Saturday evening in Knoxville, new Tennessee Head Football Coach Butch Jones held an open scrimmage for the media and Big Orange fans alike. Close to 40,000 fans turned out to see the 2013 Volunteers in action, a mere two weeks from the season opener against Austin Peay. I know you've heard the saying, "The more things change, the more they stay the same." This was never more evident than it was at Neyland Stadium on Saturday night.
There was tailgating, but not a lot; though some fans were parked and ready for something to happen several hours before the event was scheduled to begin. There was some griping about the format of the scrimmage. Some were distressed because Coach Jones really didn't show many things as far as a "game plan" is concerned. One was overheard saying, " We just don't look ready. I didn't see a single pass thrown deep." My question is; how does that indicate a lack of readiness? Tyler Bray who could throw a football a country mile is no longer there, and neither are the two big-time receivers who could catch a deep ball last season.
Then there was the brave soul who said, "We still can't tackle. We're not any better than we were a year ago on defense." How can anyone who watched the practice say that, when if our defense just lines up correctly, it's a big improvement.
I have forced myself to remember that there are still members of the "legion of the miserable" out there, still watching Tennessee football and still voicing a critical analysis of what they see. They were around when Johnny Majors was coaching, and they're still here under Butch Jones' regime. In all, I thought it was a great idea and turned out to be a very successful event.
Tennessee fans have to realize that Tennessee football is no longer relevant; neither in the SEC or on a national level. Ticket sales are still lagging, though the introduction of those smokey gray uniforms seems to be a big hit, even among the Vol purists. Tennessee simply has to try new things and new ideas to create interest. Nothing can draw crowds better than a talented, winning team, and I believe Butch Jones has things heading in the right direction. I also believe the U.T. administration is being very patient with Jones and his staff, so the Volunteer fans also need to have a big dose of patience.
On a much brighter note, there were a lot of the Big Orange faithful that were extremely happy with what they saw. They like some of the talent that Jones and his staff has brought into town, and they also like what the Tennessee staff is doing in recruiting. Success in college football goes in cycles. Tennessee had a great run in the 1990s, winning a National Championship while taking while Alabama was trying to deal with a virtual "swinging door" of head coaches. Until Mark Richt took over at Georgia in 2000, Tennessee was on a nine game winning streak over the Bulldogs.
Randy Smith has been covering sports in Tennessee for the last 43 years. After leaving WRCB-TV in 2009, he has continued his broadcasting career as a free-lance play-by-play announcer. He is also an author and is a media concepts teacher at Brainerd High School in Chattanooga. He is also the Head Softball Coach at Brainerd. Randy Smith's career has included a 17-year stint as scoreboard host and pre-game talk show host on the widely regarded "Vol Network". He has also done play by play of more than 500 college football, basketball, baseball and softball games on ESPN, ESPN2, Fox Sports, CSS and Tennessee Pay Per View telecasts. He was selected as "Tennessee's Best Sports Talk Show Host" in 1998 by the Associated Press. He has won other major awards including, "Best Sports Story" in Tennessee and his "Friday Night Football" shows on WRCB-TV twice won "Best Sports Talk Show In Tennessee" awards. He has also been the host of "Inside Lee University Basketball" on CSS for the past 11 years. He was the first television broadcaster to ever be elected to the "Greater Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame", in 2003. Randy and his wife, Shelia, reside in Hixson. They have two married children (Christi and Chris Perry; Davey and Alison Smith). They also have three grandchildren (Coleman, Boone, and DellaMae).