29 October 2008
Usually, I try to have UH out by Tuesday every week. That allows the talking heads to get out their thoughts on the previous week’s game and I can then point out some key players that they forgot to mention, or mention enough.
Obviously, I am a day late with this week’s rendition of UH. It has been a crazy week for me, only one more week of campaigning before the big election. On that note, my bad about me saying that terrorists would attack us to test my running mate and my bad again about letting it slip out that we are lowering the tax break cutoff from $250,000 to $150,000.
I am not as young as I used to be and Bama has been taking up a lot of my free time. I am sure I will be back on track when I settle in to my new job after next Tuesday.
Anyway, On to the unsung heroes for the UT game.
Special Teams – Punt Coverage Unit
This unit, led by my new favorite player Brad Smelley, only had to cover three punts this week but did post a stat you don’t see everyday.
PJ Fitzgerald averaged 38.0 yards per punt on Saturday night. Not a great number, I know. Here is the interesting part – Fitzgerald averaged 38.3 yards net per punt.
That doesn’t happen very often, if at all.
Truth be told, Tennessee only returned one of the three punts for a one yard loss with the other two being a fair catch and downed by Bama after a partial block.
Roy Upchurch, the Fullback
After Upchurch was arrested last year, I didn’t really know if he would be back this year much less be a contributor. Upchurch has, to his credit, steadily increased his role in the offense each week.
After seeing some spot duty at fullback in a couple of earlier games, Upchurch got some extensive time at the position Saturday. Two catches for 13 yards were the only stats he logged while playing the position but he was invaluable as a blocking back as well as in pass protection against a stout Volunteer defense.
I love Baron Huber at fullback, in fact while I may get some death threats for this – Huber could have (and has on several occasions) made the same block that Terrance Cody did on that goal line play against Ole Miss. There I said it – it was completely unnecessary to use Cody in that way with Huber in that role.
But what Huber can’t do is be a threat in the passing game like Upchurch can. Huber also can’t slide back to the tailback spot and gain 86 yards on 14 carries.
How scary will the backfield be next year with Upchurch, Glen Coffee, and Mark Ingram being joined by Trent Richardson (provided he holds firm on his commitment)?
That my friends, is a stable of running backs.
The freshman linebacker was thrown to the fire from day one this season and, at times, played like a true freshman but has also shown flashes of greatness. Hightower finished Saturday night with seven tackles including one for a loss.
While teams key on Rolando McClain (as they should), Hightower has shown the ability to pick up the slack and be a force at the linebacker position. McClain is an outstanding player, no doubt, but he has really been helped by the development of the freshman.