Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

January 30, 2014

Rocky Top Beat: UT needs a "State of Athletics" address

By Frank Gale
Chronicle correspondent

CROSSVILLE — This week we had the annual right of passage from the political world with the “State of the Union” address. It would be great if, every year, the head of the University of Tennessee athletics would address UT fans on his vision for the future. Sadly, that will not happen with David Hart. It is just not his style. 

One thing that would make his list of positives for the future is a highly ranked 2014 football class that will be the foundation of Butch Jones’ rebuilding project. There are more than just a few solid "bricks," as Butch continues to reconstruct the program “brick by brick."

A concern for the 2014 Vols is that much of their talent is very young and inexperienced. In a sport that is won or lost in the trenches by mature athletes, this season could be especially challenging for the entire Vol Nation. Difficult schedules are always a concern for SEC teams, but when you are in the process of rebuilding, it takes on a whole different perspective.

This week the Vols added another highly sought after all-purpose back, Derrell Scott, who snubbed South Carolina to become a Vol. For years, there have been too few options at running back when injuries have occurred. With in coming freshmen Jalen Hurd and Treyvon Paulk coming off injuries, the addition of Scott not only adds depth but quality for the 2014 campaign. 

An often over looked, important member of the special teams is the long snapper. Butch Jones was able to convince the nation’s number one long snapper, Nashville native Wesley Horky, to join the team as a preferred walk on. Add another brick! 

The future of the football program is bright, even if there are still a few bumps in the road to overcome. The other high profile program, men’s basketball, has done less with more at times this season. That would not be something Dave Hart would have concerns about, especially since he did not hire Cuonzo Martin. 

The memory of the shellacking at the hands of the Gators last weekend has faded slightly after Wednesday’s home win against Ole Miss. Coaches in the SEC seldom get more than three years to turn things around. Dave Hart will have a tough call to make if the Vols take another step in the wrong direction next month. 

The program that has always been a fan diversion when the men’s team has struggled is the Lady Vol’s basketball. Unfortunately, they have been less than consistent this season. Thanks to a player’s only meeting, the ladies seem to have found some answers. How that translates to the rest of the season is yet to be determined. 

This will be a Tuscaloosa weekend, with the Vols playing the Crimson Tide Saturday at 8 p.m CST on ESPN 2. The rivalry continues Sunday with a 3:30 p.m. CST start for the Lady Vols at the same venue. Then the Big Orange Nation will tune in to their local Fox affiliate to watch their favorite quarterback, Peyton Manning, and a few former Vols compete in this year’s Super Bowl. Go Vols, Lady Vols and "Super Bowl" Vols, too.

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