The turning point is obvious.
The cloud created by one November day prompted plenty of turnover for the Tennessee coaching staff, made clear some shortcomings on the field for the roster and provided a nightmare that Derek Dooley has admitted could haunt him forever.
But identifying the loss to Kentucky that kept the Vols out of a bowl game and kicked off a tumultuous offseason as the fork in the road is the easy part. The real question is whether that critical moment will signify a return to where Dooley wants his program to be in his third season or take it down a darker path — which he can begin answering on Monday with the beginning of spring camp.
"That game has allowed us to sharpen our focus, it's allowed us to not live in an illusion that everything is great, which it wasn't," Dooley said last month. "But when you're the only one who knows it isn't, it's hard to convince the rest of the organization without being a tyrant. So, that's why I said what I said, that we needed this to happen. We were kind of plodding around as if we were on track.
"Were we gaining some good things? Yeah, but we had some critical things that hadn't gotten right."
The chance to fix them on the field again has arrived, and the Vols will start with a few of these critical areas that should dominate the attention during the next month.
WHO ARE THE NEW GUYS?
Perhaps nothing sums up the difficulty of the past few months better than the seemingly endless search for assistants to fill out Dooley's staff.
Starting with the parting of ways with Charlie Baggett shortly after the season ended, wrapping up with Terry Joseph's late jump to Nebraska earlier this month and including five other departures in the middle, the Vols had a staggering amount of turnover in coaching offices.
On the offensive side of the ball, the moves don't necessarily suggest sweeping changes with coordinator Jim Chaney back along with the only other remaining holdover from Dooley's first staff at UT in Darin Hinshaw.
But defensively the Vols could be in for a complete overhaul under Sal Sunseri and a totally new group of assistants, which will make the 15 practices critical to get a jump on the system.
WHO'S UP FRONT?
The emphasis on recruiting lots of bodies on the line and then playing them right away over the last two seasons has been building toward a payoff.
The Vols didn't get it last year and struggled mightily to run the ball, but they appear to be in line to collect with a group of offensive linemen that might finally allow Dooley to fill out a two-deep.
Figuring out who goes where may take some time, though, and that's not a bad thing at all for the Vols.
Former heralded recruit and rising sophomore Antonio Richardson will be commanding ample attention as he makes a push for a starting gig, and if he's developed the way UT has hoped, he'll only increase the options at other spots up front.
WHO'S RUNNING THE BALL?
The flickering torch has been passed in the UT backfield.
Among the worst running teams in the country a year ago, the Vols will set out on rebuilding their attack without their leading rusher last season after the graduation of Tauren Poole.
There are a couple clear candidates to take over the workload, though both come into spring with some doubts they'll need to erase.
Rajion Neal finished last season with a couple productive outings, but they were at receiver and he's had issues with ball security in the past. Marlin Lane has shown flashes of big-play ability, but there are lingering health concerns as he comes of arthroscopic knee surgery. And sophomore Tom Smith drew some praise in the preseason a year ago but couldn't translate it into games.
The feature back coming out of spring seems likely to come from that group, and there's a limited amount of time to settle the matter.