It’s Arkansas week, and by now I should be getting depressed. I don’t think I’m in the minority when I say that I think we don’t stand much of a chance of winning this Saturday. And lets face it, what’s even worse than watching your team lose a game is watching a game already thinking they have no chance to win. But you know what, events like those that have been brought to light this week up in State College have a way of bringing with them some perspective. After all, this is just a game, these are just kids, and college football is supposed to be fun. It sure as hell isn’t more important than the lives and the well-being of young people.
I’ve spent a lot of time this season complaining about what’s wrong with UT football, and I don’t apologize for speaking my mind and speaking from my heart as a fan. But I’m tired of wallowing in the disappointment that is this season of Tennessee football. Yes, we have had some terrible losses. And yes, we have made some questionable coaching decisions. And yes, we have had some underwhelming player performances. And yes, we seem to have had more than our fair share of bad luck. It’s certainly true that we could very well finish this season with 5 wins or less and be sitting at home during bowl season and that will absolutely stink because it means we will have lost to Vandy or Kentucky or, dare I say it, to both. It’s been a disappointing year.
But its time to step back from the ledge and put things into perspective. We are a young team, we have suffered setbacks that most teams have not, and an already thin roster has been depleted, including the loss of our best two offensive players and several key defensive players. So instead of thinking about this week and the butt kicking that may or may not be awaiting us in Fayetteville this Saturday, I’d rather choose to focus instead on what could be in III AD (Anno Dooley. . .The Year of the Doolander). Maybe next year will be more of the same, with bad luck, key injuries and more losses, but I choose to believe otherwise and here are a few reasons why:
Reason 1: Derek Dooley
Who knows how long Dooley is going to be here. It could be 3 years or it could be 30, but dad-gum-it I like the guy. Sure, he’s stumbled out of the blocks a little, but he’s proven he can bring in solid players, he can bring in some solid coaches, and he’s a riot when it comes to doing interviews and press conferences (any doubt just check this out). He created the Vol For Life program, which by all accounts has been a huge success and you know he has to do well with parents. Oh, and his hair is perfect and his pants are kick ass.
Reason 2: Tyler Bray
Throat slashes and similar antics aside, we had one of the best QBs in the SEC before he lost his best weapon and broke his thumb. Tyler Bray has the kind of arm that will have pro scouts falling all over themselves once he decides to leave. Pressure situations don’t seem to phase him. If he decides he wants to get serious about really understanding defensive schemes over the spring and summer and if he and his receivers stay healthy, Tyler could have an incredible junior season next year, and I’m talking Heisman contender type of season.
Reason 3: Wide Receiver U Part Deux
Justin Hunter – What a difficult way for Justin Hunter to go out this year, first play of the Florida game when he was poised to have an All SEC and maybe All American type of season. Something tells me he will come back next year with a vengeance and be stronger and a better route runner. Just think if he is the same or better than the Justin Hunter we saw in the first two games, we will have the best two receivers in the SEC and likely in the country.
Da’Rick Rogers – If you think he’s having a great year (and he is) just imagine what he would be doing if Justin Hunter were out there with him. Da’Rick is going to be even better working the middle of the field, the sidelines, and in the Orange Zone when Hunter is out there drawing his mandatory double coverages. He’s a beast, and don’t forget both he and Justin Hunter were incredible gets by Dooley right after Kiffin was seen leaving on a jet plane.
Reason 4: Improved Defense
Herman Lathers, who was second on the team in tackles last year should be back to play alongside the two talented freshman who have been studs. The line will be anchored by Smith, Miller, Mo Couch, Hood, and Bohanan. Our defensive backfield should be much better with Brewer and Waggner anchoring a group that will include a much more experienced Randolph and Coleman. Combine this with the fact that Dooley and Co. are having a good year filling some need areas on the recruiting trail and this should make for a solid defense that is far better than this years version (a thin defense that played with LSU and Bama for a half).
Reason 5: Offensive Line
I’ve not given up on these guys yet. I think there is talent there and I think at some point its going to come together. Another offseason together in the weight room and on the practice field will help these guys and they could be the line everyone expected to see this year. They’ve already done a good job pass blocking, and if they reach their potential, the running game will have to improve.
Reason 6: The Schedule
This year’s schedule has been brutal, there are no two ways about it. Who the heck knows what’s going to happen with next years schedule now that we’ve super-sized the SEC, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say its going to be more favorable since we won’t be playing LSU and get Florida and hopefully BAMA at home.
Reason 7: Next Year is Our Year
Of course it is, we are Tennessee fans. And you know what, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Go Vols, Beat the Hogs!