It’s (spring) football (practice) time in Tennessee!
Pressure around the program is at the highest it has been under the current regime. Every national outlet will put Butch Jones at the top of every hot seat discussion while (most of) the local media will tell you that everything is actually a lot better than people realize. Credential requests have been met with more denials than in years past.
Fake news will be limited, but the internet will still be flooded with practice reports over the next five weeks. And they are all going to say the same things.
I’ll save you the trouble and recap all of them now.
Butch Jones seems confident and focused. You can just tell that the end of last season really took a toll on him. That’s why he went and upgraded all of his coaching staff. Everyone needs to give him credit for making tough decisions and actually putting together a SEC staff.
The atmosphere at practice just feels so different. The new additions to the coaching staff are intense but always make sure to give guys one-on-one attention. There’s actually coaching going on now. This is the best collection of coaches that Tennessee has had in a long, long time.
It’s exciting to have all of this young talent, but keep in mind that these players are young and inexperienced. Becoming an elite program doesn’t happen overnight.
Or in one or two years.
Or four or five.
It’s a seven year process, and you cannot have the prize without sweat and tears coming out of the eyes. But Tennessee is coming off of three straight bowl wins by the way in case you forgot.
Jarrett Guarantano has “it.” All of the hype surrounding his career were warranted. He just looks the part. By the way, he’s been working out with a quarterback guru in California. The good things about Johnny Manziel’s college career will rub off on the young qb, not all of that other bad stuff.
Everyone loves the dual-threat superstar, but Quinten Dormady has a quiet confidence about him. He leads by example and can make all of the throws the offense needs to be successful. Chico Canales sees some Phil Rivers in him. They were at North Carolina State together.
New Offensive Coordinator Larry Scott says that having multiple elite quarterback options is a great problem to have.
On the defensive side of the ball, Jonathan Kongbo looks ready to take the leap. You can see the explosiveness he has gained from losing twenty pounds. Shoutout to Rock Gullickson.
Tennessee is hurting for quality depth all across the defensive line (despite signing like fifteen 4-stars over the last four years), but Brady Hoke feels confident that Kongbo can be the guy to lead the way. Kongbo has unretired from FIFA after taking some time away from the game when he was also stressed out about not getting to play defensive end in 2016.
The offensive line has gone from the program’s biggest weakness when Butch Jones took over to being the strength of the team. Wow! What a recruiting job. Speaking of recruiting, LOOK at these pictures of Trey Smith. In case you missed it, Trey Smith was the nation’s number one recruit. And he is from Tennessee. Own the state!
The secondary already looks more disciplined under new coach Charlton Warren (the military background helps). Injuries ravaged this unit in the second half of 2016. In case you forgot, Vanderbilt threw for like 400 yards. The good news is that those young players got some playing experience under their belt, and they’ll be a year older with better coaching. The bad news is that these players are still somehow inexperienced and youth will be a problem.
The wide receivers lack the familiar names that you grew accustomed, but there are some playmakers at the position. Watch out for (insert young receiver) to take the leap; he’s catching everything in practice.
Tennessee has a lot of talent, but that talent is young. That 2017 schedule is tough! Temper your expectations. But don’t temper them so much that you forget that things are so much better than they have been in a long time.