David Ubben looks over UT’s 2021 schedule in order of importance ($$) and has this to say about the Georgia game:
Three of Tennessee’s proudest moments under Pruitt came against Georgia, despite being rolled in all three games. A third-quarter rally in 2018 left Pruitt choked up in the postgame press conference as he recounted it. In 2019, Brian Maurer hit Marquez Callaway for a 73-yard touchdown pass in his first career start to ignite Neyland Stadium and make Maurer feel like the future. And in 2020, the Vols trotted into halftime after a goal-line stand preserved their lead and felt like they might be turning a corner before the bottom fell out on the season and the Pruitt era. This is not a game Tennessee can win, but can it produce another memorable moment? I wouldn’t rule it out.
Just a reminder: Georgia’s average margin of victory in those three games was 26 points. Proud!
If Ubben’s being sarcastic, that’s pretty funny. Hell, even if he isn’t, it’s pretty funny.
UPDATE: He wasn’t being sarcastic.
Nothing says “opportunity is now here!” like playing some sweet Thursday night MACtion in your season opener.
Ooof, what a mess you are, Tennessee recruiting ($$).
On top of that, the numbers (No. 13 class in 2019 and No. 10 in 2020) lie here, considering the attrition through the transfer portal. Three of the Vols’ top four signees in 2019 are gone, and that doesn’t include Gray, who led the Vols in rushing and was second in receptions. The Vols’ top signee in the 2020 class, defensive back Key Lawrence, is with Morris at Oklahoma, too.
Last spring, amid the recruiting shutdown, Tennessee had the nation’s No. 2 class for 2021 and was aiming to finish in or near the top five. Then the losing started. That, combined with the coaching change, contributed to the Vols losing seven once-committed four- or five-star players from the class. Then the top two signees who enrolled early (Willis and Salter) were suspended for all of spring practice for an off-field incident. Four players who signed with the Vols during the early signing period were released from their letter of intent, including four-stars Dylan Brooks, KaTron Evans and Cody Brown. The Vols ultimately tumbled to No. 22 in the 247Sports Composite, which places the 2021 class eighth in the SEC.
That Phil Fulmer sure could pick ’em.
The best thing the Vols have going for them is the schedule. This year’s non-conference slate is led by a home game against Pitt and goes downhill from there. Outside of Florida and Georgia, the East isn’t overwhelming. You could almost see a bowl game in UT’s immediate future, but you’re not the NCAA.
So, just how deep a hole has Tennessee found itself after the talent drain that came after Pruitt’s departure? Historically speaking, pretty damned deep ($$).
I surveyed our college football staff at The Athletic and the closest examples are Baylor in 2016 and Penn State after the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Obviously, Tennessee’s issues are nothing like that, but the coaching change combined with immediate eligibility for transfers led to a perfect storm of talent drain.
Even with a free transfer after a tragic scandal, Penn State lost only about half the total number of players Tennessee did. The Nittany Lions managed to win 15 games the following two seasons but didn’t hit double digits until the fifth season after the scandal, which was James Franklin’s third season at the helm.
Even Baylor didn’t lose these kinds of numbers. The Bears lost seven players from their 2016 recruiting class and Matt Rhule basically had to rebuild the 2017 class from scratch.
If you’re a Georgia fan, there’s only one possible reaction to that.
It just so happens that when you’re a linebacker in the transfer portal, nowhere is located in Knoxville.
“I definitely noticed the linebacker group don’t have that much depth,” Mitchell said. “I definitely paid attention to that. I definitely feel like I can come in and help the defense right away.”
Heupel’s staff, led by first-year linebackers coach Brian Jean-Mary, has made it clear to Mitchell that he should have every opportunity to play a major role in Tennessee’s defense from the moment he arrives on campus.
“They never said a specific linebacker position, but they definitely said it’s basically going to be on me to mess it up,” Mitchell said. “Basically, I’m starting when I come in.”
Gotta admit, “Have a pulse? You start tomorrow” is an effective sales pitch. Luckily for Tennessee, it’s not a one-shot offer.
There’s always something to fill the ol’ chafing dishes.
So, here’s something for you to chew over: would a point ever come when you could see yourself feeling sorry for Tennessee football?
I’m not saying that’s the moment, just wondering if such a thing even exists.
Need a laugh? Here’s what Tennessee’s linebackers coach had to say about one of his charges:
Jean-Mary said Albright is the first long-snapper he’s coached at the position, adding, “he was recruited here as a long-snapper, but he’s an athletic long-snapper.”
Vince Dooley would have a field day with that.