"Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." That's an expression we've all heard at one time or another. Tennessee football fans are among the many people who have been fooled more than once by the promising hire of a new head football coach, only to wallow in the pain and agony of one unsuccessful season after another. That's why I am so skeptical of the Vols' hiring of Josh Heupel.
I have no problem at all with Heupel personally. In fact when he was hired, I had no real preference as to whom Tennessee would hire to replace Jeremy Pruitt.
The reason being...I really didn't care. Lane Kiffin, Derek Dooley, Butch Jones and Jeremy Pruitt all were absolutely big time busts, even though they were all brought in with plenty of enthusiasm and excitement. In addition, Pruitt turned out to be a big-time cheater as we all wait for the NCAA to hand down the official punishment for the handing out of McDonalds' bags of cash.
While Josh Heupel was putting his staff together, Tennessee players began to enter the NCAA Transfer Portal in record numbers. Since that time, Coach Heupel has replaced some of them with transfers from other schools, but I really can't get excited about them at all. You know...fool me once. The recruiting classes being turned in by the current Vols' staff are less than mediocre. The 2021 class was ranked 22nd in the country and 8th in the SEC, which is okay until you see the hard commits for the class of 2022. Tennessee just has three, ranking the Big Orange 48th nationally and 13th in the SEC.
One promising area for the upcoming season is at quarterback where Heupel has a great reputation for development and he has some good talent to work with including Michigan transfer Joe Milton. In addition to Milton who will have three years of eligibility, the Vols have Virginia Tech transfer Hendon Hooker as well as holdovers Harrison Bailey and Brian Maurer. It appears on paper that the Tennessee offense will have some firepower, but you know...fool me once.
College football has changed a lot just in the last few years. Disgruntled players can now transfer from one school to another much easier now, without having to sit out and wait to play. (Thanks to the Transfer Portal.) Football recruiting alone has become a multi-million-dollar a year business by itself with high school players holding on to star classifications like kids holding on to lollipops at the doctor's office. Some pan out, while others falter. You know...fool me once.
I guess the fact that I'm almost 70 years old and that I've been a Vols' fan for more than 60 of those years makes me at least a little bit skeptical. After 44 years of Doug Dickey, Bill Battle, Johnny Majors and Phillip Fulmer, Tennessee fans have had 13 years of Kiffin, Dooley, Jones and Pruitt to deal with. Now, Josh Heupel has the keys to the Big Orange car and, while the powers that be at Tennessee tell us he's an excellent driver, it remains to be seen. You know...fool me once.
Randy Smith can be reached at email@example.com