1. Vols moving down SEC East as division rises
There is no debate that the biggest standout from SEC Media Days is where Tennessee football is viewed. Sure, there is the belief that Jeremy Pruitt is building a program. But they continue to fall in the division pecking order.
What’s clear is that the Missouri Tigers and Vanderbilt Commodores are looking more like a rivalry at this moment while the Florida Gators and Georgia Bulldogs are moving out of their league. And the quotes reflected it.
Florida defensive lineman Jabari Zuniga tried to be classy and call UT one of their biggest rivalries, but running back Lamical Perine basically admitted they were just another game while the LSU Tigers were more of a rival. Considering the fact that UF has won 13 of 14, that makes sense.
Meanwhile, we already noted that Kirby Smart did not seem that bitter about Georgia losing Jim Chaney to Rocky Top. That’s probably because he knows that UGA is on a much higher level right now when it comes to talent.
However, Barry Odom already had that war of words with Pruitt in the offseason. But after saying they buried the hatchet, Mizzou defensive back DeMarkus Acy took a shot by saying UT is always fun to play based on the fact that they always win. That’s what his quote implied at least.
"“I don’t know if you have seen the results, but it is pretty fun.”"
Then there’s Derek Mason, who brought up the point that Vanderbilt beating the Vols three years in a row makes them relevant again. But he went beyond that and said they need to look beyond UT, which is an incredible shot.
"“I think for us, time and time again, it’s been about trying to make sure that we could keep up with that program, you know, up the road, but there’s a big — there’s a big combat zone going on the SEC East side of the conference, and right now, looking at Tennessee, where they’re at, Jeremy Pruitt’s done a good job, but for us, we’ve got to continue to make sure that we just don’t focus on Tennessee, we focus on winning games in our conference.”"
All of this from SEC Media Days shows the Tennessee Vols need to take a few steps forward to get back into the fight with Florida and Georgia. We wrote earlier this week that Mizzou is now a benchmark for UT. Pruitt can get the Vols back to that top level, but this event proved more than ever there’s a long way to go.