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 email@example.com.