By Darrell Puckett
(Photo Above – 1998 Tennessee National Championship Team)
While examining college football this Saturday I found myself pondering a question. What team just can’t find their way over the hump? Why can it be so difficult for a program to rise above mediocre performances over several years? Finally, after watching the Georgia vs. Tennessee game, I decided that there is no question that the Tennessee Volunteers have been the epitome of a college program that should be more consistent.
Since the departure of beloved and successful head coach Phillip Fulmer in 2008, the Volunteers haven’t found a consistent replacement. Tennessee hired two coaches since ’08 and lost both of them before their respective contracts had run out. Lane Kiffin brought promise to the recruiting front and player development side, but there was still something missing. Kiffen then left after a 7-6 season and jumped on his opportunity to coach USC. He also took every legitimate recruit with him, leaving everything in shambles for the next coach.
After Kiffin’s disaster, Derek Dooley was hired and brought a youthful enthusiastic atmosphere along with him. Dooley was known for his bright orange pants and his love for the players. His record ended at 15-21 with interim head coach, Jim Chaney, taking over for the remaining ’12 season. The fact that Tennessee didn’t give Dooley enough time to efficiently hire the right supporting coaches and set up his recruiting process provides a must needed question to answer. How can a program get back to national recognition when it’s not patient enough to struggle through the rebuilding years?
Every program will have down years in their program, but the only way to rebuild is to trust a coach with everything. Trust is the essential component in rebuilding a program back to national success. With that said, Butch Jones was hired from Cincinnati this past spring with hope of bringing a struggling SEC school pride back.
Jones brings a scary mentality of attention to detail. Every play, meeting, practice and class session must be done correctly. Will this “tough guy” mindset be successful for a grieving Volunteer football team? I think so and rest a lot of confidence in Jones’s ability if given the proper amount of time. Tennessee is 3-3 after the tough lost to Georgia in overtime on a controversial fumble call this season.
Hopefully, the future will be bright for Jones and Tennessee, but don’t be surprised if it is not. It’s better to be optimistic than doubtful, so good luck to Vols fans during the ongoing season.
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