Randy Smith: Big Orange Fans Must Be Patient

Tuesday, July 08, 2014 - by Randy Smith
Randy Smith
Randy Smith

As we get closer to the start of the college football season, Tennessee football fans are on a feeding frenzy. They eat up every bit of information available on their beloved Volunteers, but as exciting as second year head coach Butch Jones has made it around the state, the Big Orange faithful simply must be patient.

The 2014 Volunteers will be a much better football team than the 2013 version was. An extremely tough schedule however, will make it very difficult to better last year’s 5-7 record. The talent level in Knoxville is better, but still nothing to equal what it was 12-15 years ago. Tennessee is still a year, maybe two years away from being back to that level. The good news is…..Coach Jones is making a lot of progress in a little amount of time.

While this year’s recruiting class was rated a solid top ten in every publication, the one that looms ahead for 2015 could be even better. As of today, (July 8, 2014) the Vols are currently ranked 8th in the country and fifth in the SEC. Tennessee has a grand total of nineteen commitments, with seven of those being four star prospects. (According to rivals.com) Another banner class coming into Knoxville will return the Vols to SEC relevance.

I have written columns before begging the Volunteer faithful to be patient, which most of them weren’t. I wrote a similar story following Derek Dooley’s initial season as head coach saying to give Coach Dooley at least three more years and he will get the job done.  Needless to say, I was wrong; though after his third season, hardly anyone thought he deserved four years.

This time I think I’m right. Butch Jones has excited the fan base as none of Tennessee’s last three head coaches has done. His recruiting is much better, and while the jury may still be out on his staff’s on the field coaching, I think that’s better too.

Some of the most optimistic Vol fans look to last year’s resurgence by Auburn and Missouri as examples for Tennessee to follow. The big difference is the schedule for Tennessee will be much tougher than either of those two teams’ 2013 schedules were.  Even I can’t find a sure six wins on U.T.’s 2014 schedule; six wins that would send the Vols to a bowl game for the first time since Dooley’s first year.

Tennessee opens up at home with Utah State, and while a lot of people are counting the opener as a sure win, the Aggies will likely be a slight favorite on Aug. 31. Utah State was 9-5 a year ago and will be picked to win the Mountain West Conference in 2014. That one is a toss-up. The Vols then host Arkansas State the following week with a win almost being a lock. Playing devil’s advocate, let’s say Tennessee is 2-0 as they face a brutal three game stretch….at Oklahoma, at Georgia and at home against Florida. The Gators are the only one of those three I feel Tennessee will have a good chance to beat.

At 2-3, the Vols will likely beat Chattanooga, before facing Ole Miss, Alabama and South Carolina. After that tough stretch, they could be 3-5, before closing out the season against Kentucky, Missouri, and Vanderbilt. I’m picking them to win all three and finish 6-6 on the year. With that record, they could be headed to the Liberty Bowl in Memphis.

They could be better than 6-6, or maybe 5-7 or worse, but again, the only thing I can ask is be patient. Better seasons are ahead….just maybe not this season.

 -----

Randy Smith has been covering sports on radio, television and print for the past 45 years. After leaving WRCB-TV in 2009, he has written two books, and has continued to free-lance as a play-by-play announcer. He is currently teaching Broadcasting at Coahulla Creek High School near Dalton, Ga.

His career has included a 17-year stretch as host of the Kickoff Call In Show on the University of Tennessee’s prestigious Vol Network. He has been a member of the Vol Network staff for thirty years.

He has done play-by-play on ESPN, ESPN II, CSS, and Fox SportSouth, totaling more than 500 games, and served as a well-known sports anchor on Chattanooga Television for more than a quarter-century.

In 2003, he became the first television broadcaster to be inducted into the Greater Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame. Randy and his wife Shelia reside in Hixson. They have two married children, (Christi and Chris Perry; Davey and Alison Smith.) They have four grandchildren, Coleman, Boone, DellaMae and CoraLee.

To contact Randy: rsmithsports@epbfi.com


UTC is No.13 in This Week's Football Poll

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team moved up a spot in the national polls, despite dropping a tough 20-16 battle at Central Michigan last week.  The Mocs are No. 13 in the Sports Network Top-25 and No. 15 in the FCS Coaches Poll this week.  The No. 13 national mark ties the highest ranking for UTC in the Russ Huesman era (since ... (click for more)

PHOTOS: Lookouts Celebrate Winning Second-Half Title

Four weeks ago, no one would have expected the Lookouts would be even close to winning the second-half title. An 11-game winning streak put them into the race and when they swept the Tennessee Smokies Sunday they had concluded an incredible comeback. The Smokies were still in a position to win before Chris O'Brien's pinch-hit triple plated Corey Seager and O'Koyea Dickson with ... (click for more)

Bradley, 24, Charged In Death Of Boy, 3; Child Had Numerous Injuries After Left With Boyfriend; Mother Was In Workhouse

Justin Dale Bradley has been charged with criminal homicide in the death of a three-year-old child, who was rushed to the hospital on Wednesday and later died. Police said Dakota James Arndt had numerous injuries over his body. Authorities said Bradley, 24, is the boyfriend of the child's mother, Brianna Kwekel, who was in the Workhouse at the time. Ms. Kwekel was serving 48 ... (click for more)

Helen Burns Sharp Asks Recovery Of Legal Fees In Successful Black Creek TIF Lawsuit

Helen Burns Sharp, citizen activist who sued to try to stop a $9 million Black Creek Tax Increment Financing (TIF) and won, is seeking to have her legal expenses paid by the city and the developers. Ms. Sharp said in a court filing that her legal bills to attorney John Konvalinka are $74,427 thus far. Chancellor Frank Brown ruled in favor of Ms. Sharp, saying the Sunshine ... (click for more)

Decimating The Chattanooga Public Library

Corinne Hill claims that the library is just undergoing a normal weeding process for eliminating books.  She has bragged that she's responsible for the elimination of over 100,000 books - with more to go. "Normal" weeding is not rampant throwing away.  Yes, books go to the Friends for their sale - where they get $2 for a $75 book and thousands wind up being recycled ... (click for more)

The Many Lessons I Learned From Helen McDonald Exum

Helen McDonald Exum was my friend and mentor. As I think of her passing I can only imagine the celebration that is happening in heaven as the news of her arrival is being told. I am sure that there is a party that not only has she organized but that there is not a detail that has been left to chance. I am sure that it is the grandest of events, for you see, she has been planing ... (click for more)