Saturday, July 01, 2006

Weekend Blog - 25 Favorite Vols: 15-11

To be concluded on Sunday...

15. Dale Carter (DB - 1990-1991)
Carter spent only two years in Knoxville, but made an instant impact in the secondary. Carter made key interceptions in big games, including against Colorado in 1990, and a key 4th quarter pick against Notre Dame in the Miracle at South Bend. He is perhaps most famous for taking the second half kickoff back 95+ yards for a touchdown against Florida in 1990, turning a 7-3 ballgame towards a 45-3 rout. The most talented cornerback in the last fifteen years.

14. Carl Pickens (WR - 1989-1991)
For my money, the most talented wide receiver at UT in the last fifteen years, and maybe ever. Pickens, starting as a true freshman, simply separated from defensive backs like no one else. He made Andy Kelly look great on many afternoons. Pickens also played in the secondary as a true freshman, and was the defensive MVP of the 1990 Cotton Bowl. Also had a huge game against Virginia in the 1991 Sugar Bowl, and in both outings against Notre Dame in 1990 and 1991. Would be ranked higher, but his on-field trash talking carried over into the locker room and behind the scenes, as he left Knoxville after his junior season and played well for the Cincinnati Bengals for many years.

13. Joey Kent (WR - 1993-1996)
While Pickens is easily the most talented wide receiver, Joey Kent brings back better memories. Much of Kent's fame came from being the #1 option in Peyton Manning's sophmore and junior seasons, but Kent used that to his advantage to make some memorable grabs. His diving grab against Virginia Tech in the Gator Bowl as a sophmore served notice, and he quickly became Manning's favorite target. Going 80 yards, "on play number one!" (John Ward) against Alabama in 1995 easily puts him on this list alone. Kent also had a clutch grab against Ohio State for six, and a momentum-changing TD against Alabama in 96 when the Vols were down 13-0 in the second half. Joey Kent was and is the one receiver I felt most sure of making the catch when the ball came his way.

12. Chuck Webb (RB - 1989-1990)
There's nothing like Chuck Webb's story in all of UT history. He burst onto the scene in the Vols' late-night road upset of Top 10 UCLA in the second game of the 1989 season with 134 yards. As a true freshman in 1989, he teamed with already sensational junior Reggie Cobb to form the CobbWebb attack, which - if it lasted longer than five or six games - would've given tandems like Reggie Bush & LenDale White a run for their money. When Cobb was kicked off the team for substance abuse, it became Webb's show. For the remaining games of 1989, there was nothing like it. Ever. Chuck Webb was the solitary rushing option for Tennessee for half of a season. In that timespan, he picked up what still stands as the top two single game rushing performances in Tennessee history: 297 yards against Ole Miss, and 250 yards against Top 15 Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl. Jamal Lewis' best game was 232. Travis Stephens was sensational against Florida in 2001 and got 226. 297 yards in the SEC is absurd. And they weren't just regular runs - no one, ever, in Tennessee history, was more apt for the highlight reels than Webb. I'm serious - if you're too young for him, go find some tape (because I can't even find a picture of him now). Unreal....and then he was gone, tearing his ACL in the second game of the 1991 season...and never returning to the team. Never finding success in the NFL. So much brilliance, and then gone...and there hasn't been one like him since.

11. Casey Clausen (QB - 2000-2003)
Some other day, I'll blog about why Casey Clausen is the most underrated Vol in the last 25 years (something a News-Sentinel poll also agreed with). Casey Clausen was a winner. He was 34-10 as the starting quarterback. He was 14-1 on the road. Clausen is second in UT history in every major passing category. And it wasn't just longevity, it was grit and playmaking. He directed the explosive 2001 offense to the SEC Eastern Division title. He absolutely owned Michigan in the Citrus Bowl to the tune of 393 yards. The reality is, Clausen didn't get enough credit for 2001, and then got too much of the blame for 2002. Despite that rocky season, in which Clausen played hurt, he came back to direct a much less talented 2003 offense, winning again at Florida, and directing the Vols to a five overtime win at Alabama. He was better on third and long than any UT quarterback, including Manning. His California attitude and his mouth ("I can beat Georgia with one arm") caused more trouble than they should have, but Casey Clausen was ice cold and got the job done. Don't get me started.

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