By Frank Gale
The 2012 college football season is officially in the books and, once again, an SEC team reigns as National Champ. Granted, this might have been one of the easier match ups to achieve that title, especially with Notre Dame proving to be a pretender instead of a contender. As for the Vols, their season ended way back in November and they now are looking forward to a fresh start in 2013.
It sure looks like Coach Butch Jones and his staff will see most of the talented 2012 air attack leaving Rocky Top for the NFL draft. Joining the outgoing seniors will be quarterback Tyler Bray, receivers Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter. Darrington Sentimore will also be leaving early from the other side of the ball.
Spring practice should be very interesting this year. Expect a huge turn out for the annual Orange-White game with new coaches and so many positions up for grabs. In the meantime, Big Orange fans are keeping a close eye on recruiting as we approach National Signing Day next month.
I should mention that according to some misguided folks, Tennessee is now the second best SEC program in the Volunteer State. I might remind Jim Butler and the other Vanderbilt faithful that one game does not elevate you to the top program in this state. It does, however, set up a pretty good rivalry game in Knoxville come November. Still, my congrats to Jim and the rest of the Commodore fans on the bowl victory that completed a great season.
Cuonzo Martin’s team let down their defense for a half last Friday night and it cost them as Memphis was able to escape with a win. The news did not get better when it was announced that Jeronne Maymon would not return this season. This saga could still have a happy ending when he joins a veteran squad next season. Maybe, even a team that includes a real shooter.
The Vols followed up the Memphis loss with another sub-par effort at home Wednesday night, dropping their SEC opener to Ole Miss, 92-74. The Vols sure look like they are headed for another trip to the NIT unless they can turn this around and fast.
The Lady Vols are off and running to a SEC 2-0 start, despite their own injury problems. They certainly have looked like a contender in the SEC so far and despite a tough preseason schedule, have an 11-3 overall record. The Lady Vols were looking to keep that SEC record unblemished last night against SEC newcomer Missouri.
For those that still need their college football fix, take heed. There are still a few all-star games remaining in the coming weeks, some with Vol seniors participating. For most UT fans though, it will be basketball that garners the attention. Well, at least until spring practice starts. The Big Orange Nation does have its priorities. Go Vols and Lady Vols.
(Frank Gale is a Chronicle correspondent and his column appears regularly.)