After Tennessee’s win against South Carolina, their first against a ranked opponent in nearly four years, most of Knoxville was floating high.
Now after three straight blow-out losses, there couldn’t be more despair on Rocky Top.
The Vols, who are victims of one of the toughest schedules in the history of football, have been handled easily by Alabama, Missouri and Auburn, with two of those losses coming on the road.
Tennessee now has a record of 4-6 and many Vol fans are thinking “Here we go again”.
The Vols fans that were expecting Butch Jones to come in and lead the team to an eight or nine win season are likely those leading the “Here we go again” talk.
The Vol fans that had realistic expectations, understand that Volunteer football is right on schedule.
This is hardly a “throwaway year”, but it is a season with just one simple goal, a goal that’s still in reach — a bowl game.
Jones and his staff of course want to win every game they play. The prepare to win every game they play. If they didn’t, then they’d have no business being in Knoxville.
But at the same time, they know the battle they’re going up against.
When you play seven top 15 opponents in a season, coming off a 5-7 season, you should honestly not have any business playing for a bowl game.
But that’s precisely where the Vols find themselves, with winnable games against Vanderbilt and Kentucky left on the schedule.
Getting to a bowl game is extremely important for the Vols. For the seniors, for the team’s development and for fans to finally have something positive to end the season on.
True freshman QB Josh Dobbs fully understands the importance of leading this team to a bowl game.
Dobbs: Getting to a bowl game is our team goal, and it is crucial. It is crucial for us to get the senior class to a bowl game because they deserve that. We are working hard everyday to accomplish that goal. We have two games to go and do it. Our goal is to continue to grow day by day and get better.
Even if the Vols don’t make a bowl game, which I believe they will, there’s still reason to be encouraged and excited about the future of Tennessee football.
In 2010 Butch Jones took over a Cincinnati team that lost a lot of talent and finished the season 4-8.
The very next season the Bearcats finished 10-3, winning a share of the Big East conference championship.
Jones is a guy that’s had immense coaching success, but he’s not a miracle worker. He’s proved already that he’s a great recruiter, that he can take a less talented team and beat a more talented team.
On top of all the cards stacked against Jones, he’s played more true freshmen than any other school in the conference.
That will take it’s toll on a team. These true freshmen aren’t used to going through the grind of a college football season, especially against the stellar teams Tennessee has played against.
Even with all the reasons that Butch Jones has to be discouraged, he’s anything but discouraged. You can still hear the fire in his voice and you can feel the deep desire he has to bring Tennessee back to not only relevance, but greatness.
Jones: I know exactly where we’re at in our football program and what we need to do to more forward and get better. I will tell you this, and you can write this. We will get it done. This place is too special. The only variable we have is time. Somebody may say, `Why the heck are you doing that?’ Because I believe in it. I believe in Tennessee football, I believe in our fan base. I gave up a lot to come here because I want to be a part of building something special and having that responsibility of getting Tennessee football back. I love Tennessee. Our pride and our passion for this place drives us every day in recruiting, in developing our players, and if it kills me, it kills me. I’m going to put everything I have in it to get Tennessee football back
Those are the words of a man that Vol nation should be proud to call their coach.
It’s hard to hear Jones speak with that confidence and not believe in him fully.
The fire that Jones has is something that’s been missing from Tennessee football the past few seasons.
Butch Jones is doing the best he can do with what he has right now, yet he’s not satisfied with the results.
That speaks volumes about who he is, compared to who the Vols had roaming the sidelines last season.
It’s going to be a fun, fun ride on Rocky Top, but unfortunately Vol fans are going to have to wait just a bit longer for the results.
I know that’s not what Vol fans want to hear, but just take a look at the 2014 recruiting class and you’ll see that the cavalry is on it’s way.