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So far Rock Solid Sports has created 83 blog entries.

Honoring a VFL: John Ward

At first, I chose not to write this article as I didn’t know if I could honor a legend in the right way. The more I thought about it, the more I thought about how John Ward would’ve wanted me too on the adage that you need to take every opportunity you can get and run with it. Being born in 1996 and with John retiring officially after the 1999 basketball season, most would say I don’t know who John is. Well with the power of YouTube where a lot of John’s broadcasts are and thanks to Vol For Life Films, I’ve heard him more than you might think.  

 

John Ward was everything to Tennessee fans, especially in East Tennessee. When a fan didn’t have the opportunity to go to a game, it was straight to the closest radio and his voice would be the one to greet them, “Hello everyone, this is John Ward of the VolNetwork.” He would describe everything down to the last detail. He and the late Bill Anderson, the late color guy that sat next to John in the Neyland Stadium press box for three decades, would be overly homer for Tennessee without going overboard. You knew who they wanted to win and they never made the game about themselves. Those two were the best broadcasting duo that may ever grace this Earth. His storied calls are quotes that will be remembered forever, and they will be something I will show my kids someday:  

 

“Did he make it? The crowd tells you. GOOD-AH JOB!” – Georgia vs Tennessee, 1995 

“Give. Him. Six!!!” – after every touchdown Tennessee scored for over three decades 

“Bottom! Bang!” – words tossed around in basketball broadcasts for Tennessee basketball 

Or two of the most remembered calls: 

“It’s Football Time in […]

Vols once again in SEC/Big 12 Challange

For those who don’t know, the Big 12/SEC Challenge is an annual college basketball event taking place between the Southeastern Conference and the Big 12. The conferences along with the athletic directors from the schools will create ten matchups between a Big 12 team and an SEC team.

One of the greatest things about the event is that it isn’t played at neutral sites. You do not have to travel to New York or the Bahamas, two popular locations where some early season tournaments are held. The Volunteers have been a team that’s regularly participated in the challenge, only missing out of the 2013-14 season which was the year it was created.

Taking a quick look at the Vols and how they’ve fared in the event, they’ve done well. In Tennessee’s first year, Donnie Tyndall’s squad beat Bruce Weber and Kansas State in Knoxville, 65-64. The Vols went to TCU in 2015, Rick Barnes’s first year at the helm, and lost 75-63. Tennessee has won its last two outings vs the Big 12, 70-58 in 2017 at home and 68-45 this past season at Iowa State. This has led to a record of 3-1, but the SEC as a whole has seen better days. Going into the sixth year of the challenge, the Big 12 has won the challenge four times with the SEC winning last year 6-4.

Although the times have not yet been set they probably will be as the season gets closer. Here are the 10 games with their locations:

Alabama @ Baylor, Ferrell Center, Waco, Texas
Arkansas @ Texas Tech, United Supermarkets Arena, Lubbock, Texas
Florida @ TCU, Schollmaier Arena, Fort Worth, Texas
Texas @ Georgia, Stegeman Coliseum, Athens, Georgia
Kansas @ Kentucky, Rupp […]

Nashville claims 2019 NFL Draft

Growing up in Tennessee, the city of Nashville has always been the measuring stick as to what a city can do to make itself appealing. The two big cities on either side, Knoxville and Memphis, have developed a rivalry of sorts with our state capital as to who’s the better city with the better atmosphere.

 

Everyone knows what type of town Nashville is. Broadway is the center of the activity. The street is lined with honky tonk bars, six bands in six different places playing a Bruce Springsteen song at the same time.

The Nashville Predators are becoming a NHL-powerhouse, with a big Stanley Cup run a year ago.

The Southeastern Conference has really staked it’s claim on the city with men’s and women’s basketball tournaments being held at Bridgestone Arena along with several other events like the Music City Bowl and the Vols making a trip down every so often to a play a home game at Nissan Stadium.

 

Nashville has even been dubbed as “the city where dreams come true” with Music Row, where aspiring music artists who are mostly in the country music industry come to get their start. The bottom line is that Nashville is Tennessee’s hub city and its why Bud Adams, the longtime owner of the former Houston Oilers and now Tennessee Titans picked Nashville, because as he described it, “it is the Athens of the south”.

 

So, all this sports town needed was a big-time event, something that could not only give the city the limelight but keep them there. The Preds did host the NHL All-Star game in 2016, an event where the hockey world is looking at you only. The event came to Nashville where people have said “they don’t know […]

Could Mason Rudolph Start sooner then Expected

The Steelers made an interesting selection in the draft that not everyone saw coming, especially Ben Roethlisberger.

With the 76th pick in the third round the Pittsburgh Steelers selected Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph.

Rudolph went to school all four years and was the starting quarterback for his last three. In each of those three years he completed over 60 percent of his passes, and he threw for over 4000 yards in his final two years.

After finding out, Roethlisberger was not quiet about his reaction: “I was surprised when they took a quarterback because I thought that maybe in the third round, you know you can get some really good football players that can help this team now.”

Previous to the draft he made sure the Steelers franchise was aware that he think he could play “for at least three more years.”

Now with this selection, people may wonder how valid GM Kevin Colbert found Roethlisberger’s claims regarding the longevity left in his career.

Big Ben did show signs of deteriorating over the past three seasons with his completion percentage lowering each year along with his yards per attempt dropping as well.

This team has had the best wide receiver and running back in the league for the past few years and the clock is ticking for them to get to the promised land.

It is no secret that Antonio Brown as well as Le’veon Bell are in their primes while Roethlisberger is now 36 and has seen his peak come and go.

If Roethlisberger’s play continues to erode like it has, having a quarterback who is ready to step in and already knows the system could possibly save a season.

There is no doubt that the acquisition of Rudolph puts the future of […]

Nashville’s “Lackluster” series with Winnipeg will change the Preds this off-season

It didn’t really matter who you asked at the end of round one, most people would’ve told you without hesitation that Winnipeg-Nashville was going to go seven games, one way or another.

But if you then asked who would win the series, well that could’ve gone either way as the NHL’s top two teams in terms of points were matched up in the second round. It was an interesting match-up as this was a series more tuned for the Western Conference Final with being the top two teams in the west, Nashville’s “bring the puck up on offense and play through our defense” type of style vs Winnipeg’s “electric and upbeat tempo” that was able to take care of the Minnesota Wild in five games.

This Nashville team was not the team that was seeded eighth in last year’s playoffs and made in all the way to game six of the Stanley Cup Finals.

But why was this playoff team different from last year’s playoff team? This article will take a more in-depth look as to why it was a lackluster series and how Nashville was beaten at their own game.

A common thing in the series was how Nashville just didn’t seem to jump at an opportunity when they had the chance. The two teams split games one and two in Nashville and headed to Winnipeg for games three and four. If the Preds could possibly steal game three and gain a 2-1 series lead, it would be substantial as it would set up only one more guaranteed game at home for the Jets.

Nashville kicked the door down in Winnipeg to start game three and held a 3-0 lead at the first intermission with goals from Mike Fisher, […]

LeBron James is on his last leg in Cleveland

LeBron James is more than guaranteed to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers after the horrible season they have had this year even if they make the finals.

James did well, but his team was mediocre at best during the regular season.

While they are still in the playoffs currently, only one member of his team made a significant impact and helped Lebron not have to carry the entire team.

That teammate would be, surprisingly, Tristan Thompson with 15 points and 10 rebounds in their last game with Indiana.

Kevin Love came on big in the Toronto series, but still that was really the only other Cavalier that made a major impact in the series.

Aside from the stats, the Cavaliers lack a championship roster. J.R. Smith can be clutch when he is hot, but he is getting up there in age and hasn’t been producing like he has before for Cleveland.

Not to mention Thompson has had his share of struggles, hence the surprising double-double he had recently.

Coach Tyron Lue and James have had their altercations as well. When this happened with David Blatt, he was fired. Lue has more respect as he has brought the Cavaliers their lone championship. However, with the arguments Lue and James have engaged in, it begins to cause a chemistry issue within the roster as well as with the coaching staff.

These are strong indications that James feels his days with the Cavaliers are numbered. There are also strong speculations that he is looking at the Lakers, 76ers and the Rockets.

James and LA have been connected for quite some time now.

When he was last exploring free agency, the Lakers were projected by a lot of people to land him and Paul George.

However, George was traded by Indiana to […]

Vols get much needed win over No. 13 Kentucky

Tennessee found itself looking for a much needed SEC win as they entered game one of a three game series with No. 13 Kentucky on Friday night.

Entering the series with the Wildcats there were only nine SEC games left in the regular season and the Vols were a game out of making the SEC Tournament. With a prime opportunity hosting six of their final nine SEC games the Vols where looking to start off the series with Kentucky with a bang.

It took a come from behind effort by UT, but the Vols got the win they were looking for in game one by a score of 6-2 to move to 9-13 in the SEC.

Kentucky would get out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning as Kole Cottam hit an RBI home-run that scored Troy Squires who had drawn a walk right before Cottam came up to bat.

Vols Starting pitcher Will Heflin would settle down a bit in the second inning as he walked one and had a second batter advance to first on a strike out swinging, however it was on a wild pitch and the batter would windup being safe at first base.

Despite the troubles Heflin got out of the inning without Kentucky recording a hit and leaving both runners on base.

The Vols offense would start to settle in in the second inning as well. Andre Lipcius lead off the inning with a single through the right side and would wind up scoring on a single to left field by Evan Russell to cut the Wildcats lead in half.

Heflin would get the first out of the third inning before being replaced by Zach Linginfelter.

Linginfelter would strikeout Cottam and walk Luke […]

No. 7 Lady Vols take game one of final regular season series

The No. 7 Lady Vols softball team opened up its final regular season series with a important 7-4 win over No. 24 Mississippi State in Starkville, Mississippi on Friday night.

The Lady Vols got things started off early as three of Tennessee’s first five batters wound up on base thanks to drawing walks, starting off with Aubrey Leach drawing a lead-off walk. Two batters later Meghan Gregg would reach first base on a fielder’s choice, with Leach advancing to second base. 

The next two batters Chelsea Seggern and Scarlet McSwain would both draw walks, Seggern to load the bases and McSwain to bring the games first run across in Leach.

That would also cause Mississippi State to pull their starting pitcher, as Emily Williams was replaced after just one third of an inning by Candace Denis. Williams would still take the loss for State even though she only made it five batters in to her start.

The Bulldogs luck in the circle would not get any better despite the pitching change as the first batter Denis would face drove in two runs when Ashley Morgan singled to center field to drive in both Gregg and Seggern.

Denis settled down after that getting the next two Lady Vols to come up to the plate out, but the damage was already done as UT put up three runs on one hit to start the game.

UT would add a fourth run in the top of the second inning as CJ McClain, who led off the inning with a single, would score on a single to left center by Holcomb.

UT would go up 5-0 in the top of the fifth when McSwain, who had reached on a walk for the second time in the […]

How Will This Year’s Rookie Quarterbacks Fit With Their New Teams

The 2018 NFL Draft was last week and much of its pre-draft hype surrounded this year’s ballyhooed quarterback class.

Five quarterbacks were selected in the first 32 picks, the most since 1983. Before the draft, I wrote an article breaking down the strengths and weaknesses of the five first-round quarterbacks in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Now that the dust has settled and those five signal-callers have found their new teams, let’s break down how each one fits with his new franchise.
Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns

Cleveland surprised many by taking Baker Mayfield with the first overall pick, but according to multiple post-draft reports, Mayfield was the hottest quarterback commodity in this year’s draft.

He’s the oldest quarterback that was taken in the first round and will be NFL-ready from his first day in the league, but Mayfield will have to earn the starting job in 2018 from Tyrod Taylor.

And not to get ahead of myself here… but do the Browns suddenly have a good offense? They have weapons everywhere, with Carlos Hyde, Nick Chubb and Duke Johnson in the backfield and an above-average offensive line led by guards Joel Bitonio and Kevin Zeitler.

Mayfield and Taylor will have plenty of good receivers to throw to, too, with Jarvis Landry, Josh Gordon, Corey Coleman, Antonio Callaway and David Njoku leading the way there.

Don’t look now, but this could be a legitimately explosive offense if they get good production from the quarterback position. Taylor will likely start week one, but will probably have a short leash, so don’t be surprised if Mayfield plays sooner than later.

Somehow, someway, Mayfield is in a perfect place to succeed in Cleveland.
Sam Darnold, New York Jets

Darnold was expected by many to go to the Browns or Giants, but […]

NBA Rookie of the Year Predictions

With the NBA playoffs now in the second round, the talk of who will be this season’s Rookie of the Year is at an all time high.

The NBA Award ceremony isn’t until June 25th, but there is a lot of speculation as to who will win the ROY award this year. Let’s list the two top candidates and what got them on this list.
Ben Simmons, PG/PF, Philadelphia 76ers
Simmons has been projected to win ROY since the beginning of the season.

He was injured and ruled out of his original 2016-2017 rookie season, fracturing his ankle in the final camp before the season started.

Thanks to the injury 2017-2018 has become his official rookie season and since the injury Simmons has looked hungry to play basketball.

He helped lead the 76ers to the playoffs and is a clear leader on that team alongside Joel Embiid.

Simmons averaged 15.8 points, 8.1 total rebounds and 8.2 assists during the regular season.

He lead this years rookie class in scoring and is easily one of the top choices for this award.
Donovan Mitchell, SG, Utah Jazz
Although it seemed Simmons was going to run away with ROY without any competition, Mitchell proved otherwise during the regular season.

He has been leading the Jazz on a tear and even won this year’s dunk contest.

Mitchell is a threat in the paint, on the perimeter and really anywhere you can imagine.

Mitchell averaged 20.5 points, 3.7 total rebounds and 3.7 assists this season. On top of those stats, he passed Karl Malone with 19 20+ point games as a rookie. Also, he set a rookie record with 186 made three’s in a rookie season.

Mitchell can back up his stats, his play is aggressive and effective. He has saved the Jazz from […]