By Jim Butler
We've waited and waited and endured the hottest summer on record and now it is time for the smell of sweaty uniforms and freshly mowed grass on Friday nights and Saturdays. Some of us even enjoy the Sunday games.
I could say something like, "It's football time in Tennessee," but that can be heard at another venue to the east where Frank Gale spends his autumn weekends.
Anyway, it's time for the Panthers to howl and the Jets to roar as my favorite season gets under way.
We of the Commodore persuasion are very optimistic, though cautiously, so this year as second-year coach James Franklin tries to match the outstanding coaching job he did last season.
Our offense should be solid with two of the top running backs in the conference in Zac Stacy and Warren Norman as well as quarterback Jordan Rogers. We lost some very solid defenders and will have to depend on Franklin's power to motivate in that area.
As for Frank, Hoss Wyatt, Tom Looney, Joe Young, Jack Napier, Shane Wyatt and the remainder of the dwindling orange legions, there is much to be learned from Derek Dooley and his team. Most people in the know think the season will go as quarterback Tyler Bray goes. They all seem to agree that he has matured somewhat since last season. I'm sure that's the case. I know that I realized that I had reached full maturity when I could hit a car with a beer bottle. Hopefully, for Vol fans' sake, that was a simple one time mistake. Several of us have committed an error along the way.
Jim Petty and Brock Hill have to be wondering about what the triple-named bunch from Auburn can accomplish this year. I understand they are still searching for a signal caller. Then there are the Tide fans like Ronnie Pugh and Bob Wilson, and several others of the "jump on a winning bandwagon" ilk who have no way to go but down this year. Nick Saban may have been guilty of telling a fib or two once upon a time, but he is definitely a great recruiter and coach and they may very well capture the SEC west crown.
I still like Les Miles and his bunch in the bayou. Florida Gator fans, like my son, definitely have no idea what to expect in the "Swamp." They may have enough talent to challenge Vanderbilt for the SEC east crown though Georgia has been picked as the top "dawg" there.
South Carolina is picked by some, but Vandy will pop that balloon later this month in the opener.
Whatever happens happens, and as usual, I'll be rooting for mine as you yell for yours and the sun will rise even after a loss. It's good to be talking to you all again and I welcome your thoughts via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Go Jets! Go Panthers! Go USA!
(Jim Butler is a Chronicle correspondent and his column appears regularly.)