“That’s life in the SEC.”

David Ubben’s State of the Program piece on Tennessee ($$) is a good reminder of why Vol fans may be getting a little over their skis drawing conclusions from the program’s recent run of recruiting success.

There are a couple of sobering reminders why.  First, as this chart shows, UT has been an under-performer, relative to talent, for a while.


Or, to put it another way…

The Vols have not won the SEC championship since 1998 and have not won the SEC East since 2007, and they’ve lost at least five games and finished unranked in 10 of the past 12 seasons. (From 1985-2007, they finished unranked only five times.)

That’s a pretty deep gully to climb out of and it’s not due to a lack of talent, as the chart indicates.

But talent isn’t everything.  In fact, given that Tennessee plays the SEC’s two biggest recruiting powerhouses every season, it can’t be for the Vols to break through.  Coaching matters.  And in that regard, it hasn’t been the smoothest of offseasons for Pruitt’s staff.  The coordinators remain in place, but that’s about it.

… running backs coach David Johnson left for Florida State, defensive line coach Tracy Rocker left for South Carolina, inside linebackers coach Kevin Sherrer left for the New York Giants and outside linebackers coach Chris Rumph left for the Houston Texans. Plus, the Vols lost strength coach Craig Fitzgerald to the Giants and director of player personnel Drew Hughes to South Carolina.

That’s a lot of turnover.  Saban, Pruitt’s former boss, thrives on turnover, so maybe that’s not the end of things in Knoxville.  Then again, Saban has a lot more talent to draw on than Pruitt does.

I’m not trying to dog Jeremy Pruitt here, believe it or not.  I don’t think the Vols are in position to knock off Georgia from the top of the East this season — the momentum the program currently enjoys comes from a six-game winning streak against the weakest stretch of last season’s schedule and recruiting the 2021 class — but I am curious to see if UT is gaining any ground against Florida and Georgia.


Filed under Because Nothing Sucks Like A Big Orange

6 responses to ““That’s life in the SEC.”

  1. Hogbody Spradlin

    An odd duck Tennessee. Back in the day (Bill Battle though early Fulmer) they could recruit nationally. Were usually a notch below Bama, but could jump up and beat anybody in November. I enjoyed it when Reggie White & company waxed arrogant Miami in the 85 Sugar Bowl.
    I wonder what’s fundamentally different. The state has strong population, is football crazy, UT has no strong in state recruiting rivals. Puzzling.


    • The best high school talent in the state of Tennessee has traditionally been 2 states away in Memphis (although it is moving to Nashville). Bama, Auburn, Arkansas, LSU, Miss State, and Ole Miss are all closer (even if it’s negligible) in drive time than Knoxville.

      In the 2021 class according to 247, there are no 5-star players and only 9 4-star players in Tennessee. Of those 9, 6 are either committed (1, 3, 5) or predicted by the crystal ball (2, 6, 8) to leave the state right now.

      Compare that to Georgia (28 blue chips) where 10 in-state blue chips are either committed or crystal ball predictions to UGA (including all 3 5-stars).

      It’s easy to see why Tennessee has struggled. Their in-state high school talent base isn’t great, and Smart/Richt, Saban, and Dabo shut off the out-of-state talent pipeline.


    • stoopnagle

      The Nebraska of the South.


  2. practicaldawg

    I would like for Tenn to at least make their game against UF competitive again. I think it’s generally good for us if Tenn can at least win 1 out of every 5 against UF considering Tenn is always handicapped with an automatic L to Bama each year.


    • I would, too, because it would mean the Handbags would suck as well. FU has so many built-in advantages over 10rc. No high school player alive today remembers Tennessee as even relevant in the CFB landscape excerpt for an SECCG appearance in 2007. Florida has a national championship and multiple SECCG appearances in that timeframe.