Why Tennessee Vols Will Be Elite Again
This is obviously a ridiculous premise. College football is host to a plethora of programs that have risen to the heights of National Championship glory, and fallen to the depths of losing seasons. The Trojans of USC, The Longhorns out in Austin, LSU, Nebraska, Michigan, Oregon, Iowa, Miami, Florida, Washington, Notre Dame…yes even Alabama and Clemson have all had their dynasty days and their stints of irrelevance.
As recently as last season, Notre Dame was amidst playoff talks and made the playoff in 2017 following a tumultuous era with Charlie Weiss; plagued by mediocrity and underproduction.
Texas, after three straight losing seasons under the watch of Charlie Strong, managed to take SEC title contender Georgia out behind the woodshed in a new years six bowl in the 2018-2019 season.
Florida won back to back titles under the direction of Urban Meyer, and fell far from grace under Muschamp and McElwain. McElwain even took the Gators to the valley of a 4-8 season in the same year that Tennessee posted it’s “worst season in program history” (4-8) campaign with Butch Jones calling the shots. In just one quick season, the Gators rose to a 10-2 record with a little icing on the cake…Peach icing to be exact; obliterating the Michigan Wolverines in the Peach Bowl.
Michigan, whom many would argue embarrassed all of division one football with a loss to Division two Appalachian State in 2007, managed to find their way back to a new years six bowl in 2018-2019 as well.
Clemson spent nearly the entire 90’s in a pit of mediocrity, and now currently compete for the national championship year in and year out having won two of the last three and trading rings back and forth with Alabama.
Speaking of the nineties and Alabama, well, we’ll just say it wasn’t a banner decade for the Tide. We’re all aware of what Coach Saban has done with that program since then.
It all comes down to the right staff, the facilities, and recruiting. That’s how championships are born. Each of these programs went through their growing pains stemming from revolving doors in the head coach’s office. Nick Saban was able to recruit some of the best talent in the country, after having lost to Louisiana Monroe in his first year at the helm in Tuscaloosa. Dabo Swinney took nearly ten years to build the monster he now controls at Clemson, Bryan Kelly has had his ups and downs with the Irish, and Tom Herman’s Horns took down Georgia in the Sugar Bowl after dropping two straight season openers to a mediocre Maryland team.
Elite Programs aren’t elite for eternity, and most inferior programs eventually find a way to contend for titles with time. To say that a once elite Tennessee program will “never be elite again” is simply nonsense.
The facilities in Knoxville rank 5th in the nation according to 247 Sports. They’ve managed to convert an offensive line with two players over 300 lbs to a platoon of 15, 300 plus lb beasts. Facilities attract talented recruits. Tennessee’s current coaching staff has been touted by analysts at ESPN and SEC Network as one of, if not the best in the entire landscape of college football. Tennessee, like Nebraska, is brand that will not die. The tradition of winning that follow the “N” and the “T” are undeniable. As for the future of Tennessee’s roster… tight ends coach and National Recruiter of the Year Brian Neidermeyer, might have something to say about the Vols’ incoming talent. Tennessee currently ranks 26th in the national recruiting composite rankings according to both 247 sports and Rivals. A ranking that’s to be expected for a program with such a dire need in the trenches on both sides of the ball, but the future looks even brighter in 2021 where the Vols sit comfortably at the number 15 spot; more than ten rungs up the ladder.
Is it fair to say Tennessee hasn’t been elite since the Fulmer days? Sure. Is it reasonable to say Tennessee won’t be elite in the next 3-4 seasons? Sure. But to make a claim that Tennessee will never be elite again, is just a combination of wishful thinking by opposing fan bases and a poor understanding of mathematical probability.
So yes, Tennessee will be elite again. Even an inept coach from the Big East was able to knock off Florida and Georgia in the east and bring a few bowl trophies home under the insignia of the power T. With the staff Tennessee has now, and a little time to build, the Tennessee fans will have a program to be proud of again sooner rather than later, let alone never.