Friday, December 19, 2008

We're Moving!

Ladies and gentlemen,

An opportunity has been presented to me that I'm very humbled by, and am excited about pursuing.

I started SouthEastern Sports Blog in June 2006 a couple weeks after moving from Knoxville to southwest Virginia. And ever since, it's been an incredible release and a great joy in my life. It's enabled me to continue to share in the same sports conversations I had with friends and family when I lived in East Tennessee, and has been a great fulfillment of my spare time living here in rural America.

In the past six months, through Bleacher Report and through an association with The Big Orange Roundtable websites, SESB has increased her traffic by picking up the same 16,000 readers we saw in the first two years combined. We've been linked to at ESPN.com, are a regular on the Knoxville News-Sentinel's blog links, I've gotten to collaborate with several people both online and on radio, and more importantly, we've expanded our community to a host of new viewers. It's been largely through the networking with a handful of the Big Orange Roundtable sites - specifically Gate 21 (and lawvol, who's responsible for the graphics on this site), Third Saturday in Blogtober, and Rocky Top Talk.

While the numbers are exciting, this has always been purely for fun and not in an attempt to gain any sort of notoriety or anything like that. As such, I appreciate so very, very much those of you who've been reading here from the very beginning.

The reality of my life is getting ready to include seminary, both online and on campus full time for the next four years. Concerns of keeping things in their proper balance and not getting burned out, or seeing the site fall apart if I got especially busy, have been on my mind.

And so weighing those concerns and, simultaneously, a new opportunity that was presented to me, I've decided to leave SouthEastern Sports Blog to join the team at Rocky Top Talk.

Rocky Top Talk has been the first Tennessee website I check each day for the last six months - the quality of not just the writing, but the entire site, is simply outstanding as you can see from their list of College Football Blogger Award nominations and wins. So I was honored to be asked and will continue to be honored to serve on the team over there. I am very, very excited about all this and can't wait to get started there.

So first - thank you. Thanks to all of you who've spent some time here, at any point over the last few years. Specifically, thanks to Kory & Amy, Webb, Coach Marsh, Justin & Caroline, Ryan, my parents and all the other people who've been continuing the conversation from Knoxville with me on here.

Thanks to my man Jeff, who's also in the balance of life between ministry and a few minutes on the keyboard, for contributing some great stuff on the site during these last few months. Outside the sports world, you can check out Jeff's personal blog here.

And thanks to the new faces I've gotten to share with, from the outstanding community at Bleacher Report, to Jay & Al at Gridiron Breakdown, to all the Big Orange Roundtable sites whose work I've enjoyed.

I hope all of you, if you're not reading there already, will join us over at Rocky Top Talk - you have to register a free account at SBNation, but then you can jump right in on any of the conversations (or the always entertaining in-game threads). The stuff you'll get from me will be the same, just with a different address. And the stuff you'll get from the other guys at RTT is already top notch. I cannot imagine a better team to work with.

I'm going on vacation from December 22 - January 3, so I won't be officially starting at Rocky Top Talk until Monday, January 5. If vacation gets boring, you might find a few brief notes from me on here between now and then, before we move over to Rocky Top Talk for good at the start of the new year. But there's still excellent stuff going on at RTT right now.

So thanks again. Please come join us. And I hope your Christmas and your New Year is full of joy and life.

Grace and Peace,

Will

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Vols 80 Marquette 68 - Off the Deck

We keep waiting to be disappointed by Bruce Pearl's teams, keep waiting for that fallout period...but the Vols just don't lose very often these days, and when they do, they come off the deck throwing punches.

Against a talented and experienced Marquette team with three senior guards that could've given them fits, the Vols wisely put the thin Golden Eagles in foul trouble from start to finish (taking advantage of a night where the refs clearly decided beforehand that every questionable contact call was going to be a charge), shook off a slow start to score 48 points in the second half, and continued to display that they're more than Tyler Smith to the national consciousness.

With JP Prince still out, the Vols turned to a re-inspired Wayne Chism, who went career high with 26 points and 10 rebounds, including an incredible seven-for-seven stretch in the second half capped by a h-u-g-e three. That gave the Vols a lead they would never relinquish, forcing the Marquette players who hadn't fouled out to jack threes instead of doing what they do best, and the end result was another 12 point win over a Big East team.

Last year, when the Vols were winning games by a smaller margin than I thought they should and Chris Lofton was struggling (and none of us knew about his cancer situation), I told several of my friends that I was worried we'd make the Final Four and I'd not enjoy it along the way. This year, I know we're young and expect bumps in the road (thought not quite the pothole Temple was)...but there's a level of grace with this team that makes it feel even better when the Vols pull out another big win like this.

With Chism's performance tonight, you have to put him and Prince in that group of three who can each take over a game under the right circumstances. Combine that with heady play at the point (Bobby Maze is 4-to-1 assist/turnover) and a group of shooters that, while not Lofton/JaJuan (and who would be?), must be respected. We're still growing.

The W puts Tennessee at 7-2, with Belmont and Louisiana-Lafayette in Knoxville between them and a 9-2 mark entering 2009, where they'll face the most difficult month in Tennessee basketball history: at Kansas, vs Gonzaga, at Georgia, vs Kentucky, vs South Carolina, at Vanderbilt, vs Memphis, vs LSU, vs Florida.

Welcome, once again, to bigtime college basketball.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Furcal back to the Braves?

In a somewhat surprising move this morning, ESPN is announcing that Rafael Furcal, who spent six great seasons in Atlanta from 2000-2005, is ready to return to Turner Field for less money than the Oakland A's were offering him. Furcal has spent the last three seasons with the Dodgers and has continued to make a name for himself as one of the game's best leadoff hitters.

Once finalized, this move would make Atlanta shortstop Yunel Escobar one of the hottest shortstop commodities on the trade market, which should give the Braves what they need to go out and make a deal for a bigtime pitcher (read: Jake Peavy). Escobar's prowess and upside at shortstop is great, but putting Furcal back in the mix - and the Braves haven't made the playoffs since Furcal left Atlanta, for what it's worth - also puts more pop in the lineup. Adding an ace, resigning John Smoltz and putting Furcal in there makes Atlanta's chances for a postseason run in 2009 much better than they were a few weeks ago.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Random Thoughts - Monday December 15

Where I've lost my third XBOX 360 to The Red Eye of Death, which also doubled as my DVD player, so we've been enjoying repeat viewings of The Dark Knight on my laptop...

"May your first child be a masculine child..."
The Family is coming together.

Monte Kiffin officially announced that he will be joining son Lane in Knoxville next fall as the Vols' defensive coordinator. The elder Kiffin has been the defensive coordinator in Tampa Bay since 1996, coinciding with Tampa's rise to football relevance and the implementation of Kiffin's Tampa 2 scheme, coming soon to SEC offenses near you. He'll inherit most of the talent from the nation's #4 defense in 2008. Good times ahead.

Monte was always a big part of the Lane hire looking good, and thanks to Gene Chizik and Charles Barkley, the Vols' hire will now be less scruntinzed everywhere but Knoxville. If there was anyway to ease the pain from John Chavis' departure, Monte Kiffin was it. I like where this can go.

Next stop - this guy. Tell 'em about it, Jo Jo!





#16 Tennessee vs. #24 Marquette in Nashville
The SEC/Big East whatever they're calling it features two teams that, at the very least, are fun to watch tomorrow night at 9:30. Check out the detailed preview from The Bruce Ball Blog.

The Vols will have to come off the deck fast after Temple reality checked them on Saturday. JP Prince is still doubtful at best with a severely sprained ankle, and the Golden Eagles use three guards at once better than just about anyone in the nation, which almost carried them deep into March last season. For the young Vols on the perimeter who just got lit up by Christmas in Philadelphia, they'll have to rebound quickly to slow Marquette in Nashville.

The Vols will leave Nashville and return to TBA for games against Belmont and the Rajun Cajuns before the non-conference madness continues. We're still not sure exactly what we've got with this team that beat Georgetown (who beat Memphis) and lost to Gonzaga (who lost to Arizona), and the last glimpse from the Temple game wasn't promising. Not that Belmont isn't capable and won't be ready to spring an upset, but the real proof will come in the three non-conference tests between now and the start of SEC play: Marquette in Nashville tomorrow night, at Kansas on January 3, and the Gonzaga rubber match in Knoxville on January 7. 2-1 in those three games would be great. If the Vols have it going well enough to win tomorrow night against this Marquette team after playing so poorly just 72 hours earlier against Temple, I'll be very impressed.

Titans: Two Weeks to the Playoffs


(Cortland Finnegan: SHORYUKEN!)

The bad news is that Al Haynesworth and Kyle Vanden Bosch are out for Sunday's AFC home field advantage showdown against Pittsburgh. The good news is, both will be back for the playoffs.

The Titans could backdoor their way to HFA if Pittsburgh beats them and then loses in Week 17 to Cleveland and the Titans beat Indianapolis in Indy...but right now neither route seems particularly desirable.

There are a few folks who are jumping off the bandwagon (and jumping on the "put Vince Young in the game!" ship, which is insanity.) Sunday's game will help decide not only home field advantage, but the real direction of this Titans team. The 10-0 start has turned into a 2-2 bump in the road in the last four weeks - and it may be only that - but the Steelers will be the best gage of that.

Sadly, the game won't be flexed to NBC's Sunday night slot, which goes to Carolina and the Giants.

The Celtics are on pace to win 75 games

Again, I'm just saying.

Since we've already mentioned several cinematic classics in this post, allow me to bring up another: Boston will be envoking Rocky IV next week by going into the belly of the beast on Christmas Day, for what is without question the first must-see Christmas TV NBA game for me, when the 22-2 Celtics travel to Los Angeles to face the 20-3 Lakers.

There's 3/4 of the season left to be played, and Cleveland is certainly hot as well - but if Boston beats Utah tonight, they'll match the all-time best NBA start of 23-2. That mark is currently held by the Jordan Bulls team that went 72-10, which is the best record in NBA history. For now.

...again, I'm just saying.

And finally...

You didn't really think we'd show one Ed Orgeron video classic and not show the other, did you?


The man. The legend. The next recruiting coordinator at the University of Tennessee.

Be afraid.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Titans lose to Houston; Haynesworth injured

As Mike Keith stated as the game drew to a close, the difference between the Titans this year and last (when, remember, they were a playoff team) is that the '07 Titans kicked field goals and the '08 Titans score touchdowns. Untimely turnovers and the inability to do that today cost them in a 13-12 loss to Houston, which will now set up a home field showdown next week with Pittsburgh regardless of what the Steelers do with the Ravens today.

Playing without Kyle Vanden Bosch and struggling to slow Steve Slaton, who became only the second back this season to go for 100+ yards against Tennessee, the Titans took a potentially even bigger blow when Al Haynesworth was injured on the next to last significant play of the game - Slaton picked up a game-clinching first down on the next play.

I didn't see it because the good folks at CBS think people in southwest Virginia just love to watch the Jets and the Bills (...which was a good game), but Frank Wycheck broke a cardinal rule of announcing by speculating that Haynesworth has an MCL injury that will sideline him 4-6 weeks. So I'm breaking the cardinal rule of blogging by passing that assumption onto you.

The Steelers should be in a dogfight for sixty minutes in Baltimore this afternoon, so I'm unsure what they'll have for the Titans in Nashvegas next Sunday. But if Haynesworth is out for an extended period of time, Tennessee's chances of extending their January football just took a huge, huge blow.

With or without the loss and Haynesworth, the game with the Steelers will be the biggest game at LP Field since Steve McNair and Eddie George wore baby blue. Hopefully, the Titans will be playing it at full strength...stay tuned.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Just Kidding: Fulmer declines administrative position

Apparently, this is all about retirement benefits, insurance, and the ire of a faculty and staff during a budget crisis and a hiring freeze. But Fulmer will not be an employee of the University of Tennessee; the article from the News-Sentinel claims, appropriately, that Fulmer will continue to volunteer his efforts for the university in a similar capacity.

Something big going down at Auburn?...

We just don't know what it is yet.

A local affiliate in Montgomery reported that Steve Spurrier would be named Auburn's next head coach....but down in Mobile, they like their reporting with a dash of Will Muschamp.

Keep in mind that a small market Tennessee affiliate reported incorrectly that the Vols were offering their job to Mike Leach when we were going through this process last month. Obviously one of these reports is incorrect, and if they both are I wouldn't bat an eye. It is, however, fascinating to see the wildfire rumor spreading that's usually reserved for internet message boards make its way, probably in part because of them, to the affiliated mainstream media.

As always, stay tuned...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

I mean, come on.

- Eric Berry lost the Thorpe Award - supposedly for the nation's best defensive back - to a guy who had three interceptions all season. Berry, who apparently can only be stopped by voters (like most Tennessee players up for individual awards), had seven INTs this season, two touchdowns, 13 more tackles than Ohio State's Malcolm Jenkins, and an infinitely better highlight reel. Others have written that Berry should be a Heisman candidate, but apparently he can't even be rightfully recognized as the best DB in the nation.

- Tim Tebow won the Maxwell Award as the nation's best player. The gag reflex here really goes to anyone around him with a microphone; I'm pretty sure Tebow could've gone home with anyone wearing a press pass in the greater Orlando area tonight. His play and his life, apparently, brought grown men to tears. Look, Timmy, stop telling me how blessed you are. My personal theology doesn't support it.

- Dave Clawson, who was the catalyst of Phillip Fulmer's downfall in my humble opinion, has gone from a head coach at lower-level Richmond, to offensive coordinator at Tennessee, to new head coach at Bowling Green. We call that a promotion around these parts. Because it makes total sense to promote this guy after the offensive season we had.

- Lane Kiffin has told Tajh Boyd and now Bryce Petty that they're not for us. So does this mean we're going to be playing quarterback with one of the same three guys who tried it this year? Surely there's a better option out there...