Randy Smith: The State Of Vols' Football

Thursday, June 14, 2018
Randy Smith
Randy Smith
When you consider how far the Tennessee football program has sunk in the last decade it appears that any good news out of Knoxville is greeted by skepticism. For example, when linebacker Darren Kirkland announced he was leaving, fans reacted with an "Oh well" type attitude. In other words, it couldn't get any worse. A few weeks later when Kirkland changed his mind and decided to return to the Vols for 2018, fans reacted with another "Oh well" attitude because Kirkland has been hampered by injuries since he first came to Tennessee. Though most of those same Big Orange fans seem to be sold on new head coach Jeremy Pruitt, there is little to indicate things will get better anytime soon.

There are a few fans who expect Tennessee to compete for an SEC Championship right away.
That's not going to happen. The Vols will be very lucky to finish 6-6 and go to a bowl game which would be definite progress. In terms of actually competing for an SEC title, the Volunteers are at least 3-4 years away. 

How has it gotten this bad? When Phillip Fulmer was fired in 2008 the program had definitely declined but was only one or two recruiting classes away from being able to return to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game-the same one they played in in 2007. The Vols were still respected on a national level but when Lane Kiffin was hired to replace Fulmer, things just didn't feel right.  That was proven when Kiffin bolted for Southern Cal after just one season. Then came Derek Dooley who brought the Vols down to an entirely different level in terms of talent and national respect. Instead of signing four and five star recruiits  Dooley signed much less talented players and that led to the Vols three straight 5-7 seasons. The first two under Dooley and the  last one under Butch Jones. Jones brought the Vols fan base together with good recruiting classes and perhaps smoke and mirrors. While Jones seemed to recruit well, he and his staff were not able to develop talent at all. Plus, that "Champions of Life" slogan went over like a lead balloon. 

To show you how far the Vols' program has gone down, when Jones was fired, the search for a new coach made Tennessee the laughing stock of college sports. It led to the ouster of Athletic Director John Currie after only eight months and eventually led to the firing of U.T. Chancellor Dr. Beverly Davenport a few months later. Now, as we approach the start of the 2018 college football season, the Vols are coming off their only winless SEC season in school history and the school's worst record ever; a 4-8 debacle a year ago. 

That's where Tennessee is as a program, trying to bounce back from the bottom of the SEC pile. That's a place Tennessee has never been as a football program but it's the place where Jeremy Pruitt begins his tenure as the Vols' head coach. So, you see how unrealistic it is to think Tennessee will be relevant in the SEC right away. This may seem to be a pessimistic view of things but I prefer to think of it as a real assessment. 

Had the Volunteers not fired Coach Fulmer, I firmly believe Tennessee would not be in this shape today. But they did and as we get close to beginning the 2018 season the fact that Fulmer is now in charge of things  as Athletic Director can only be a positive thing. Tennessee has a long way to go because the Volunteers have never been in this position before. They honestly can't go any lower, so the only way to go is up. And that's not going to happen overnight. 

-----

Randy Smith can be reached at rsmithsports@epbfi.com


Chattanooga Area Swim League

CHATTANOOGA AREA SWIM LEAGUE BLUE DIVISION: 1. Ooltewah 5-0; 1. Stuart Heights 3-1; 3. Signal Mountain 3-2; 4. Dalton 1-4; 5. Calhoun 0-5. RED DIVISION: 1. Catoosa  4-0; 2. Country Club 4-1; 3. Fairyland 2-2; 4. Cleveland 1-3; 5. Big Ridge 0-5. WHITE DIVISION: 1. Red Bank and Waterdogs bot 4-1; 3. Ridgeside 2-3; 4. Cumberland 0-5.  TUESDAY'S RESULTS ... (click for more)

Ooltewah Stays Unbeaten With Win At Dalton

It’s been an amazing past seven days for members of the Ooltewah Tidal Wave swim team as they’ve beaten the top three teams since last Thursday. It all began with a 56-point win over Stuart Heights and was followed by an impressive 82-point victory over the defending league champion Signal Mountain Green Giants on Monday.\ And now those folks from Hooterville can relax for ... (click for more)

All School Board Members But Rhonda Thurman Approve Going Ahead With Equity Study

All County School Board members except Rhonda Thurman said Thursday afternoon they are in favor of pushing ahead with an equity study sought by new Supt. Bryan Johnson. Ms. Thurman said she was "tired of bullying tactics by outside groups" such as UnifiEd and Chattanooga 2.0. She said the 132 people who signed a letter in support of the study include people "with deep pockets" ... (click for more)

CARTA Set To Launch One Of Nation's 1st Full-Size All-Electric Transit Buses

ARTA has taken delivery on one of the nation's first full-size all-electric transit buses. Officials said the bus may be ready for the road in about two weeks after some final touchups, including adding a radio. Only one other city - in Washington state - has this type bus on the road. Chattanooga will be the first in the country with three of the models. Two others are ... (click for more)

The Boss, Claude Ramsey

I try not to overuse the word great, but we lost a great man today, Claude Ramsey. I had the pleasure of serving under him as director of Commercial and Industrial Properties for 14 years while he was the Hamilton County Assessor of Property. He was probably the smartest person I have ever known. He was tough but patient, kind, caring and compassionate. He knew how to get ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Not A Blessed One

When I read, to no great surprise, that 132 of Chattanooga’s “leaders” had signed a letter in support of “socioeconomic integration” in Thursday’s Times Free Press, there were two things that were immediately obvious to me: Not a blessed one would have (a) written such a letter on their personal stationery, and (b) not a blessed one would have ever voted for the current president ... (click for more)