The Tennessee Vols have been on the verge of being “back” for a long time.
They were back in 2009 when Lane Kiffin injected some much needed energy into the program. Then they were back in 2012 after a big season-opening win against NC State in Atlanta.
In 2015 and 2016?
You guessed it, Vols were back.
But each of those instances proved to be false hope. Kiffin left after 2009. Derek Dooley’s team collapsed without a capable defense. And Butch Jones was exposed as a lackluster football football coach who was in way over his head.
So it’s understandable why the national media, and opposing fan bases, are skeptical of the Vols’ latest recruiting surge. Tennessee currently has the No. 2 recruiting class in the nation. Things are going quite well for Jeremy Pruitt and his staff. But not everyone is buying the hype.
UT fans, however, are feeling optimistic. And for good reason.
It feels like the Vols might actually do it this time. It feels different with Pruitt. Fans aren’t forced to convince themselves that this is real. There is no rationalizing. Pruitt is building a program the right way — he’s not taking any shortcuts. Pruitt and his staff are simply working hard, recruiting hard and coaching hard.
And it’s starting to pay off.
Tennessee has elite players committed. If the Vols are able to sign those players (and there’s no reason to think they won’t), then there’s no doubt in my mind that UT could be competing for a SEC Championship in the the very near future.
See, here’s the thing — the Vols are one of very few programs in the nation that has the potential to be elite. Tennessee can be at the same level as Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Oklahoma and Ohio State. UT has the facilities, they have the tradition and they have the fan base. There’s nothing that Tennessee lacks that is needed to be elite.
(Some may point to a lack of elite in-state talent, but Vols are recruiting well enough in Alabama, Georgia and North Carolina to compensate for that. Plus there’s a good amount of talent in Tennessee these days.)
Vol fans have always known that Tennessee can be among the top programs in the country again.
And now recruits are confirming that.
“It’s a legit place to bring back. I feel that Tennessee has the coaches. They just need the star power”, said recent Vol commit Kamar Wilcoxson this week.
The Vols have a staff loaded with coaches who know how to develop players. All they need is the talent.
Right now, they’re adding talent almost daily.
Once the Vols are playing with the same deck that Alabama, Georgia and others are playing with, what’s stopping Tennessee from being a playoff contender?
The answer is nothing.
Recruits know it, Vols fans know it and soon the rest of the country will know it.
Featured image via Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports/Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports