Tennessee's goal for its football program is obvious. It wants to get better fast.
Getting there isn't complicated. Three right turns will do it.
Turn to the right coach, the right system and the right player.
UT fans can only hope newly hired coach Butch Jones is the right guy. They also might have been encouraged to hear that his plan for success is "infallible."
He can't be so certain about getting the right player. As difficult as that might be, it's not as hard as it once was.
In more than 50 years of watching SEC football, I rate five players above the rest: Archie Manning of Ole Miss, Herschel Walker of Georgia, Tim Tebow of Florida, Cam Newton of Auburn, and Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M.
Note that Walker is the only non-quarterback. Also note that three of those players have been active in the last four seasons.
What does that tell you?
The greatest threat to a college defense is a dual-threat quarterback, who can impact a game by running or passing. Today's offenses are better designed to accommodate such quarterbacks, which helps explain why Newton led Auburn to a national championship a year after Tebow finished his career with two national titles and a Heisman Trophy in four seasons.
Now, just two years since Newton's one sensational season at Auburn, Manziel has set an SEC single-season record for total offense, won the Heisman as a redshirt freshman and helped put the Aggies in the top 10 in their first SEC season.
You can't help but wonder how two of Tennessee's star quarterbacks, Condredge Holloway from the early 1970s and Heath Shuler from the early 1990s, would have fared in today's spread offenses, which are made to order for quarterbacks who can run as effectively as they can throw. You also might wonder how much better UT would have been the last few years if former coach Lane Kiffin had been more open-minded about his offense.
Tajh Boyd committed to UT before Phillip Fulmer was fired and Kiffin was hired. Kiffin made it clear that Boyd wouldn't be a good fit for his pro-style offense, so Boyd signed with Clemson, where he has had a terrific career. This season, as a junior, he hasn't been that far behind Manziel, rushing for 492 yards and passing for 3,550.
Fulmer and Kiffin didn't have an offense as well suited for Boyd as Clemson did. Recently fired UT coach Derek Dooley also preferred a pro-style offense in which a quarterback ran only as a last resort.
So maybe it bodes well for UT football that Jones has had both running and passing quarterbacks.
If you have talent comparable to the current teams at Alabama, Geor
gia, and LSU, you can trust your quarterbacks to throw and your running backs to run. Your defense will do the rest.
But UT doesn't have that kind of talent. Neither did Auburn when it went 14-0, mainly because of Newton.
Fortunately for Tennessee, these great players don't always go to the most successful programs. Manning wasn't the most heralded quarterback in Ole Miss' recruiting class when he signed with the Rebels.
As athletic as Newton was when Auburn recruited him out of junior college, no one realized how much he had improved as a passer since he left Florida. And the University of Texas didn't even offer a scholarship to Manziel, who was a three-star recruit from Kerrville, Texas.
Finding the right player was the first step. Then, the Aggies hired coach Kevin Sumlin, whose offense was made for Manziel.
Three right turns are all it took. And just like that, Texas A&M went from 7-6 in 2011 to 10-2.