A fumbled exchange between a quarterback and center shouldn't evoke so much as a shrug in your average spring football practice. Neither should an incomplete pass, even if it does clear the receiver's head by 10 yards.
It's spring. An offense can turn the ball over without turning over its coaching staff. One awful pass doesn't leave a program teetering on the abyss.
But in Tennessee's case, those mishaps do the next worst thing. They bring back memories.
When I saw a center snap go awry in a practice last week, I also saw quarterback Jonathan Crompton and Arian Foster fail to complete a handoff on the goal line at Jordan-Hare Stadium last October. When one ball flew past the field of play, I saw all those others that landed hither there and yon at the Rose Bowl last September.
The connection is unavoidable. The departure of offensive coordinator Dave Clawson doesn't change that. Nor does the arrival of coach Lane Kiffin and staff.
The offense still has baggage. And one mistake leads to the memory of another one.
But, because of last season's ineptitude, more than miscues are magnified. So is proficiency.
Kiffin praised quarterback Jonathan Crompton for his decision-making and ball security after Saturday's practice at Haslam Field. That's worthy of applause from UT fans, who learned through the trials of last season not to take the basics for granted.
If you're looking for more reasons to be optimistic about UT's offense, I recommend comparison shopping. Half the programs in the SEC would suffice.
UT was one of six SEC teams that ranked in the bottom 25 in total offense last season. Three of those offenses - at UT, Auburn and Mississippi State - got their coaches fired.
The three new coaches will have to deal with some of the same old problems, the most glaring of which are at quarterback.
Like UT, Auburn has three candidates for the starting quarterback job. Mississippi State has a Tyson (Lee) and a Tyler (Russell). Lee is a better fit for coach Dan Mullen's offense than he was for Sylvester Croom's West Coast offense, but he's still only 5-foot-11. Russell is 6-4, but he's a true freshman.
Florida has Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow at quarterback. Ole Miss has Jevan Snead. No one else in the conference has a quarterback who has demonstrated a full season's worth of competence.
Maybe Stephen Garcia will get his act together at South Carolina. Maybe Jordan Jefferson will pick up where he left off in the second half of his freshman season at LSU. Maybe Star Jackson will play up to his name at Alabama. But they're still "maybes."
Georgia, Arkansas and Vanderbilt will have to break in new quarterbacks. Kentucky will have to hope that Mike Hartline progresses - a lot.
Questionable quarterbacking is compounded in a conference famous for defense. Moreover, the league has lost three of its best running backs (Knowshon Moreno, Percy Harvin, and Glen Coffee) and a handful of offensive linemen coveted by the NFL.
Thanks, in part, to that attrition, running back is a position where UT could gain ground. Although it doesn't have an obvious All-SEC candidate, it has depth.
Montario Hardesty and Lennon Creer have experience. Taurean Poole has been as impressive as anyone in practice. Tony Williams, a January enrollee, has run hard. And Bryce Brown, the nation's top-rated high school running back, could have an impact this fall.
The new offense should serve them well. Kiffin is committed to building a more physical offense; the practices reflect that.
So it's significant that when Kiffin is asked to specify encouraging signs about his offense after two weeks of practice, he singles out the offensive line.
"The o-line is run blocking really well," he said. "We've got to get better pass blocking. But I think they're run blocking extremely well against a good d-line."
You had to remember last season to fully appreciate the compliment.
Sports editor John Adams may be reached at 865-342-6284 or firstname.lastname@example.org.