JOE BIDDLE: Sunday Notes: July 10, 2016

Tennessee Titans Generic
(Photo: WKRN)

Random ruminations while wondering whatever happened to Lavelle Hawkins. . . .

TSWA HONORS SUMMITT: When this year’s Tennessee Sports Writers Association members held their annual business meeting Friday, it was put up for vote to name their annual College Women’s Basketball Coach of the Year in honor of former Lady Vols legend Pat Summitt.

To no one’s surprise, the vote was unanimous.

Summitt was women’s basketball in this state. Not only by taking over the Lady Vols program in her early 20s while still a graduate student at Tennessee, but at the high school level when she pushed high school coaches and administrators to change the girls game from 3-on-3, half-court basketball to the boys and men’s game of 5-on-5 full court.

The 2016 class of the TSWA Hall of Fame included former Nashville Banner, The Tennessean and Nashville City Paper sports writer Harold Huggins, who died earlier this year. The Tennessean’s veteran writer and columnist David Climer and the Greeneville Sun’s longtime sports writer and later its sports editor Wayne Phillips, completed the class.

Climer retired from the Tennessean late last year after starting as a part-timer in 1974. He became a columnist in 1994 and has been the state’s NFL Hall of Fame voter as well as a Heisman Trophy voter.

Huggins was a sports writer every sports staff needs. He would handle all the events no one else wanted and never complained. He was well known as a prep writer and was one of the best known prep writers in the state. He breathed it, lived it. Taking the Mid-State beat, Huggins would travel outside the NIL and cover football and basketball half-way across the state. Huggins would return to the Banner late at night and go in sports editor Fred Russell’s office and go to sleep on a well-worn couch before they would wake him up at 3 a.m. It was then that he would get up and write his game story on a manual typewriter.

Huggins covered city tennis and college tennis here. He was one of a scarce number of sports writers who even knew how to keep score. He covered minor league hockey teams at the Municipal Auditorium here.

He died earlier this year after a second bout with leukemia. Retired Tennessean columnist Larry Woody visited Huggins while he was in hospice. He was in and out of consciousness. Woody held Huggins’ hand and told him he was the best high school writer in Tennessee. Huggins squeezed Woody’s hand, a sign that even though he couldn’t talk, he understood what was said. He died a couple of days later.

 

HEISMAN ODDS: Here are some early odds on Heisman Trophy candidates, courtesy of Bovada in Las Vegas.

LSU running back Leonard Fournette is the favorite and there haven’t been any games played. Fournette was at 5-1 odds in January. The current odds have Fournette at 9/2.

Clemson QB Deshaun Watson is now 5-1 odds when he was a 9/2 favorite in January. Heisman runnerup Christian McCaffrey, the Stanford running back who lines up everywhere on the field, is now in third place at 11/2 odds. Three players are tied at 12-1. They are Florida State RB Dalvin Cook, Ohio State QB JT Barrett and Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield.

That looks like a quarterback-running back contest, not surprising.

The first and only candidate to not play those positions is Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley, now a 25-1 longshot. Eight players have already been taken off the board in Las Vegas. Texas A&M QB Trevor Knight is one of them.

Tennessee QB Joshua Dobbs opened at 16-1 and is now 33-1. The top SEC candidates are Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly at 16-1, as is Georgia RB Nick Chubb. Not one defensive player made the list of candidates.

 

NFL PLAYOFF ODDS: Your upgraded Tennessee Titans are 4-1 to make the playoffs and 1/6 to miss them. Other AFC South teams are Jacksonville,  +175 to make the playoffs, -215 to miss the playoffs.

Indianapolis is 5/8 to make them, 13/10 not to make them. The Houston Texans are 20/27 to make the playoffs, 21/20 to end their season after the regular season.

The defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos are -150 to make the playoffs and plus 120 to not make them. Super Bowl runnerup Carolina is -450 to make the playoffs, plus-325 to miss out on post-season.

If you can figure that wiseguy math out, have at it. I use the eye test to put three names on my Heisman ballot.

 

TITANS PATS LITE: Some NFL historians insist the Titans will re-build their team that has won five games in the last two years and morph it into New England South.

And why not? Seems like the Patriots have slapped a lot of teams around the back yard for years.

And the Titans finally wised up and grabbed Jon Robinson to sit at the General Manager’s table. Robinson grew up in West Tennessee, but is smart enough to know a good thing when he sees it.

He saw for years how Patriots coach Bill Belichick chose his personnel, how he reclaimed players others discarded. LaGarette Blount is a perfect example.

The old Titans used Blount as a power runner, but never ran him that much. Belichick makes sure his running backs run until their odometer goes over 100,000 miles. Then they go home and Belichick plugs a younger version in.

The Patriots always seem to have a productive offensive line. These new Titans are trying to head that way through the draft and free agency.

They want to run downhill, take the pressure off of quarterback Marcus Mariota and pick their spots. They need to upgrade the wide receiver position to go with a 1-2 power punch run game in free agent DeMarco Murray and rookie Derrick Henry. Should Murray return to 2014 form and Henry is a quick learner, they will be set at that position.

Observers saw the Patriots when they followed Robinson’s moves in the draft and free agency.

Starved Titans fans don’t care who Robinson mimics. They just want something to brag about.

 

 Joe Biddle is a wkrn.com sports columnist. He is a member of the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. Contact him at joebiddle11@gmail.com.

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