Around this time last year, it was all beginning to fall apart for the Tennessee Vols.
And when I say “fall apart”, I mean that it was about get even worse than it had been in recent years.
Last August, we learned the news that starting middle linebacker, and the de facto leader of the defense, Darrin Kirkland Jr would miss the season after undergoing knee surgery.
Not long after that news, in the first game of the season, Tennessee lost wide receiver Jauan Jennings for the remainder of the season with a dislocated wrist.
Shortly after the Vols got off to a 2-0 start, the bubble burst. It was nothing but bad news from that point until Phillip Fulmer was hired in early December to replace the much-maligned John Currie as Tennessee’s athletic director.
Since the installation of Fulmer as athletic director, however, things have started to turn around for the Vols.
Jeremy Pruitt was hired as Tennessee’s new football coach (he’s been a popular choice so far). The Vols then made it through spring practice without suffering any major injuries or departures.
This summer has been fruitful for recruiting, with Tennessee adding ten 2019 commits since the start of June.
If there’s been one dark cloud that’s been hanging over the program, it’s been the health of star offensive lineman Trey Smith.
The former five-star recruit, who is regarded by many as the best player on the Volunteers’ roster, missed spring practice with an undisclosed medical situation that was deemed by various reporters to be “serious”.
We now know, thanks to a report from ESPN’s Chris Low, that Smith was diagnosed with blood clots in his lungs this past February.
That’s obviously a very serious and scary diagnosis that goes way beyond the football field. The last thing on anyone’s mind should be whether or not Smith plays football again for Tennessee.
But it’s hard to deny the impact Smith has on the field, and since he’s planning to play this upcoming season (with the blessing of his doctors), it has to be seen as a sign that UT’s fortune is finally turning around.
There’s no doubt Tennessee has been dealt a bad hand over the last decade. A lot of the tough situations were self inflicted, but something like what Smith is dealing with is nothing but horrible luck that no one deserves.
Smith wants to come back and play to his full potential, telling ESPN “I’m just ready to get back out there and really play football again, to hit somebody again”.
For his sake, more than the sake of Tennessee football, I hope Smith is able to get on the field this fall and return to the level he’s accustomed to.
And hopefully he’ll be able to parlay his success, and improving health, into a long career in the NFL.
Featured image via 247Sports