It seems like it has been forever since football was played with anything on the line. In 43 days from today all that will change. Coach Derek Dooley will be leading the Vols onto the field to the sweet sound of "Rocky Top" before we know it and once again Tennessee Football will take center stage.
Whether there will be an athletic director in place to enjoy the festivities that day is still anyone’s guess.
This summer has had its moments even with UT sports taking a break. The big concern lately has been the recruiting or lack there of by the football staff. The latest commitment of the #2 rated player in the state to UT will certainly help to appease those still upset that the #1 player in the state is headed to Vanderbilt in 2012.
Taking nothing away from new Vandy coach James Franklin, who has a great track record as a recruiter, perhaps UT let this one get away for a variety of reasons. Time will tell if Brian Kimbrow deserved that ranking and is able to mature at the college level.
Meanwhile, UT is thrilled to have a big, strong wide receiver Drae Bowles committed to play for the Vols in 2012. His commitment was announced this week along with Justin King’s, an “athlete” from Georgia, who will probably be a linebacker when he arrives at UT.
Coming on the heels of Bowles and King’s commitments were those of power running back Alden Hill from Ohio and quarterback Nathan Peterman from Florida. The number of commitments is still on the lean side but there is a lot of time left between now and National Signing Day.
The bigger concern should be how this year’s team will fair in the always tough SEC. As usual, the predictions are all over the place but sadly the enthusiasm for this year’s campaign is somewhat lacking. A decade ago Vol fans had visions of parlaying an SEC championship into another national title. Those days have unfortunately been replaced by hopes of matching or exceeding last year’s 6-7 season. WOW!
In years past, Coach Pearl was there with his exciting basketball teams to distract the Vol fan base come November when football was struggling.
Now, Pearl has been reduced to being a fan and new coach Cuonzo Martin is left with a team void of last year’s two best players who have left for the professional ranks.
Did I just hear another (less than enthusiastic) Wow!
A less than demanding out of conference schedule should help pad the Vols win column this season. Gone are the Notre Dames and other out of conference Top Twenty visitors that made UT football relevant nationally. Having the likes of Montana, Buffalo, and MTSU on the schedule instead has not exactly driven the Vol fan base into a frenzy or help to sell season tickets. However, it could help this team reach at least a second tier bowl game and possibly improve on last season’s record. Not exactly worthy of a huge WOW!!
Get those summer projects done and be ready for that first Saturday in September, even if it is a pay per view game. With such low expectations surrounding this season, most Vol fans would be satisfied with any improvement over last season. Spring an upset or two and that would put enthusiasm back in the fan base. It also would be worthy of a big Wow! Go Vols!!!!
(Frank Gale is a Chronicle contributor and his column appears regularly.)