By Frank Gale
Tennessee's annual Orange-White Game was a success on several levels last weekend. No, it wasn’t because we know any more about the potential of this team than we did before they kicked off Saturday afternoon. The success was in the stands where more than 35,000 turned out on a cloudy day with threats of showers to get a glimpse of the core of next year’s Big Orange team. The other success actually did occur on the field when the Vols were able to complete the scrimmage with no significant injuries.
The attendance was the fourth largest crowd to attend the spring game. The fans were treated to a fun day with many taking advantage of the pre-game autograph and picture session on the field.
The game itself actually was competitive and was ultimately decided by a fourth quarter field goal made by backup kicker Derrick Brodus, giving the Orange team a 17-14 victory. You might remember Brodus. He is the kicker given a police escort from a fraternity house to Neyland Stadium last year to kick after Palardy hurt himself in the pre-game warm up prior to the MTSU game.
It was hard to come away from this game with a feel for how things will play out in the fall. The running game looked better, but the defense is still a work in progress. One thing that certainly stood out was a kicking game that needs to improve if this team wants to meet expectations this fall.
The Vols will start the season against ACC opponent North Carolina State Aug. 31 in the 2012 Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game at the Georgia Dome. Between now and then, Coach Dooley and his staff need to figure out a way to beat an ACC opponent; something they have failed to do several times since winning the 1998 national championship against Florida State.
This week, Pat Summitt and her son, Tyler, received the Sargent and Eunice Shriver Profiles in Dignity Award at the Alzheimer’s Association's national dinner in Washington, DC. A well deserved honor for Pat and Tyler for the way they handled a very difficult situation this past year.
Pat also received the 2012 Coach Wooden Citizenship Award this week for her character and leadership, both on and off the field of competition, coupled with her contribution to sport and society. Coach Summitt’s schedule will continue to stay full as she begins work on a new book scheduled to be released in 2013. Once again, she will team with award winning sports writer Sally Jenkins. The two collaborated on two prior books, "Raise the Roof" and "Reach for the Summitt."
The majority of Tennessee sports fans will spend the upcoming months anxiously awaiting the start of the football season. That wait will once again be accompanied with visions of a respectable record and a bowl appearance by their orange clad warriors. A projected record of 8-4 will certainly migrate upward the closer we get to fall. This year, those expectations could be more realistic than those from the past few years. It all starts on Labor Day weekend in Atlanta. Go Vols!!!!
(Frank Gale is a Chronicle correspondent and his column appears regularly.)