Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

February 28, 2013

ROCKY TOP BEAT: Only 267 days until Vanderbilt-Tennessee game

By Frank Gale
Chronicle correspondent

CROSSVILLE — It was nice to have Jim Butler back “in the game" again last week. I can’t imagine anyone being more devoted to the Commodores, no matter how misguided that loyalty turns out most of the time. Now, with one successful football campaign in the books, the stakes are sure to rise this fall in regards to that Big Orange rivalry. 

Only about 267 days until Vanderbilt visits Neyland Stadium with a one-game winning streak in this rivalry game. But then who is counting? At any rate, welcome back, Jim, and I look forward to our continued banter that on some occasions has resulted in you doing some humiliating stunts as a result of that November football game. Too bad you passed on a chance to end up on the right end of our friendly wagers last fall. 

With the start of spring practice only nine days away, the Big Orange will be without last year’s running back coach, Jay Graham, who has left the Vols for what he saw as greener pastures at Florida State. The Vol Nation wishes Coach Graham all the best. Meanwhile, Coach Jones has some big shoes to fill before the start of spring practice. 

The Vols still have high hopes for the post season, especially after their defeat of Florida Tuesday night. Although the win Tuesday night was great, the real news is how they have risen from the "post season dead" over the past few weeks. 

Coach Cuonzo Martin stayed the course, blended role players and starters into what is now the hottest team in the SEC. If the Vols can stay injury free, there is no reason they can’t make a deep run in the SEC Tournament later this month. But, there is still work to be done in the regular season. 

The Vols can enhance their season’s resume tomorrow in Athens, where they will be looking to avenge that Feb. 6 loss to the Georgia Bulldogs. The game is set for 12:30 p.m CST and can be seen on the SEC Network. They follow that up with another road game at Auburn next Wednesday night. The Vols will need to be “road warriors” to keep their current six-game winning streak alive. 

The Lady Vols took a two game lead and sole possession of first place in the SEC into last night’s game with Texas A&M. The final two regular season games this week will decide if the Lady Vols will have to share that SEC title.  Depending on last night’s outcome, it could all come to a head Sunday in Kentucky. Catch the action Sunday on ESPNU at 2:30 p.m. CST. 

Seniors Taber Spani and Kamiko Williams were honored last night before their last regular season game on Rocky Top. They have been a part of three SEC Tournament Championship teams and helped the Lady Vols win three regular season titles since arriving in 2009. 

March promises to be a crazy month for the Vol Nation with March Madness and spring training for the football team all in play. March is typically when fans should expect the unexpected while enjoying the highs and some how finding a way to deal with those inevitable lows. Go Vols and Lady Vols!

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