Vols talk about Derek Dooley losing his job
When it comes to actually playing football, they're in the loop. They have virtually all the information.
They're at practice. They're in the video sessions, all the meetings. On Saturday they're in the locker room, on the sideline, in the huddle.
But — and there was obviously a but coming — when it comes to the biggest decision of all, Tennessee's football players are just like the fans and the media.
"I have no idea who it's going to be,'' sophomore Tiny Richardson said Monday.
"I hear all the rumors ... but I have no idea.''
Who's going to coach their team in 2013?
The returning players will be affected more than anyone by Tennessee's coaching search to replace Derek Dooley.
The guy athletic director Dave Hart picks will more or less run their lives from the moment he dons the borrowed orange tie and shows up for the press conference. This will occur presumably sometime in December.
There is one pressing piece of old business, a 12:21 p.m. date with Kentucky on Saturday at Neyland Stadium. After that, there's not much to do other than sort through the onslaught of information — and disinformation —about the coaching search.
Some will have decisions
to make. Stay? Transfer? Join the Peace Corps?
"Me personally,'' said junior Jacques Smith, "I have no choice but to stay.
"I feel like I haven't accomplished everything I need to accomplish at the university and I think I owe it to the state to at least get some wins.''
Spoken like a native son of Tennessee, which Smith is.
At least three juniors have decisions to make about turning pro: quarterback Tyler Bray and his two favorite targets, Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson.
Bray didn't help himself at Vanderbilt on Saturday night, but the NFL boys like his skill set. Same with Hunter and Patterson. It would not be a surprise to see all three apply for the draft.
The great majority of the underclassmen will be back to play for the new head coach, and, in all likelihood, a new position coach.
Junior tackle Ju'Wuan James spoke up Monday on behalf of retaining Sam Pittman, the first-year coach who has gotten terrific results with the offensive line. For the record, I agree, but that will be the new head coach's call.
There's not a single player on the roster who can say he's satisfied with the way things have turned out. Going 1-14 in the past 15 SEC games isn't what they signed on for when they chose Tennessee.
A new face at the top at least provides hope for a fresh start on putting UT back in an orbit these players envisioned as recruits.
"I would just like to see somebody bring spirit,'' said Smith, "bring energy back and bring belief back.
"It just amazes me the third week of the season, we're going against Florida, we're ranked, they're ranked, the atmosphere, the spirit amongst the fans.
"To have that go away and to not ever bring that spirit back, I just feel like we need someone to ignite that fire again at UT.''
Someone will come and he will promise to light that fire again and bring back that energy and belief.
But for now, this team has no idea who it will be. They're in the dark with the rest of us.