9. Off-field distractions
Both teams, like the rest of the nation, kick off the season hoping to have a normal schedule amidst another COVID wave. Last year’s slate was depressing for everybody involved, and it just didn’t seem real. That’s the exciting part about returning to normal, even if the Delta Variant has created new concerns throughout the country.
However, will this excitement and the concerns affect the players’ minds? If so, who gets affected more? Is there a chance that somebody can’t go due to an infection? All of these things are up in the air, and beyond personnel, they are off-field distractions.
Then there’s the one big off-field distraction for Tennessee football. The Vols have a new head coach for a reason. They are in the midst of an NCAA investigation based on violations that occurred under Jeremy Pruitt.
It’s not clear still what the results of that investigation will be. If UT receives a bowl ban, that could impact the effort of the players given what’s in their minds. However, being in a state of limbo could also affect them. As a result, no matter what, this is going to be a factor until the investigation concludes and no bowl ban is received. Players have to tune this out.