Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Sports Columns

February 7, 2013

Rocky Top Beat: Success of Team 117 now with players and the coaches

CROSSVILLE — The dust has settled on 2013 football recruiting and UT’s class is signed and ready to join Team 117. How this class ultimately helps in turning Tennessee’s football program around will evolve over the next few years. The two elite quarterbacks and talented receivers could very well be the strength of this class.

This staff worked hard to get Tennessee in the mix with some of the country’s more elite players. While they held on to most of their prior commitments, they needed more time to pull in the higher profile athletes with exception of QB Joshua Dobbs who was headed to Arizona State prior to Tuesday. Time will tell just what that means for the future of the program.

Many fans will stress over the opinion of recruiting services but when they arrive on campus none of those recruiting “stars” will matter. Their maturity both on and off the field coupled with how they respond to coaching will be far more important than rankings coming out of high school.

The past few years have seen some really talented players come through Knoxville that failed to produce winning records. The coming season will show if this staff can make good players better and transform individual talent into a team that can make the Vol Nation proud.

Lost in all the recruiting hype was the mentoring of the returning players. Coach Jones turned over that responsibility to his strength coaching staff while everyone else concentrated on recruiting. The players have been kept on a regiment that will have them stronger and in top shape for the start of spring practice March 9.

This recruiting class did not address all the needs for the future but that can be addressed in the 2014 recruiting class. Success on Signing Day is a great “feel good moment” for fans, full of hope and potential for the future. However, success in a program will ultimately lie in the hands of the assistant coaches and the ability to develop players.

This coaching staff has a recruiting process that given time should enhance the quality of athletes arriving on Rocky Top. Next for Coach Jones is evaluating his returning players and getting the most out of spring practice. The Orange and White Game on April 20 will provide a glimpse into the make up of Team 117 and where they are headed in the fall.

March Madness could have more to do with spring football practice than the Vol basketball team. If Wednesday’s performance at home is any indication, get ready for football. Inconsistent play has been the recurring theme for Cuonzo Martin’s team this season. They get another chance to reverse their road woes Sunday at noon CST in South Carolina.

The Lady Vols’ injuries led to an upset loss at Missouri last weekend. Fortunately, the recent injuries will not keep anyone out of the lineup long term. The Lady Vols return to action this Sunday at home in their annual “Live Pink, Bleed Orange” game against Ole Miss at 1 p.m. CST. Go Vols and Lady Vols!!

•••

Frank Gale is a Crossville Chronicle correspondent. His column is published on Fridays.

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