Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

February 6, 2014

ROCKY TOP BEAT: Tennessee signs one of the top five recruiting classes in the nation

By Frank Gale
Chronicle correspondent

CROSSVILLE — National Signing Day for 2014 is in the books and Vol fans should feel pretty good about the future with the caliber of this class. Part of that class has already enrolled early and will be on display this spring when the Vols head to the practice field. There is a long road ahead for these freshmen before they ever get grass stains on their game day uniforms. 

The Vols, with one of the best recruiting classes in the country, will have the Big Orange Nation dreaming big as they head into next season. I would just caution that optimism with a sprinkle of reality. Anyone that has looked at the 2014 schedule has to be concerned; however, don’t count the season lost just yet. 

Butch Jones and his staff deserve a lot f credit for not only assembling this class, but being able to keep it together. Their hard work and long hours will eventually pay dividends with bigger and faster athletes giving their all for Tennessee.   

Football now is officially on hold until spring practice convenes, culminating with our first glimpse of team No. 118 in the Orange-White Game. Even with the obstacles facing this team in the fall, don’t be surprised if they exceed expectations. Never doubt what a legacy class can inspire. 

While we wait for April to get here, the Vol basketball team recently started to play like everyone expected this season. That was short-lived when the Vols played down to the competition over at Vanderbilt Wednesday night and said goodbye to their recent three-game winning streak.

The Vols will need to protect their home court starting tomorrow when South Carolina comes in looking for an upset. Catch the game on ESPNU starting at 2 p.m. CST. Then Wednesday, a highly ranked Florida Gator team comes to Rocky Top for a rematch. 

It wasn’t all that long ago down in Gainesville that the Gators dominated the Volunteers and sent them home on the wrong end of a 67-41 score. This time things could be different with the Vols having the benefit of the home crowd and, hopefully better guard play. ESPN will carry the game with a 6 p.m. CST tip off. 

The Lady Vols will also be out to avenge their own earlier loss when they host Vanderbilt on Monday at 8 p.m.CST on ESPN2. That 11-point loss over in Nashville should be all the motivation the Lady Vols need to turn the tables on the visitors from Nashville. After all, one of the Tennessee teams needs to beat Vandy this year.  

The countdown to spring practice has started for much of the Vol Nation. Excitement over the recent signing class is sure to have things at a fever pitch leading into the fall campaign. In the meantime, both the basketball teams continue their journey toward the NCAA Tournament. Go Vols and Lady Vols!

(Frank Gale is a Chronicle correspondent and his column appears regularly.)