sophomore or a junior or a senior,” he said. “You’re a Scott Highlander. That’s what matters, and we’re going to expect them to step onto the field and play like one.” OFFENSE: After one year away from it, Scott is going back to the spread offense this season, picking up where they left off the last time Shannon was head coach. Still, Shannon says that the Highlanders will continue to be a “run-heavy” football team. “We’ll rely heavily on our offensive line,” he said. “We feel like we have good size, strength and even a little bit of depth in the OL. That’ll allow us to have some dynamic athletes in Hunter Henry (quarterback) and all of our running backs, from Jon Hamblin, Justin King and Tevin Prater, who will carry the football for us behind that big offensive line. “We’ll also carry over some of the things we did last season in the jet game, which will allow us to get kids like Jake Phillips, Caleb Byrge, Austin Stephens and Dusty Hayes the football as well,” Shannon added. The offensive line re-

turns three starters, which Shannon says is a bonus. “when you consider three out of the five have starting experience, that’s pretty good at our school, so we feel pretty confident there,” he said. “The senior experience and leadership they bring is what we’ll rely heavily on. We think they can keep everyone settled and on task.” Matt Smithers will start at left tackle, while Ronnie Caldwell will play at right tackle. Cole Hammock, a sophomore, will start at left guard, while junior Robert Carson and senior Paxton King — will battle for the right guard position. JR Bruce will anchor the line at center. Others who could see key time in the rotation include Wayne Reagan and Joey Lewallen. Scott’s wide receivers are “an athletic group but somewhat an inexperienced group,” Shannon said. Sophomore Caleb Byrge is one of the first names mentioned by Shannon, who says that he “has a wealth of potential.” Austin Stephens, Jake Phillips, John Carson, Dusty Hayes, Devin Lowe, Caleb Sexton, Dallas Reagan and Tevin Prater are all names that could factor into the rotation. “Austin has played a lot of football for us, and Jake makes us better when

SENIORS: Scott’s 2012 seniors include (from left to right) JR Bruce, Hunter Henry, Ronnie Caldwell, Matt Smithers, John Carson and Paxton King.

he came onto this football field,” Shannon said. “We worked hard on getting him to come out, and now he’s here. He’s a dynamite football player. John Carson is a good wide receiver and he’s pretty doggone steady.” At running back, the Highlanders “Have a threeguy rotation and we feel pretty decent about all of them,” Shannon said. Jon Hamblin is “lightning in a bottle,” Shannon said. “He’s a fast kid. He’s gotten comfortable running See SCOTT, page B9

SCOTTHIGHLANDERS 2012 ROSTER NO.

NAME

GRADE

POSITION

2

Caleb Williams

Fr

QB/DE

3

Jake Phillips

Jr

WR/LB

4

Joshua Butts

Fr

WR/DB

5

Dusty Hayes

Jr

WR/DB

6

Caleb Sexton

Jr

WR/DB

8

Devin Lowe

Jr

WR/DB

9

Damien Stephens

Jr

WR/LB

10

Brandon Volardo

So

WR/DB

11

Kendrick Green

Fr

WR/DB

12

John Carson

Sr

WR/DB

15

Erik Avender

Jr

WR/DB

16

Kaleb Byrge

So

WR/DB

18

Cameron Trammell

Fr

WR/DB

19

Hogan Mays

Fr

QB/DE

20

Prestin Bee

Jr

WR/DB/K

21

Hunter Henry

Sr

QB/DB

22

Logan Miller

Jr

WR/DB

23

Tevin Prater

Jr

RB/DB

24

Jon Hamblin

So

RB/DB

25

Adam Rollins

Fr

WR/DE

30

Justin King

So

RB/LB

32

Jordan Puckett

Fr

RB/DB

33

Chandler Warmanen Jr

WR/DB

44

Ryan Jeffers

So

WR/DB/K

45

Dallas Reagan

So

WR/DE

51

Dakota Sexton

Fr

OL/LB

52

Eddie Guerra

Fr

OL/LB

53

Cole Hammock

So

OL/LB

54

Hunter Marlow

Fr

OL/DL

55

Joey Lewallen

So

OL/LB

56

Dakota Massengale Fr

OL/DL

58

Austin Slaven

So

OL/DL

60

Conner Byrd

So

OL/DL

64

Colton Collins

So

OL/DL

65

Ronnie Caldwell

Sr

OL/DL

66

Wayne Reagan

So

OL/DL

68

Paxton King

Sr

OL/DL

71

JR Bruce

Sr

OL/DL

72

Jack Kidd

So

OL/DL

73

Matt Smithers

Sr

OL/DL

75

Gabriel Goodman

So

OL/DE

78

Robert Carson

Jr

OL/DL

86

Austin Stephens

Jr

WR/DB

SCOTTHIGHLANDERS 2012 SCHEDULE DATE

OPPONENT

LOCATION

TIME

Aug. 17

Gibbs

Huntsville, Tenn.

7:30 p.m.

Aug. 24

York Institute

Huntsville, Tenn.

8 p.m.

Aug. 31

Kingston

Kingston, Tenn.

7:30 p.m.

Sept. 7

Claiborne

Tazewell, Tenn.

7:30 p.m.

Sept. 14

Alcoa

Huntsville, Tenn.

7:30 p.m.

Sept. 28

CAK

Huntsville, Tenn.

7:30 p.m.

Oct. 5

Sequoyah

Madisonville, Tenn. 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 12

Loudon

Loudon, Tenn.

7:30 p.m.

Oct. 19

Cumberland Gap

C. Gap, Tenn.

7:30 p.m.

Oct. 26

Stone Memorial

Huntsville, Tenn.

8 p.m.


PAGE B6 —INDEPENDENT HERALD, THURSDAY, AUGUST 16, 2012

FOOTBALL 2012

Matt phillips

jacob adams

cody burchfield

ONEIDAINDIANS

jacob lambert

cage west

dusty thompson

nate bowling

houston west

capone strange

brandon smith

evan sexton

jordan barnes

corey lay

cole west

noah duncan

justin kennedy

dannon west

matt williams

chase byrd

jed newport

andrew flint

tanner boshears

trevor allen

houston byrd

jacob flint

tyler botts

dustin laxton

adam young

tyler stephens

tyler henry


INDEPENDENT HERALD, THURSDAY, AUGUST 16, 2012 — PAGE B7

FOOTBALL 2012

bryce couch

nick massengale

brice maxey

ONEIDAINDIANS

jesse king

billy joe blevins

tyler swindell

PIGSKINQUICKFACT Oneida’s quarterfinals playoff berth in 2011 was the Indians’ 7th all-time. The first came in 1982, a 19-0 loss to Sweetwater. christian lawrence

preston swindell

zach terry

dakota thomas

jordan burke

‘Football isn’t your god. You have to have priorities. But when it comes to football, you better have some priorities there, too. And that goes for what you’re doing in the classroom as well as what you’re doing on the field.’ — Oneida coach Tony Lambert

Oneida

Continued from page B4

Lambert said. “We’re going to hand it to him and we’re going to throw it to him. He’s been clocked at 4.59 (in the 40) at a combine, and he’s worked hard. You will see him line up at different positions, maybe even under center. Maybe even at tailback.” Jacob “Cheetah” Adams is a first-year player at the high school level as a sophomore, after playing a key role in Oneida Middle School’s run to a TMSAA championship in 2010. Also back is senior Noah Duncan, who sat out last season. Both Adams and Duncan will play key roles at the receiver position. “Cheetah is a very explosive player and Noah is certainly one of those kids who is going to give you everything he’s got, every day,” Lambert said. “He’s going to be Steady Eddie. He’s going to be where he’s supposed to be. “Those are guys who without a doubt give you a chance. They make you better when they walk into the room.” Cody Burchfield and Dusty Thompson will also see time at receiver, along with Matt Phillips — a convert from quarterback. Evan Sexton, Capone Strange, Jordan Burke and Chase Byrd are other players who will provide depth at receiver. Starting at quarterback will be junior Cole West, who took over the starting role in the midst of his freshman season and now enters his third year at the top of the depth chart. But Lambert points out that his team has three quarterbacks who can be called upon, including Houston West and sophomore Jacob Lambert. “Cole can do some things with the football,” Lambert said. “He’s electrifying with the ball in his hands and we’re definitely glad that he’s

on our team. The things we have to work on are decision-making and taking care with the football at times.” Houston West is much like Cole West, giving the Indians a run-pass threat at quarterback when he’s called upon to step under center. Lambert, the coach’s son, is “not the most talent ed kid and not the biggest kid,” Lambert said, “but he understands the game. He’s got a big heart and big knowledge. “There will be times when you might see Jake at quarterback and Cole on one wing and Houston on the other and the defense can hold their breath,” Lambert added. Nate Bowling and Cage West are also being developed as quarterbacks. Oneida’s runningback positions will feature a multi-dimensional approach. Brandon “Bear” Smith is a punishing runner at tailback, while Dannon West is a slasher. Both will see plenty of carries as the season progresses. “Dannon will finesse you and Bear is like a punishing pinball,” Lambert said. “They both have good speed and we feel very comfortable with the ball in their hands.” Jed Newport will play directly behind them after showing a lot of promise in the preseason, and Cage West and Bowling — while getting reps at quarterback in practice — could see time at tailback as well. After playing some snaps at fullback in goalline situations as a junior, Trevor Allen is converting to a full-time role in

the position, one of the biggest moves made by the Indians during the offseason. “Trevor understands that my fullbacks are basically glorified guards,” Lambert said. “The beautiful thing about Trevor is that he’s not only a great blocker but he also has the best hands on this football team. He’ll punish you with or without the ball, and it’s going to be exciting to see him pave the way for our backs.” Corey Lay, another senior, is Oneida’s swingman in the backfield, and can play at either the fullback or tailback position. Matt Williams and Justin Kennedy will also provide options at fullback. “We could be explosive (on offense) but we have to learn to play within ourselves,” Lambert said. “We’ve got to get to the point where we become engulfed in our own responsibilities. You can’t just roll the ball out there and think it’s going to happen. We’ve got to get better. We’ve got to develop some cohesiveness to what we’re doing offensively.” DEFENSE: Not that it needs to be said, with Tony Lambert calling the shots, but here it is: Oneida will base out of a 50 defense. But Lambert is quick to add that the Indians will be multiple on the defensive side of the ball. “We’ll play everything,” Lambert said, pointing out that he caught Rockwood coach John Webb, a friend, off-guard by jumping into a 4-3 defense during a preseason scrimmage. “Webb was like, ‘what the heck,’”

Good Luck To Scott & Oneida High In The Season Ahead!

Lambert said with a laugh. “But it wasn’t anything we hadn’t done before. We’ll be multiple.” For Oneida, it starts at the noseguard position. Houston Byrd, Jesse King and Jacob Flint will all alternate at the position, and each are expected to contribute. Adam Young will play left defensive tackle, while Zach Terry will play opposite him, with Christian Lawrence — a versatile option who can play any position on the line — and Andrew Flint also playing key roles. Nick Massengale, Preston Swindell, Billy Joe Blevins and Tyler Swindell will provide depth on the line. At defense end, the hybrid position in Lambert’s 50-defense, Trevor Allen will play the strong side position after moving from the interior of the defensive line. “Most tight ends will have a hard time

matching up with him,” Lambert said. “He does a good job holding the ground against the running game and he’s a good edge rusher, too.” On the opposite side, Tanner Boshears will play the rover position. “Tanner has been a pleasant surprise, defensively,” Lambert said. “He understands our scheme.” Providing depth will be Jordan Barnes, Cody Burchfield, Jacob Lambert, Tyler Botts, Tyler Henry, Dakota Thomas and Bryce Couch. At linebacker, the Indians have “three or four players we really feel good about,” Lambert said. Brandon Smith will definitely start, while Corey Lay and Dannon West will battle for the starting role opposite him. Matt Williams and Brice Maxey will provide depth, with Dustin Kennedy and Jordan Burke available if called upon.

In the secondary, Noah Duncan and Houston West will play corners, with Jacob Adams quick off the bench in relief. “Noah is a technician and Houston is athletic,” Lambert said. “Cheetah has unbelievable quickness; he’s just trying to catch up from a year off, but he’s going to make a dandy.” Cody Burchfield, Cage West, Chase Byrd and Capone Strange will provide options there as well. Coe West and Dusty Thompson will start at safety, with Lambert saying that West is “a heavyhitter; a ball-hawk who’s always around the position” and that Thompson has shown “a willingness to work and good range. We just want to see him get more work and become more physical.” Matt Phillips, Nate Bowling and Jed Newport will provide depth at safety.


PAGE B8 —INDEPENDENT HERALD, THURSDAY, AUGUST 16, 2012

FOOTBALL 2012F

SCOTTHIGHLANDERS

caleb williams

jake phillips

joshua butts

dusty hayes

caleb sexton

devin lowe

damien stephens

brandon volardo

kendrick green

john carson

erik avender

kaleb byrge

cameron trammell

hogan mays

prestin bee

hunter henry

logan miller

tevin prater

jon hamblin

adam rollins

justin king

jordan puckett

chandler warmanen

ryan jeffers

dallas reagan

dakota massengale

dakota sexton

eddie guerra

cole hammock

hunter marlow


INDEPENDENT HERALD, THURSDAY, AUGUST 16, 2012 — PAGE B9

FOOTBALL 2012

joey lewallen

austin slaven

conner byrd

paxton king

JR bruce

jack kidd

Scott

Continued from page B5

the plays that we run and he’s tough to bring down even though he���s a little small.” Tevin Prater will also play a role in the backfield. “We come right back after Jon with another running back who is similar to him in stature and ability.” Justin King, a bruising runner who contributed last year as a freshman, will also play a big role in the backfield. “Justin King is just a football player,” Shannon said. “He’s big, he’s strong, and he’s fast enough. He’ll punish the tacklers, and that’s the thing we really like about him.” Hunter Henry is a twoyear starter at quarterback who has gotten better in the passing game. “We’re excited about Hunter,” Shannon said. “He’s got a wealth of running experience and he played quarterback last year, so he understands how to manage a football game. He’s worked so hard to get better in the passing game this summer and we feel like he has gotten better. We still have a ways to go, but we feel very good with Hunter and his abilities.” Jacob Phillips, a junior, will back up Henry at quarterback. On the whole, Shannon is optimistic about his offense. “We’ve scrimmaged some pretty doggone good football teams to get these guys ready at game speed, and they’ve all played well in those,” Shannon said. “The rigors of a 10-game season is a 10-game season and it’s going to be a battle, but these kids have met every challenge that

SCOTTHIGHLANDERS

matt smithers

gabriel goodman

colton collins

ronnie caldwell

robert carson

austin stephens

wayne reagan

‘When you put on your hats and turn on the lights on Fridays, it doesn’t matter if you’re a sophomore or a junior or a senior. You’re a Scott Highlander. And we’re going to expect them to step onto the field and play like one.’ — Scott coach Keith Shannon we’ve put out in front of them and we’re excited for them.” Offensive coordinator Jackson Sharp said Scott will use its depth to its advantage. “We can snap it in a hurry and shuffle kids in and not miss a beat doing that,” he said. “Our kids are working hard and we think we’re in better shape than a lot of people might expect. We hope to be able to go fast and get some teams worn out early.” DEFENSE: Broderick Gillespie, a second-year coach in Huntsville, will step into the defensive coordinator role this season, but little will change for the Highlanders, who will continue to use a multiple 50 base defense. “There isn’t a whole lot of difference in the things we were doing in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011,” Shannon said. “Maybe we change a little terminology but as far as the philosophy of things, nothing changes. “We like the ability to move around and go from a 3-4 to a 3-3 to a 4-4 to a 4-3,” he added. “We’re going to try to have the flexibility to put our kids in the best position to get stops on defense versus whoever and whatever type of offense we’re seeing.” The defensive line will see several players contribute, with Shannon substituting to keep his players fresh. The starting three will be Ronnie Caldwell, Robert Carson and Matt Smithers, with JR Bruce, Paxton King, Wayne Reagan and Cole Group playing backup.

“That’s a pretty stout group,” Shannon said. “We’ve got to manage the game for them, especially early in the season, to keep a little gas in the tank for the third and fourth quarters.” Dallas Reagan will start at defensive end for the Highlanders. “We really like Dallas,” Shannon said. “He’s working extremely hard and looks good at that position as a sophomore who didn’t play any varsity last year.” Jacob Phillips will hold down the other defensive end position as a newcomer, while Caleb Sexton will be first off the bench. At linebacker will be Austin Stephens and Justin King. “I can’t say enough about how Justin has practiced and how he has performed in our scrimmages,” Shannon said. “Austin is a returning starter, so he’s ready to go.” Joey Lewallen and Dakota Sexton will play backup roles at linebacker. Tevin Prater will start at one corner position in the secondary, with John Carson starting opposite him. “Tevin is a kid that you can leave pretty much one-on-one with whoever,” Shannon said. “He’s not big, but he’s athletic and quick and he can cover.” Carson, meanwhile, “played every varsity snap last season,” and should be prepared from an experience standpoint. Devin Lowe, a freshman will be first off the bench at cornerback. Jon Hamblin will start at free safety for the Highlanders, with Caleb Byrge

starting at strong safety. Hunter Henry, Dusty Hayes and Chandler Warmenen will play key roles as well. As the Highlanders prepare for a tough district slate that will once again feature Alcoa and CAK as favorites for the state championship, Shannon said his team is fortunate to play in a high-quality district. “We enjoy that,” he said. “It forces our kids to play at a high level and become better football players.” After the top two teams, everyone else is in the mix together. And while District 4-AA ‘s coaches picked the Highlanders last, it stands to reason that there is a small degree of separation between third and sixth in

the district. “We feel like everybody is right there in a big spot,” Shannon said. “You go back to your leadership and your work ethic. Can we develop the leadership and outwork those teams and get an advantage on them? That’s surely our goal and what we’re trying very hard to do.” As for that coveted spot in the Class 4A playoffs, Shannon said the goals haven’t changed for Scott. “(Getting to the playoffs) makes a difference,” he said. “The kids enjoy going to the playoffs. They enjoy being one of those teams that don’t have to put their pads up at the end of week 10. It’s something they

obviously take pride in. “Our goals at Scott High will never change,” he added. “Our goals are winning season and going to the playoffs. If our team this year achieves those goals, our seniors will have gone their entire careeers without missing the playoffs.” With only nine of 22 starters returning (four on offense, five on defense), Shannon said it will be a matter of learning and adjusting as the season progresses. “We’re learning a lot about our kids and we’ll continue to learn about our kids as the games unfold,” he said. “So we’ll adjust and go from there.”

SCOTT’S COACHING staff includes, first row (left to right): Josh Terry (defensive backs and wide receivers), Brian Hamby (offensive line and linebackers), Jordan Jeffers (wide receivers, defensive backs and special teams) and Cody Muse (offensive line, defensive line). Second row: Brad Stephens (defensive ends, special teams), Jackson Sharp (offensive coordinator), Keith Shannon (head coach), Mark Proffitt (special teams coordinator, running backs and defensive line) and Broderick Gillespie (defensive coordinator). Not pictured is Jeff Buttram (running backs and defensive backs).

STEVE THOMPSON & STAFF Assessor of Property’s Office


PAGE B10 —INDEPENDENT HERALD, THURSDAY, AUGUST 16, 2012

FOOTBALL 2012

THE MARCHING HIGHLANDERS

MEMBERS OF THE Scott High marching band include, first row (left to right): George Trosper, Gabe Anderson, Cody Terry, Makayla Gibson, Brandon McKamey, Summer Walter, Shaee Crabtree, Daniel Speer, Austin Cooper and Holden Boles. Second row: Katie Bond, Kayla Creekmore, Tyler Strunk, McKayla York, Alexous Marcus, Kristen Ellis, Kayla

D

Willoughby, Summer Botts, Jordan Copeland. Third row: Briana Richardson, McKenzie Burk, Slone Botts, Cheslea Terry, Dara Lawson, Emmiley Boutwell, Sarah Stephens, drum major Nathan Erwin and band director Ryan Hoffman.

THE PRIDE OF THE TRIBE

THE ONEIDA HIGH SCHOOL marching band includes, first row (left to right): Majorette Brittany Marcum and drum major Haley Tillett. Second row: Makayla Foresha, Marco Andrate, Kellan Duncan, Cameron Blakley, John Duncan, Cal Smith, Dakota Davis, Zeke Ross, Megan Martin and Sabrina Harness. Third row: Color guard instructor Rebecca Strunk, Chelsie Chambers, Sydnee Crabtree, Breanna Slaven, Chris Taylor, Dylan Chitwood, Katie Byrge, Miranda Crabtree, Deseraey West and Makayla Chitwood. Fourth row: Assistant director Laurel Ward, Shelby Barnes, Katie Hedrick, Chad Ellis, Jonathan

Keeton, Tanner Burke, Caroline Cotton, Haylee Phillips and director Andrew Bernard. Fifth row: David Crabtree, Austin Thompson, Curtis Blakley, Jamees Stephens, Jakhob Dean, band captain Andrew Kennedy, Savannah Christie, Peyton Thomas and Dylan Strunk. Sixth row: Hunter Yancey, Cheyenne Botts, Hannah Cross, Kelsie Davis, Madison Reed, Bobbie Fisher, Amber Barnett, Samantha Sexton and Jeremiah Sexton. Not pictured are Dawson May, Bobby McGill and Dakota Wilhite.

CHEERLEADERS

SCOTT HIGH’S 2012 football cheerleaders include, first row (left to right): Christian Sexton, Cheyenne Roberts, Shelby Jeffers, Haley Adkins, Bailey Drummond and Ashton Rector. Second row: Callie Bowling. Krista King. Mariah Hall. Khristian Chambers. Darian Bond, Shyann Norris, Makayla Yancey and Hannah Hutchison. In front is Olivia Rector. The cheerleading coach is Debbie Carver.

ONEIDA’S 2012 football cheerleaders include, first row (left to right): Hannah Leeds, Amanda May, McKala Clark, Paige Ellis and Kristen Reid. Second row: Alley Myers, Asia Canada, Sara Blevins, Praylee Harris and Ashley Myers. Third row: Ansley Marcum, Addy Sexton, Cierra Sexton, Mariah Massengale and Chelsey West. Not pictured is Brooke Doran. The cheerleading coach is Jenna Smith.

Follow the home teams all season with a subscription to the Independent Herald!


INDEPENDENT HERALD, THURSDAY, AUGUST 16, 2012 — PAGE B11

FOOTBALL 2012

DISTRICT SPOTLIGHT

!

DISTRICT 4-A

DISTRICT 4-AA

Coalfield

2011 record: 10-2 (6-0) Key players: Zach Stewart, DE; Ryan Hill, QB/WR; Vinson Napier, DT Key game: Oct. 12 at Oneida

Alcoa

2011 record: 8-5 (4-1) Key players: Ezekiel Koko, RB; Dalton Ownby, OL; Jared Crenshaw, LB Key game: Oct. 26 vs. CAK

Jellico

2011 record: 0-10 (0-6) Key players: Daniel Speakley, LB; Austin Bowlin, QB Key game: Oct. 26 at

CAK

2011 record: 13-2 (5-0) Key players: Charlie High, QB; Josh Smith, WR; Brett Kendrick, OL Key game: Oct. 26 at Alcoa

Oakdale

2011 record: 2-8 (1-5) Key players: Aaron Powers, QB; Caleb Redmon, LB; Chance York, RB Key game: Oct. 26 vs. Jellico

Kingston

2011 record: 7-4 (3-2) Key players: Trae Colquitt, OL; Brandon Ott, QB; Aaron Acosta, WR Key game: Oct. 26 vs. Loudon

2011 record: 10-3 (4-3) Key players: John Sims, WR; Michael Nelson, RB Key game: Oct. 5 vs. Oneida

Loudon

Oneida

2011 record: 8-5 (3-3) Key players: Bear Smith, RB; Trevor Allen, DE; Houston West, WR Key game: Oct. 12 vs. Coalfield

2011 record: 4-6 (0-5) Key players: Jake Mourfield, RB; Ryan McNabb, LB; Trent Elliot, QB Key game: Oct. 26 at Kingston

Scott

Sunbright

2011 record: 7-4 (4-2) Key players: Dustin Hicks, LB; Skyler Bunch, RB; Jacob Swint, QB Key game: Oct. 26 vs. Wartburg

2011 record: 5-6 (1-4) Key players: Hunter Henry, QB; Justin King, RB; Matt Smithers, OL Key game: Oct. 26 vs. Stone

Stone

Wartburg

2011 record: 4-7 (3-3) Key players: Wes Melhorn, RB; Justin Crouch, WR Key game: Oct. 26 at Sunbright

2011 record: 5-6 (2-3) Key players: Thomas Janow, RB; Sam Caballero, OL; Gordon Vanhoy, DT Key game: Oct. 26 at Scott

‘JACKETS

BLUE DEVILS EAGLES

Oz

BOBCATS INDIANS TIGERS

BULLDOGS

Good luck! INDEPENDENT HERALD

TORNADOES WARRIORS ‘JACKETS

REDSKINS

HIGHLANDERS

PANTHERS


PAGE B12 —INDEPENDENT HERALD, THURSDAY, AUGUST 16, 2012

UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE

Tennessee will seek to overcome curse in Hotlanta By BEN GARRETT Independent Herald Editor

S

ome have jokingly said that Tennessee coach Derek Dooley is cursed. How else do you explain LSU 2010, when the Vols snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in Death Valley by having too many men on the field and giving the Tigers an unexpected second shot at the end zone with no time on the clock? How do you explain nearly the same thing happening just three months later in Nashville, where a sincechanged rule allowed North Carolina an extra shot at forcing overtime in a game that the Tarheels would eventually win? How do you explain your best player and potential Heisman Trophy candidate going down with a season-ending knee injury on the first series of your most important game of the season after you had just blasted a 10-win Cincinnati team and appeared poised to enter the Top 25 rankings? Derek Dooley may feel cursed, but Derek Dooley has never been to the Georgia Dome as a Tennessee Volunteer. Ask any UT fan and he’ll be quick to tell you: there’s no doubt about it . . . Tennessee is cursed in the Georgia Dome. From falling apart in SEC title games (the Vols had eventual national champ LSU on the ropes in 2007 before Erik Ainge threw back-to-back interceptions in the fourth quarter) to meltdowns at the SEC’s postseason basketball tournament there, Tennessee has not faired well in Atlanta in recent years. There was the 2001 loss to an undermanned LSU team in the SEC Championship Game after the Vols appeared to have locked up a spot in the national championship game a week earlier by upsetting Florida in The Swamp. There were embarrassing losses to Maryland and Clemson in back-to-back Peach Bowls in 2002 and 2003. The UT football team has lost its last six games in the building; the basketball team has lost far more than it cares to count. Even in victory, the Vols have been ugly in the

Pickem’ Panel returns For a sixth consecutive year, the Independent Herald has assembled a panel of football prognosticators to pick the winners of local and area high school football games each week. This year’s IH Pigskin Pickem Panel includes several panel members who have participated since its inception: Rick Keeton, the voice of the Highlanders; Tim Smith, the voice of the Indians; Jerry Lay, owner-operator of Lay Family Furniture in Oneida and a former OHS football player; and the Independent Herald’s LeEtta Boyatt and Ben Garrett. Back again on the panel are B.J. Gislason, WBNT sports; Gerry “Greasey” Garrett, a former police officer in the Town of Oneida and former OHS player; and Matt Boyatt, a former SHS player. New to the panel this year are Doug Branim, a former SHS player and former middle school coach in Scott County; and Stuart Jones, manager of Cellular Communications (Verizon Wireless). Fans who want to play along can do so by visiting the Independent Herald’s Facebook page (facebook. com/independent.herald). The games will be posted each week. At stake are bragging rights — can you pick the winners more accurately than our panel?

Georgia Dome. In the 1997 SEC Championship Game, Tennessee suffered through six turnovers but managed to mount a fourth quarter comeback under Peyton Manning to defeat Auburn. In the 2008 basketball tournament, the fourth-ranked Vols found themselves trailing with less than a minute to go against a South Carolina team they had defeated by 33 points less than a week earlier. Chris Lofton, perhaps the best 3-point shooter the SEC has ever seen, managed to beat the curse with a game-winning shot, and so upset the forces of nature that a few hours later the building was hit by a tornado that forced the remainder of the tournament to be moved to a new venue. Tennessee’s trips to the Georgia Dome have been legendary in their misfortune. Dooley’s misadventure at Tennessee has been somewhat legendary, too. Might these two forces combine to create a truly forgettable day at the Georgia Dome on Aug. 31? Or will the Vols finally exorcise some demons and begin a new tradition — one of winning — inside that cursed arena? The Vols have a chance to begin and end their season in the Georgia Dome. The SEC Championship Game is again held in Atlanta in early December and, yes, Tennessee has a legitimate shot at playing its way in. The SEC East is wide open this year. Georgia is expected to be very good, and Tennessee has to go to Athens in late September. But the Bulldogs are without Isaiah Crowell, their super sophomore running back who was dismissed this summer after running afoul of the law. There’s also a trip to Columbia to face a South Carolina team that will be favored to beat Tennessee, but it remains to be seen just how good Steve Spurrier’s team will be this season. The SEC media has picked the Vols to finish fifth in the East, but the same media members picked Tennessee’s basketball team to finish 11th in the SEC last season. Everyone knows how that story ended: the Vols finished second in the league under first-year head coach Cuonzo Martin. On the other hand, if

Tennessee loses to N.C. State, the chances increase that the Vols’ season will pretty much end in the Georgia Dome on Aug. 31. Many Big Orange faithful say that Dooley will not be able to recover if he drops the season opener, unless his team were to pull off a big win over Florida at Neyland Stadium two weeks later. Lose both of them, they say, and Dooley might as well go ahead and start polishing up his resume. Indeed, several national college football pundits have Dooley at the top of their list of coaches on the proverbial hot seat. Speaking of Florida, Will Muschamp’s team will come to town the third Saturday of September with what might be its weakest offense since the Ron Zook days. As it turns out, Tennessee hasn’t beaten Florida since the Zook days. Hello, opportunity. If the Vols defeat N.C. State on Aug. 31 and roll into “Gator Hater” week with a 2-0 record (Georgia State is next on the docket, and that one should be little more than a glorified scrimmage), Neyland Stadium will be a happening place for the 6 p.m. kickoff against Florida. There is a lot of pent-up frustration in the Tennessee fan base, with lots of folks just wiating for an opportunity to feel downright giddy about their football team. Many UT fans remember 2006, when Cal had the misfortune of traveling to Knoxville for a season-opening night game as Tennessee was coming off its first losing season in 17 years. The Vols scored early, the atmosphere was electric, and Cal was down 35-0 before it realized what had happened. A win in the Florida game would likely cause football fever to return to East Tennessee like it hasn’t been felt in quite a few years. Folks might be ready to start naming their sons Derek and their dogs Dooley. On the other hand, a loss to Florida won’t sit well with a fan base that has decided that not only can Tennessee beat Florida this year, but that Tennessee should beat Florida. A 2-1 start with a loss to Florida won’t wreck Tennessee’s season, but

TENNESSEEVOLUNTEERS 2012 SCHEDULE DATE

OPPONENT

LOCATION

TIME

Aug. 31

N.C. State

Atlanta, Ga.

7:30 p.m.

Sept. 8

Georgia State

Knoxville, Tenn.

4 p.m.

Sept. 15

Florida

Knoxville, Tenn.

6 p.m.

Sept. 22

Akron

Knoxville, Tenn.

TBA

Sept. 29

Georgia

Athens, Ga.

TBA

Oct. 13

Mississippi State

Starkville, Miss.

TBA

Oct. 20

Alabama

Knoxville, Tenn.

TBA

Oct. 27

South Carolina

Columbia, S.C.

TBA

Nov. 3

Troy

Knoxville, Tenn.

TBA

Nov. 10

Missouri

Knoxville, Tenn.

TBA

Nov. 17

Vanderbilt

Nashville, Tenn.

TBA

Nov. 24

Kentucky

Knoxville, Tenn.

TBA

it will make things a little more difficult for an already embattled coach. So can the Vols pull it off? There are a lot of unanswered questions, but this Tennessee team is deeper and more talented than any Tennessee team since 2007, the last time the Vols went to the SEC Championship Game. Tyler Bray is a junior quarterback who never met a double coverage he didn’t like. Or a triple coverage, for that matter. He’s going to make some mistakes, but he has the potential to be one of the nation’s best quarterbacks this year, which is why he has already been projected as a first round draft pick should he choose to forego his senior year of eligibility. In his receivers, Bray has what is probably the best receiving corps in the conference, and perhaps the best in America. There are questions — can Justin Hunter return to the field 100 percent after last year’s devastating knee injury? Can Coradelle Patterson live up to the hype that has followed him as a transfer who excelled in junior col-

lege? If the answer to those two questions is yes, this Tennessee team will have a passing game that is hard to stop. But to win consistently in the SEC, you also have to be able to run the football, an area where Tennessee was woeful in 2011. The Vols still don’t have a running back who is a game-changer on paper, but if the offensive line can open enough holes, the guys in the backfield should be sufficient to take just enough pressure off Bray and the passing game. Last year’s line could not do that, but the consensus around Knoxville seems to be that coaching was as much to blame for that as anything, and Dooley has a new offensive line coach on his staff. Defensively, there are major questions marks as the Vols break in a new coordinator in Sal Sunseri and make the switch to a 3-4 defense. Justin Wilcox did a fine job with Tennessee’s defense before jumping ship, but there were a few fans who questioned whether his bend-but-don’t-break approach would excel in

the SEC. In Sunseri the Vols have a coach who knows more about SEC offenses and how to defend them. He may be unproven as a coordinator, but he comes from Nick Saban’s staff, and Saban knows a thing or two about defensive coaches. Then there’s a favorable schedule for the Vols. While the SEC is always tough, and there are those trips to Athens and Columbia to fret about, this year’s game slate is as easy as it gets in the SEC. In fact, it might be one of Tennessee’s easiest schedules in years. With the exception of the season opener against N.C. State, the non-conference portion of the schedule is a cakewalk (Georgia State, Akron and Troy, all in Knoxville). And with the exception of perennial foe Alabama, Tennessee will manage to avoid the best teams in the SEC West, which is currently dominating the conference. So will Tennessee begin and end its season in the Georgia Dome? There’s a chance. Vols fans will hope that the end comes in early December and not in late August.


Independent Herald Pigskin Issue