Fall camp storylines for Tennessee football seem to involve lots of players turning heads. But it’s all irrelevant if you know the Volunteers’ history.
It’s the same story every year. Tennessee football has elite weapons with ridiculous athleticism. Newcomers are already turning heads. This one player will finally have a breakout season now that he’s in the right position.
Then, by the middle of the season, we wonder what happened to all of them. With Butch Jones, the story was he grossly underused his talent. There is some truth to that. But now, the conversation is Tyson Helton underused his. At what point do we just say maybe there are numerous overrated Vols?
Since fall camp has begun, a few specific players have stood out. Marquez Callaway generated buzz by Tee Martin’s claim that he ran a 4.4 40. But David Johnson one-upped that with his claim that Ty Chandler ran a 4.3 40. And then there are all the advanced metrics showing just how good Jarrett Guarantano can be.
Newsflash everybody: Chandler, Guarantano and Callaway were on the Vols’ roster last year. Sure, blame Helton for misusing them. But how many times can the coaches be blamed? And why did Helton just not work out on Rocky Top when he was setting records as Jeff Brohm’s offensive coordinator for the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers.
What about the newcomers? Well, the story goes that freshman running back Eric Gray is drawing comparisons to Alvin Kamara. Okay, that may be true. But we haven’t seen him take on snap in college yet. So why should any of this be taken seriously?
The fact is, Tennessee football’s last five or six seasons have involved coaches hyping up players who then almost never saw any real action. Perhaps there were extenuating circumstances with them at times. Or maybe the coaches just flat-out lied.
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Remember hearing that Tyler Byrd would be great if only he just moved to defensive back? What about the immediate impact Louisville transfer Shaq Wiggins would have on the secondary in 2017? One notable example of this was Quay Picou. Brady Hoke gave him a ton of praise in the spring. Then he only played eight games in the fall and eventually transferred.
Even back to Jones’s first season, the rumors of 2013 were that Joshua Dobbs was starting because the coaches wanted to preserve Riley Ferguson’s redshirt since he was so great. Ferguson was great, but he would transfer and star with the Memphis Tigers.
This wasn’t just a Jones thing. Even before this year, Chandler was generating a ton of buzz. He was doing so under Helton. Jeremy Banks was as well for how hard he was running. But Chandler averaged fewer than 12 touches game, and Banks moved to linebacker midway through the season before moving back to running back.
All of this is to say don’t get too excited about the insane hype behind some of Tennessee football’s weapons this year. We’ve heard these stories too many times in the past only to see no examples of it when the season actually begins. For right now, there’s no reason to believe this season will be any different.