Adams: SEC history favors UT turnaround

Tennessee fans can view the attrition from afar and appreciate one of the few advantages to a dreadful football season: juniors usually become seniors.

It's often not that way at prosperous programs. You were reminded of that a couple of days ago.

Georgia lost quarterback Matthew Stafford, running back Knowshon Moreno and cornerback Asher Allen to the NFL. Alabama lost All-American offensive tackle Andre Smith and its leading rusher, junior Glen Coffee. South Carolina lost cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, tight end Jared Cook and strong safety Emanuel Cook. Florida lost star wide receiver Percy Harvin.

Auburn is an exception. It has the worst of both worlds. After suffering through a losing season, it lost two juniors to the NFL.

Conversely, UT's juniors are staying put. So you could argue that UT has pulled ever so slightly closer to its conference competition.

But there's a better reason for UT fans to feel optimistic about the long-term success of their football program. Just check the history of the top six programs in the SEC.

Two losing records in four seasons is usually as bad as it gets for the top half of the SEC (Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, LSU and Tennessee). That's where UT is now, having gone 5-6 in 2005 and 5-7 in 2008, Phillip Fulmer's last season as coach.

That's also where Alabama was two years ago. But two years after a second losing season in four years, the Tide went 12-2, won the SEC West and finished sixth nationally in Nick Saban's second season as head coach.

Auburn had losing seasons in 1998 and 1999. A year later, it won the West. Until this season, it had posted eight consecutive winning records, including an unbeaten season in 2004.

Florida proved just how low you can go with a 0-10-1 record in 1979. It won eight games a year later and hasn't had a losing season since.

Georgia had two losing seasons from 1993-96. A year after going 5-6, it won 10 games in 1997 and hasn't won fewer than eight games in a season since.

Like Auburn, LSU had losing seasons in 1998 and 1999. Two years later, it won the SEC. Since then, it has won two national titles and hasn't had a losing season.

In each case, there was a successful turnaround after two losing seasons in four years. Moreover, Auburn is the only one of those programs to have a losing season - and that took nine years - after bouncing back from its last bad stretch.

Never mind how low UT sank last season. Or that 2009 will be a transitional year for new coach Lane Kiffin and his staff. With the help of an accommodating non-conference schedule, UT should at least avoid a losing season.

But the turnaround might slow down in 2010.

In the first seven games that season, UT will play Oregon, Florida, LSU, Georgia and Alabama. Based on the recent success of those programs, it's hardly a stretch to predict that all five could be in the Top 25. After all that, UT still would have to play on the road at South Carolina, which has won two of the last four games between the schools and has lost to UT by more than eight points only once since 1999.

More than the schedule will work against UT in 2010. Its 2008 recruiting class wasn't exactly a knockout. And the upcoming class has been hurt by the coaching transition.

Kiffin seemingly has assembled a strong staff of recruiters. Combine that with UT's long history of national recruiting, and you would expect a top-10 recruiting class in 2010. But you can't expect that to translate into a top-10 team or even a division contender the following fall.

History says a turnaround is coming. It just might not come as fast as fans would like.

Sports editor John Adams may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com.

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Comments » 36

southernson writes:

FIRST

bhorton#213253 writes:

I'd love it if the Tide and Gators sink as we rise. Go Vols!

cainclifton23 writes:

Thats a helluva schedule for 2010.

brokebackvol writes:

Well, Thank you Johnny Sunshine.

asleep#212036 writes:

I'd compare that 2010 schedule to anyone in the country for degree of difficulty - wow! Of course, that will mean even more if we can win 'em. But, by the 2010 season Florida comes to town without Tebow (and probably Meyer too), Miles will have dragged LSU back into the DiNardo days, and we should have an offense potent enough to beat the Ducks, especially in year 2 of Monte's D. Alabama must come to Knoxville and we should be able to hang with a Moreno- and Stafford-less Georgia team. Who knows? Winning 3 is reasonable but winning them all isn't out of the question. Either way, I think UT football is definitely headed in the right direction. Go Vols!!!

NoogaVol55 writes:

in response to asleep#212036:

I'd compare that 2010 schedule to anyone in the country for degree of difficulty - wow! Of course, that will mean even more if we can win 'em. But, by the 2010 season Florida comes to town without Tebow (and probably Meyer too), Miles will have dragged LSU back into the DiNardo days, and we should have an offense potent enough to beat the Ducks, especially in year 2 of Monte's D. Alabama must come to Knoxville and we should be able to hang with a Moreno- and Stafford-less Georgia team. Who knows? Winning 3 is reasonable but winning them all isn't out of the question. Either way, I think UT football is definitely headed in the right direction. Go Vols!!!

Good analysis! I think you are right on.

rockytopatl writes:

There's no reason not to be optimistic about our chances in '09, even before we see Kiffen's first class. Those who see us winning 8 or so next year seem to forget we had the fourth best defense in the nation last year. You win championships with great defenses, and our best player, Eric Berry, returns. As much as I liked the Chief, Monte Kiffen is a considerable upgrade and even though we took some losses to graduation, we will have a great defense again next year. No more Mustang package, no more knowing that on third and long we'll probably give it up. That's a huge positive.

We lost 7 games last year on offense, and much of that can be attributed to absolutely atrocious quarterback play, probably the worst of the modern era at UT. Crompton was a deer in headlights who stared down one receiver and threw it in his direction whether he was open or not. And even if he was open, he would usually throw it over his head or bounce it up to him.

This coach will find a way to coach up our quarterbacks. Either Stephens or Coleman will learn progressions and they'll learn to make smart decisions. We'll have a stronger, faster offensive line. They got slow and fat last year and it showed bigtime. The wrong running back had most of the touches last year ... that won't happen again. The best tight end didn't get on the field much last year ... that won't happen again. Our receivers had trouble getting open because they ran the same three routes over and over. That won't happen again.

In short, I will be very surprised if we aren't a lot better next year. We won't be better than Florida, but we have a shot at being second in the east. UGA is going to drop off without Stafford and Moreno. Willie Martinez is still coaching their defense.

To put it in boxing perspective, I think we can be a contender.

chattaboogievol writes:

In Response to bhorton21353:

"I'd love it if the Tide and Gators sink as we rise. Go Vols!"

Correction to your post. Should read:
I'd love to sink the Tide and Gators as we rise!!

jsm67vol writes:

"Kiffin has seemingly assembled a strong staff of recruiters."
Seemingly!
There is not a single HC in the nation that would not take this staff over what they have now.
The last statement made in the article is the one thing that vol fans need to understand. " It just might not come as fast as fans would like." When does winning ever come fast enough?

jwright13#576991 writes:

it's about coaching...

TheVolMan writes:

in response to AreyouKiffinme:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Whiners like AreyouKiffinme still can't stomach that Adams was right about Failmer. Phil was fired for poor performance. Great article JA, even though the whining losers want to blame you for the fact that Phil couldn't get the job done.

pdhuff#552644 writes:

I want to start by getting back to an era where we have a chance when they run through the T.

The Wyomings - never again!

Pls allow Neyland to roll back into the correct facing position.

MidTennVol writes:

Already sandbagging for Kiffin? Already making excuses, trying to temper expectations? No, sir.

This fan will hold Kiffin to the same standards to which he held Coach Fulmer.

I expect us to be competitive in each and every game. I expect the team to show up for each game fully prepared. I expect us to beat the teams we are supposed to beat.

I expect us to not get blown out by anybody, ever.

No honeymoon at Tennessee, Coach Kiffin. (Ask Dave Clawson about that.)

I see two probable losses this fall -- at FL and at AL. All the rest I genuinely expect us to win in this very, very kind schedule. More than two losses and I'll be disappointed.

RockinTop writes:

Man, reading these comments makes my head hurt. I would hate to be a kid that is currently on the VOLS team as a junior or senior. If they read this stuff, I would imagine it's a slap in their face. But, it could serve as good motivation.

Either way, I figure Kiffin and company know how to coach based on what they are "saying". Certainly Monte is a motivator. Heck, I got fired up just watching his welcome introduction.

I am not going to rule out the Vols as top contenders for something in 2009 for these reasons alone. If the Kiffin crew can bring out the heart in the players we have (and we have some good ones that just weren't pushed to excel) I can see us in Atlanta again easily.

As Bear Bryant once said "If you believe in yourself and have dedication and pride - and never quit, you'll be a winner. The price of victory is high but so are the rewards."

GO BIG ORANGE!

BIGEJ writes:

in response to MidTennVol:

Already sandbagging for Kiffin? Already making excuses, trying to temper expectations? No, sir.

This fan will hold Kiffin to the same standards to which he held Coach Fulmer.

I expect us to be competitive in each and every game. I expect the team to show up for each game fully prepared. I expect us to beat the teams we are supposed to beat.

I expect us to not get blown out by anybody, ever.

No honeymoon at Tennessee, Coach Kiffin. (Ask Dave Clawson about that.)

I see two probable losses this fall -- at FL and at AL. All the rest I genuinely expect us to win in this very, very kind schedule. More than two losses and I'll be disappointed.

No honeymoons here......gotta win out of the gate....GO VOLS

Ringside writes:

In due time. It won't be easy just to only coach up some undisciplined players, but changing the attitude, work ethic, and exectations are big hurdles for anyone new.
I think a big concern could be the "sour apples" still left on the team and trying to avoid their negative attitudes on the new kids coming in. Before you get the train moving, it has to be back onthe tracks. The previous coach left this one in the ditch.

RoadTrip writes:

Vols in 2009: 3 losses and a win in the Capital One Bowl
Vols in 2010: 3 losses and a win in the Cotton Bowl
Vols in 2010: 2 losses and a win in the Sugar Bowl
Vols in 2011: Run the table and take the NC

Any takers?

Go4Two writes:

in response to RoadTrip:

Vols in 2009: 3 losses and a win in the Capital One Bowl
Vols in 2010: 3 losses and a win in the Cotton Bowl
Vols in 2010: 2 losses and a win in the Sugar Bowl
Vols in 2011: Run the table and take the NC

Any takers?

I don't want to hear this phooey about a turnaround slow down in 2010. We are paying big bucks to this coaching staff. It's big business now just win baby..

99gator writes:

based on some of the posts, i hope some of y'all don't run kiffin out of town too quickly.

i will say another thing about the SEC.....

when tennessee gets back to where they need to be, it doesn't mean that the competition will be any less steep.

when spurrier got to florida and florida got good, florida state was still finishing in the top 5 every season.

florida state did not go south, florida just joined the club.

i think that will be true when tenn gets back to where they need to be.

jsm67vol writes:

in response to 99gator:

based on some of the posts, i hope some of y'all don't run kiffin out of town too quickly.

i will say another thing about the SEC.....

when tennessee gets back to where they need to be, it doesn't mean that the competition will be any less steep.

when spurrier got to florida and florida got good, florida state was still finishing in the top 5 every season.

florida state did not go south, florida just joined the club.

i think that will be true when tenn gets back to where they need to be.

Agree 99. I don't care who you are or who your coaches are. No team is good enough to go undefeated in the sec year after year. The conference is just too strong. It only takes one game where the best team doesn't quite play their best and its a big unexpected L on the schedule. As a vol fan I don't expect the competition to decrease as UT rebuilds, in fact just the opposite. I'm realistic about UTs return to the top of the sec. I don't expect to beat the gators every year but I do expect UT to be competitive with FL every game. I can not handle the blow-outs any longer. I want to see UT take games to the final seconds of the game and not have it decided by half-time.

gohawks1 writes:

in response to cainclifton23:

Thats a helluva schedule for 2010.

My thoughts exactly. I don't foresee SC as a big problem, but those first few games will be tough.

doh writes:

florida has one more good year then tebow and company are gone. tennessee is going to be fine.

budd#207344 writes:

It is not about the status of the recruiting class. It is about the ability of the coaches to coach them to play. If these guys can coach an offense like I am pretty sure they will coach the defense we will be winners. If not it will not matter how many #1 recruiting classes you get.

RJ_Vol writes:

Variables...
1. Maybe some of those teams on the schedule for 2010 will be worse like we were this year. UF will have a new QB to break-in...@ Neyland. LSU has taken a definite downturn. UGA is in a definite rebuilding phase. Something is not right in South Carolina...time will tell. We should work to be contenders in 2010. The door is wide open.
2. Coaching changes. I am telling you, if Notre Dame doesn't do well next year...Urban is going to the Irish.
3. Spurrier is going to retire soon.
4. If UGA doesn't reload quickly, Richt's tenure is shaky.
5. The NFL draft.
6. Future recruiting. UT isn't exactly devoid of talent. By my estimation, after the draft this year UT will be neck-and-neck w/ UGA for second best talent in the East... to UF. With a good class this year and next, UT will have the talent(underclassmen) to compete quickly.
7. Facilities. Programs w/ good facilities recover quickly. They are an indication of the school's committment to success.
8. NCAA probation. Hey, you never know who is going to get in hot water.

In other words, Adams loves to predict mediocrity and deflate the fanbase. By looking at just a few aformentioned variables, one can see that a program's future can turn on a dime - good or bad. The only thing Adams should be able to predict is KNS's continued lack of paper circulation in the Tri-Cities.

gtown_vol writes:

in response to WhitePineVol2nd:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

- Charleston Southern - w
- Troy - w

Are you kidding me? What kind of joke is it to have these on the schedule.

invisiblekid writes:

Take care of Western Kentucky then go from there.

99gator writes:

here's the state of the SEC (the big boys).....for the future......as i see it.

lsu.. lsu has had top ten recruiting classes since les miles took over for nick saban. 2008 was a down year due to qb problems, but lsu will be back challenging soon again if mr. jefferson pans out.

georgia......see lsu. next year, georgia will suffer from the loss of stafford and moreno. but, georgia is too solid as a program to slip into irrelevance any time soon.

florida.......no comment. i'll let you come to your own conclusions.

alabama......saban is starting to get it cranked up. my opinion is that 2009 will be a down year from 2008 despite early pre-season prognostications. but, bama is headed in the right direction (obviously)

auburn....in my personal opinion auburn is on a collision course with the toilet bowl. there will be major, major problems on the plains for years to come.

those are the big 5 outside of tennessee.

i believe arkansas will take auburn's place depending on how long petrino will be around. say what you will about him, but petrino can coach.

south carolina will head into irrelevance again as soon as the ol' ball coach hangs 'em up. i would say they are irrelevant now, but they always seem to beat somebody and scare someone else every season since he's been coach. that's more than anyone else has done.

sayhitomaggie writes:

in response to invisiblekid:

Take care of Western Kentucky then go from there.

Agreed. Let's just take this whole process one step at a time before predicting anything.

Hell I remember before the Wyoming game, even The Beacon (school paper) said something along the lines of "let's face it, as bad as UT has played this year, there's no way that the Cowboys will ruin the Vols homecoming" and well we all know how that turned out. *sigh*

I'm hoping for a turnaround as much as the next person, but after this season I'm not calling any game until it's played.

TommyJack writes:

Charleston Southern? puh-leeze.

asleep#212036 writes:

in response to RoadTrip:

Vols in 2009: 3 losses and a win in the Capital One Bowl
Vols in 2010: 3 losses and a win in the Cotton Bowl
Vols in 2010: 2 losses and a win in the Sugar Bowl
Vols in 2011: Run the table and take the NC

Any takers?

I'm not sure 3 losses would get us to Orlando next year and I certainly would never predict a NC, especially out of the SEC. I do agree though that we certainly have higher reasonable expectations than in the past few years and I hope Kiffin is able to instill that confidence/swagger in the players. If you watched Florida or Alabama play this year, you know what I mean. We haven't had that since 2001 and it shows. Go Vols!!!

theoldbear writes:

in response to RoadTrip:

Vols in 2009: 3 losses and a win in the Capital One Bowl
Vols in 2010: 3 losses and a win in the Cotton Bowl
Vols in 2010: 2 losses and a win in the Sugar Bowl
Vols in 2011: Run the table and take the NC

Any takers?

I don't bet, but I'd say there are better odds of 3 wins in 2009 than 3 losses.

And if there is a national championship in 2011 for a UT team, it will be the Lady Vols again.

invisiblekid writes:

in response to sayhitomaggie:

Agreed. Let's just take this whole process one step at a time before predicting anything.

Hell I remember before the Wyoming game, even The Beacon (school paper) said something along the lines of "let's face it, as bad as UT has played this year, there's no way that the Cowboys will ruin the Vols homecoming" and well we all know how that turned out. *sigh*

I'm hoping for a turnaround as much as the next person, but after this season I'm not calling any game until it's played.

The only things I am certain about at this point is that:

1)next season can't get any worse than last

2)columnists that are making 2010 predictions amidst all the coaching news and a fast approaching recruiting deadline must be lacking in imagination.

Ralph_Crampton writes:

Are the Vols going to have Troy on the Schedule in 09? If they are, Troy is no pushover and is the best team you haven't heard of that much. In relation to the Oregon game..I hope no more West coast trips for the Vols for a while...The Vols collapse on the West Coast has never been explained...could someone give the Vols schedule next year, thanks.

leedsvol2007 writes:

in response to rockytopatl:

There's no reason not to be optimistic about our chances in '09, even before we see Kiffen's first class. Those who see us winning 8 or so next year seem to forget we had the fourth best defense in the nation last year. You win championships with great defenses, and our best player, Eric Berry, returns. As much as I liked the Chief, Monte Kiffen is a considerable upgrade and even though we took some losses to graduation, we will have a great defense again next year. No more Mustang package, no more knowing that on third and long we'll probably give it up. That's a huge positive.

We lost 7 games last year on offense, and much of that can be attributed to absolutely atrocious quarterback play, probably the worst of the modern era at UT. Crompton was a deer in headlights who stared down one receiver and threw it in his direction whether he was open or not. And even if he was open, he would usually throw it over his head or bounce it up to him.

This coach will find a way to coach up our quarterbacks. Either Stephens or Coleman will learn progressions and they'll learn to make smart decisions. We'll have a stronger, faster offensive line. They got slow and fat last year and it showed bigtime. The wrong running back had most of the touches last year ... that won't happen again. The best tight end didn't get on the field much last year ... that won't happen again. Our receivers had trouble getting open because they ran the same three routes over and over. That won't happen again.

In short, I will be very surprised if we aren't a lot better next year. We won't be better than Florida, but we have a shot at being second in the east. UGA is going to drop off without Stafford and Moreno. Willie Martinez is still coaching their defense.

To put it in boxing perspective, I think we can be a contender.

The biggest challenge we will face next year on defense is depth at defensive tackle.

Dan Williams is back and he is a stud but after that its a little unsure.

I've got a hunch that Demonte Bolden was a better player than given credit for and he took the heat on the double and triple teams. Of course you have to have access to the game films to tell.

And I would not count Crompton out just yet. Briscoe's statements confirmed what a lot of us thought Clawson put his offense in without regard to personnel and confused what should have been at least a decent offensive team.

I play a lot of golf and although I've improved a lot I'm just average at best. On the days I score well most of my thoughts are geared toward the target and not swing mechanics.

I thought Crompton was thinking too much and not just playing, plus his ankle injury severely limited his ability to run when the protection broke down.

But one thing is for sure the guy that is the best player in the eyes of this coaching staff will be playing be it Crompton, Stephens, or Coleman.

GoVols!

CoastGuardVol writes:

All I know is, is that this past year has been a huge disappointment for every Tennessee fan. Forget about the predictions for bowls and the like though for a minute and lets concentrate on the fact that we are well ahead of the game in recruiting this year compared to last. Somebody get excited please. We have an entirely new staff who is working their collective rears off for the university, and some on here are arguing about how the VOLS are going to look in 2010. Forget about it. Let tomorrow take care of its self. We are the Volunteers. GO BIG ORANGE!!!!

BlueTickLady writes:

in response to WhitePineVol2nd:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Come on - the Citadel can't be on their schedule every year :)

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