Free advice: Don’t bet big

Marvin Westwestwords

I’m not sure what Lane Kiffin knows about it but he says what Jeremy Pruitt says, that the Volunteers are moving in the right direction.

There is no official word on how long it will take to arrive at a satisfactory destination.

Please keep optimism under control. Get excited carefully. Free advice: Don’t bet big.

As several observers have said before me, Tennessee football has no Heisman Trophy candidates. There are no probable all-Americans. Tennessee does not have a player who is best in the Southeastern Conference at his position.

Did you analyze media choices for preseason all-SEC? Three teams of honorees, 34 selections on offense, 33 on defense, no Volunteers.

It felt like an afterthought, but wide receiver Marquez Callaway was named a second-team kick returner.

All around us are better quarterbacks, better running backs, better receivers, better linemen, better linebackers, better defensive backs and better kickers. A few smart alecks say there are better coaches – as close as Nashville.

You can choose any explanation for this overall putdown. The media, collectively, is dumber than a rock. Or, the truth hurts but it is the truth. Tennessee has not yet solved the talent shortage. It isn’t saying much but I say the deficit has been reduced – somewhat.

Experience has made Pruitt smarter. He changed coordinators, acquired Tee Martin to help the passing game and reassigned another famous quarterback to coach quarterbacks.

Here is a written guarantee: The offensive line will be better. With luck, that will translate to fewer clumps of grass in Jarrett Guarantano’s face guard.

If this coaching staff is worth half what it cost, player development will soon begin to show.

If fans help a little bit, playing at home could be a real, live advantage. The Vols will play away from Neyland Stadium just four times.

There are some story lines to follow between now and Georgia State, August 31, 3:30 kickoff, tickets are available.

I can’t prove there is a direct link but Tennessee recruited Wanya Morris to play offensive tackle. Soon thereafter, Drew Richmond, many times a starter, initiated transfer proceedings. Richmond may have felt unappreciated. Richmond may have felt Morris was going to get his job.

Morris was an early enrollee who benefitted from spring practice. Whether he is in the opening lineup will be determined, at least in part, by how much more he has learned this summer. He looks like an NFL lineman.

More recent enrollee Darnell Wright, another great prospect, is another possible starting tackle. Best guess is he ascends a little later.

Wright is from Huntington, W. Va. His high school coach was Billy Seals, who grew up in Morristown and coached at Morristown East. Thought you’d want to know.

There is a critical quarterback assignment to be determined. Redshirt freshman JT Shrout is the predictable No. 2 but freshman Brian Maurer will compete for the backup job. Both have strong-enough arms. Maurer appears a bit more athletic. Neither has any experience.

Both have intelligence and courage. Both can run the offense. Neither is dependable in decisions.

Don’t even mention the word “disaster” but if Guarantano got hurt, both would probably play. If all goes well, one will redshirt.

Just for fun, follow TV and radio reporters’ pronunciation of Chris Toma Akporoghene, freshman offensive lineman.

Powell High coach Matt Lowe, Chris’ former coach at The Kings Academy in Seymour, says the last name spoken quickly sounds a lot like Ak-por-roh-guh-ney. Chris did most of his considerable growing up in Warri, Nigeria. He is 6-3 and 308.

This is not as good as the appetizers but here’s a football assessment overheard at Aubrey’s:

“Tennessee has not been a total disaster for the past 10 years. The net result has been something like a Thomas Edison quote: ‘I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.’”

Marvin West welcomes reader comments or questions. His address is

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