John Adams: Reasons why you might be more optimistic about UT football

John Adams

Brian Randolph on his rehab and spring practice

A month before a college football season is a great time for optimism, even in a losing program.

Sufficient time has passed to dull the memory of all that went wrong the previous season. Also, there’s the possibility a new player or coach could make a difference.

For example, this time last season, Johnny Manziel was a rarely retweeted redshirt freshman and a consensus pick to be nothing more than Texas A&M’s backup quarterback.

He turned out to be a Heisman Trophy winner and a Twitter sensation. And Texas A&M’s first season in the SEC turned out to be grander than almost anyone would have imagined.

There are numerous other cases of individuals — coaches or players — who helped turn losing programs into winning ones or at least lifted their teams beyond preseason expectations.

The preseason expectations for Tennessee are understandably low after three consecutive losing seasons. But a month before the season opener is an appropriate time for imagining what could go right — and who could make it go right.

Here’s my shortlist:

Butch Jones — Everybody seems to like UT’s energetic, first-year head coach. That includes fans, recruits, and a returning cast of players who likely will play harder for Jones than they did previous coach Derek Dooley.

Perhaps, through effort alone, these Vols could win a game or two more than expected.

Sal Sunseri — I’ve already touched on this painful subject, but it bears further mention.

Last year’ defense didn’t respond to Sunseri’s approach or scheme. And Tennessee’s opponents have the highlight videos to prove it.

Strike up the band. Play “Rocky Top.”

He’s gone.

Brian Randolph — When UT’s safety suffered a season-ending injury in the first month of the season, a bad defense took a turn for the worse.

If Randolph returns at full speed, UT can’t help but be improved in the secondary, which was victimized so often in 2012.

Daniel McCullers — Jones emphasized how important the 360-pound tackle is to his defense in Wednesday’s media conference.

If he continues to improve, McCullers could do as much for the front end of Tennessee’s defense as a healthy Randolph could for the back end.

Recruits — Though the Vols didn’t sign one of the SEC’s top recruiting class, they still managed to sign a number of promising players during another coaching transition.

On a team with so many positions of need, those new players will have an immediate impact on the depth chart.

Offensive line — Never mind all the questions regarding an offense severely lacking in playmakers. If this veteran line plays up to expectations, it could make things easier for everyone else, including the defense.

Opponents — Other than Kentucky and Vanderbilt, do you really think any other SEC opponent is circling its game with Tennessee?

There are too many better programs in a conference that has produced seven consecutive national champions to fret over UT.

And since the Vols are no longer perceived as a serious threat by the league’s best teams, they’re better situated to pull off an upset.

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/johnadamskns.

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Comments » 48

johnlg00 writes:

WOW! This will throw the "Adams-hates-UT" crowd for a loop. For me, Adams is what he is, and his schtick includes throwing a changeup or two. Of course, the JA haters will perceive and even fix upon a few of Adams' typical tongue-in-cheek snarkisms, but on the whole he is right on this and I agree with him. There is ample room for either pessimism or optimism, depending on what one hopes for, but there just ARE reasons why the team COULD be better...maybe a LOT better.

atnvol#283282 writes:

Adams is just Vol baiting....everyone really knows how he is....including the KNS....and what is John's official title again since his demotion?

62vol writes:

More reasons we should be improved are:

Hill is developing at running back. We could actually have a back who can break tackles.

We will have a balanced attack that will not fade in the 4th quarter.

The defense will be able to pressure the quarterback better than (never did) last year.

The players are physically better suited for the 4-3 defense.

The defensive coaching staff will be better because there could not be 2 in a row ever assembled that are that bad.

Player morale appears to be better.

Fan support will be better.

The media will not have T. Bray to pick on.

The players will be held more accountable and will respond to higher expectations.

We will get better as a team as the new talent gains experience. Those 6-3, 6-4 receivers will grow up and we will increase depth as the season goes along. The good coaching will help this along.

The above may all net out to a 7-5 season but our progress as a team will allow recruiting to be strong. One more win puts us at 8-4 and then 9-4 after a bowl.

Then the return to traditional standards can begin.

thevoice writes:

Lesser passing game + better running game + better defense + better kicking game + better coach + intangibles + better hotdog prices = 8 wins.

sameolvolalum writes:

Thanks, JA, for this optimistic perspective. Maybe many more are to follow. Dooley was a mistake, but time had to tell its story and those of us who supported his program aren't at all the dummies the (so far not involved in this conversation) trolls stupidly call us. We're fans like everywhere else and we're simply supporting one of the elite and most legendary college football programs in ncaa history. There's much more reason for our optimism regarding this upcoming season so, thanks again John Adams for stepping up and making note of it. BTW Vol fans: As for the soon-to-appear trolls on this site......please hit "Suggest removal" and pass up the urge to respond by reposting. If you have to say something.....at least do so without going through with the process by hitting "Reply to this post." Save that option for civilized repartee and keep out the trash. Here's to a great season. GBO!

VolsFanInAfghanistan writes:

in response to sameolvolalum:

Thanks, JA, for this optimistic perspective. Maybe many more are to follow. Dooley was a mistake, but time had to tell its story and those of us who supported his program aren't at all the dummies the (so far not involved in this conversation) trolls stupidly call us. We're fans like everywhere else and we're simply supporting one of the elite and most legendary college football programs in ncaa history. There's much more reason for our optimism regarding this upcoming season so, thanks again John Adams for stepping up and making note of it. BTW Vol fans: As for the soon-to-appear trolls on this site......please hit "Suggest removal" and pass up the urge to respond by reposting. If you have to say something.....at least do so without going through with the process by hitting "Reply to this post." Save that option for civilized repartee and keep out the trash. Here's to a great season. GBO!

I must agree with you on this post. As long as our guys play with energy thru out the whole game I truly believe we will have a shot or two at some games. There were times in the past where you could just see that the Vols didn't have it in them anymore and the Coach didn't even know what to do. I truly believe that will change with CBJ and the new and improved Volunteers. Is it game day yet, I need some Tennessee football in my life over here. As for the trolls that are a coming, once again I agree ignoring them is going to be the best medicine. VFL GBO!!

SevenT writes:

Everyone is optimistic about UT Football.

After all UT is everyone's cupcake game.

Just Saying

SummittsCourt writes:

in response to SevenT:

Everyone is optimistic about UT Football.

After all UT is everyone's cupcake game.

Just Saying

We'll see who the cupcake game is when UT plays kensucky. Your pitiful team couldn't score but 17 points against the weakest defense UT ever fielded. and your team will be worse this year than last while UT is improving.

fearthehound writes:

in response to VolsFanInAfghanistan:

I must agree with you on this post. As long as our guys play with energy thru out the whole game I truly believe we will have a shot or two at some games. There were times in the past where you could just see that the Vols didn't have it in them anymore and the Coach didn't even know what to do. I truly believe that will change with CBJ and the new and improved Volunteers. Is it game day yet, I need some Tennessee football in my life over here. As for the trolls that are a coming, once again I agree ignoring them is going to be the best medicine. VFL GBO!!

I'll make an assumption based on your screen name, and say thank you.

arkyvol writes:

I gotta admit. I feel a heckuva lot more comfortable about this coach than I ever did about his predecessor (maybe its because his surname 'Jones' didn't get him the job). My optimism isn't just because Sunseri is no longer around. Its because Mike Hamilton is history. Whatever that golden parachute works out to be, you could double it and it would still be a bargain for getting rid of that stiff.

DC82_Vol writes:

in response to SummittsCourt:

We'll see who the cupcake game is when UT plays kensucky. Your pitiful team couldn't score but 17 points against the weakest defense UT ever fielded. and your team will be worse this year than last while UT is improving.

You had to take the bait! You just made this guy's day.

TommyJack writes:

Pound the fritter.

underthehill writes:

in response to johnlg00:

WOW! This will throw the "Adams-hates-UT" crowd for a loop. For me, Adams is what he is, and his schtick includes throwing a changeup or two. Of course, the JA haters will perceive and even fix upon a few of Adams' typical tongue-in-cheek snarkisms, but on the whole he is right on this and I agree with him. There is ample room for either pessimism or optimism, depending on what one hopes for, but there just ARE reasons why the team COULD be better...maybe a LOT better.

Another keen observation by Adams.. Coach Jones could not be in a better position..his history indicates he and his staff get the most of the talent on hand..the talent level actually exceeds expectations..ample room for optimism or pessimism seems correct to me..interest in the season seems to be heating up..I see the "have to" win game as being W Ky..don't take Petrino lightly..win this one and I think 6-6 is the minimum..and if they do get the signature win they desperately need..Jones should be Coach of The Year in the SEC...one more thing ..It is time for Walt to give us his prediction..

6972 writes:

in response to SevenT:

Everyone is optimistic about UT Football.

After all UT is everyone's cupcake game.

Just Saying

On the idiot scale of 1-10, you register at least
a 14. Was your brain deprived of oxygen at birth?

pcorange writes:

Looking forward to the season. I hope we can at least qualify for a bowl game this season to get Coach Jones off to a decent start. I'm not making any wild predictions, because they aren't worth anything. After the last three seasons, anything over .500 is icing on the cake. I think the future is bright, but we need to be realists and not start trying to fire CBJ after the first 3 or 4 games.

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

in response to underthehill:

Another keen observation by Adams.. Coach Jones could not be in a better position..his history indicates he and his staff get the most of the talent on hand..the talent level actually exceeds expectations..ample room for optimism or pessimism seems correct to me..interest in the season seems to be heating up..I see the "have to" win game as being W Ky..don't take Petrino lightly..win this one and I think 6-6 is the minimum..and if they do get the signature win they desperately need..Jones should be Coach of The Year in the SEC...one more thing ..It is time for Walt to give us his prediction..

Excellent post!! I watched Cinncy a lot last year and one thing they did was play well in big games. They beat a very physical and underrated Syracuse and they had Louisville beat but Munchie threw a wounded duck for an int in the end zone sealing the loss.All this was with 3 star kids that were well coached and played hard..Good example was their RB Abernathy.He was probably a low forgotten 3 star that turned out to be a punishing go to RB.Your right about WKU. Petrino's no idiot and once again they have one of the best RB's in the country

NashvillePreds writes:

JA,
You seem to infer that Tennessee is a, "losing program."
VU we are not.
We have had some losing SEASONS lately, but a losing program we are not.
Get a clue, and a retirement check.

Rise to the Top
Go Vols

brokendownoldvol writes:

in response to SevenT:

Everyone is optimistic about UT Football.

After all UT is everyone's cupcake game.

Just Saying

If I was an opposing coach I wouldn't want to play this TN team this yr.

BluezVol writes:

in response to thevoice:

Lesser passing game + better running game + better defense + better kicking game + better coach + intangibles + better hotdog prices = 8 wins.

I thought the intangibles were the "better hot dog prices". ;-)

10seVol85_Part_Deux writes:

"And since the Vols are no longer perceived as a serious threat by the league’s best teams..."

A better way to word that is to replace "no longer perceived" with "not currently perceived." Other than that, a pretty good and positive article by JA.

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

Biggest difference with this team for fall camp is player attitude and confidence!! 100% turn around in that respect.Players have talked over and over about the program feeling like a family and how they are in great physical condition. Like all coaches Dooley tried to be a motivator but as the losses mounted the team gave up on Dooley and Sal constantly screaming at players did NOT work because the defense had no confidence in the system. IMO the kids are hungry and tired of losing. Most of us remember remarks LA Tech players made about the total change in player attitude and morale after Dooley left. The Oregon game will be very telling. In just the third game we will be walking into a buzz saw with an insane home crowd.. Not to mention the #3 team in the nation stacked with talent led by a running QB Mariota with an offense that's totally impossible to predict and game plan for.Question is will players hang their heads if we go down 21 points by halftime or fight it out. A 4th quarter comeback for the upset would be a historic win for the program

antonio14313 writes:

"losing program" and "Tennessee" should never be mentioned in the same article! Tennessee is a winning program. it just so happens to have had a couple of bad years.

GO VOLS!

t

CantStandCantStandSaban writes:

When I saw the word "optimistic" in a JA headline, I thought my mushrooms had already kicked in.

antonio14313 writes:

in response to NashvillePreds:

JA,
You seem to infer that Tennessee is a, "losing program."
VU we are not.
We have had some losing SEASONS lately, but a losing program we are not.
Get a clue, and a retirement check.

Rise to the Top
Go Vols

exactly! i took him saying that to be just another one of his MANY jabs to the UT program.

there's a BIG difference between a losing program, and a losing season (or 3). BIG difference!

GO VOLS.

t

laraccoon writes:

in response to SummittsCourt:

We'll see who the cupcake game is when UT plays kensucky. Your pitiful team couldn't score but 17 points against the weakest defense UT ever fielded. and your team will be worse this year than last while UT is improving.

Feel better ? that dude aint no Ky. fan , just a bitter Fulmerite who cant put away his 98 natl. champ. autographed golf ball .dip has a few names including 9willbefine.

DawgDayAfternoon writes:

Adams is right about one thing. No one has the Vols circled on their schedule. Not Auburn or Mizzou, and certainly not Oregon, Florida, Bama, South Carolina and the Dawgs, which will all be walkover wins. That's 7 right there. Add in a superior coached Vandy and it's 4-8. You might as well face facts.

antonio14313 writes:

in response to CantStandCantStandSaban:

When I saw the word "optimistic" in a JA headline, I thought my mushrooms had already kicked in.

you literally just made me laugh out loud!

it was only a ploy to get us to read the article. smokescreen.

go vols.

t

johnlg00 writes:

in response to DawgDayAfternoon:

Adams is right about one thing. No one has the Vols circled on their schedule. Not Auburn or Mizzou, and certainly not Oregon, Florida, Bama, South Carolina and the Dawgs, which will all be walkover wins. That's 7 right there. Add in a superior coached Vandy and it's 4-8. You might as well face facts.

The "fact" is that no games have been played yet. I hope your Dawgs and everybody else UT plays aren't paying attention to the Vols. That's a good way to get your face smacked. Any oblivious fool can walk into a street-light pole.

DawgDayAfternoon writes:

in response to johnlg00:

The "fact" is that no games have been played yet. I hope your Dawgs and everybody else UT plays aren't paying attention to the Vols. That's a good way to get your face smacked. Any oblivious fool can walk into a street-light pole.

Last time I checked the Dawgs are roaring for four - in a row! Now, I don't keep up with the Tide and Gators, but I think they're going for something like 9 and 11. Tell me more about folks who go around being completely irrational and banging their heads into things while not getting it. It's not 1939 anymore and the Vols can't schedule W&L each week, though I know they'd like to.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

We'll have a better defense. We'll have a line controlled offense. What could be better for a first year coach? Anywhere from 4 to 8 wins.lol

I pick 6+ wins. That's probably safe at this point.

Oh and JA? Not bad for a first time optimist.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to DawgDayAfternoon:

Last time I checked the Dawgs are roaring for four - in a row! Now, I don't keep up with the Tide and Gators, but I think they're going for something like 9 and 11. Tell me more about folks who go around being completely irrational and banging their heads into things while not getting it. It's not 1939 anymore and the Vols can't schedule W&L each week, though I know they'd like to.

I confess to loving the chances for the Dawgs to be the Bama spoilers this year. I don't love the Dawgs as much as a Georgia born person should but I really hate Bama(with a little repsect thrown in).

murrayvol writes:

in response to thevoice:

Lesser passing game + better running game + better defense + better kicking game + better coach + intangibles + better hotdog prices = 8 wins.

I'd like more but will settle for 8....in a heartbeat.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

I can't believe that I'm the pessimist this year!!

I just can't see 8 wins realistically! Dang it I hope I'm the wrong one this time around. Last year I thought we'd have at least 8. We should have really.

underthehill writes:

in response to DawgDayAfternoon:

Last time I checked the Dawgs are roaring for four - in a row! Now, I don't keep up with the Tide and Gators, but I think they're going for something like 9 and 11. Tell me more about folks who go around being completely irrational and banging their heads into things while not getting it. It's not 1939 anymore and the Vols can't schedule W&L each week, though I know they'd like to.

Better check again..Ga lost a lot on defense and predictions are mixed..some think they will be the biggest flop in the SEC..including me..I expect Vandy to beat them in Nashville..on the other hand..UT will be much better coached and could easily win a couple they are not expected to win..

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to underthehill:

Better check again..Ga lost a lot on defense and predictions are mixed..some think they will be the biggest flop in the SEC..including me..I expect Vandy to beat them in Nashville..on the other hand..UT will be much better coached and could easily win a couple they are not expected to win..

You're probably right but I'm pretty certain they replaced some of those NFLers with more. I DO trust your judgement on this but I just don't want Bama to get another SEC or NC.

justincredible369#357762 writes:

HOW AWESOME IS THIS PHIL FULMER IS COMING TO KIA OF KINGSPORT THIS WEEK TO BUY A NEW KIA CADENZA. EVERYBODY HERE KNOWS HOW HIGHLY OBSESSED I AM WITH MY VOLS AND ARE TRYING TO KEEP IT A SECRET FROM ME. WELL SOMEBODY SCREWED THE POOCH AND LET IT SLIP... I'M SUPER STOKED, AND AM SURE THEY WILL LET ME HAVE HIM AS MY CUSTOMER. HES GONNA DEFINITELY BE SHOCKED WHEN HE COMES IN MY OFFICE AND SEES ALL OF MY VOL MEMORABILIA EVERYWHERE. ANYWAYS, JUST THOUGHT I'D SHARE THE GOOD FORTUNE WITH MY FELLOW VOL ARMY. HAVE A GREAT WEEK AND GBO!!!

ProfessionalHandicapper writes:

Vandy will not circle the UT Game, we have bigger fish to fry! (JK) Add Missouri to that list of people who will circle UT. My preseason prediction for a National Championship Winner is Texas. 19 returning starters and a defense that despite being decimated last year by so many injuries has held 52 of the last 57 opponents to lower than average yards. I say Texas A&M will fall back to grace with 5 players being drafted and the typical Soph jinx for Johnny Football. Texas has an easier schedule than an Alabama or LSU.. If Mack is gonna win it he better get it done this year. Georgia will replace Bama as the top Dog in the SEC barring injuriy. AS for UT and Vandy until a QB emerges and proves they can play mistake free, all bets are on hold.

grandtad#1402265 writes:

in response to 62vol:

More reasons we should be improved are:

Hill is developing at running back. We could actually have a back who can break tackles.

We will have a balanced attack that will not fade in the 4th quarter.

The defense will be able to pressure the quarterback better than (never did) last year.

The players are physically better suited for the 4-3 defense.

The defensive coaching staff will be better because there could not be 2 in a row ever assembled that are that bad.

Player morale appears to be better.

Fan support will be better.

The media will not have T. Bray to pick on.

The players will be held more accountable and will respond to higher expectations.

We will get better as a team as the new talent gains experience. Those 6-3, 6-4 receivers will grow up and we will increase depth as the season goes along. The good coaching will help this along.

The above may all net out to a 7-5 season but our progress as a team will allow recruiting to be strong. One more win puts us at 8-4 and then 9-4 after a bowl.

Then the return to traditional standards can begin.

I really like all these reasons to be a better team this year! I also liked what John Adams said: "And since the Vols are no longer perceived as a serious threat by the league’s best teams, they’re better situated to pull off an upset." GBO!!

10seVol85_Part_Deux writes:

in response to DawgDayAfternoon:

Last time I checked the Dawgs are roaring for four - in a row! Now, I don't keep up with the Tide and Gators, but I think they're going for something like 9 and 11. Tell me more about folks who go around being completely irrational and banging their heads into things while not getting it. It's not 1939 anymore and the Vols can't schedule W&L each week, though I know they'd like to.

You do realize that all of those streaks (with the exception of Bama) would have ended last year if Sunseri's defense had even been in the top-100, right? Gawja, Floriduh, S Car, etc all barely escaped, only due to that confused defense. No confused defense this year. Returning to at least top30 in total defense. Offense is totally unpredictable at this point, but I expect it will be decent. I hope they're all discounting and overlooking the Vols like some of their foolish fans (that would be you) are.

underthehill writes:

in response to ProfessionalHandicapper:

Vandy will not circle the UT Game, we have bigger fish to fry! (JK) Add Missouri to that list of people who will circle UT. My preseason prediction for a National Championship Winner is Texas. 19 returning starters and a defense that despite being decimated last year by so many injuries has held 52 of the last 57 opponents to lower than average yards. I say Texas A&M will fall back to grace with 5 players being drafted and the typical Soph jinx for Johnny Football. Texas has an easier schedule than an Alabama or LSU.. If Mack is gonna win it he better get it done this year. Georgia will replace Bama as the top Dog in the SEC barring injuriy. AS for UT and Vandy until a QB emerges and proves they can play mistake free, all bets are on hold.

Your comment reflects total ignorance of the Vandy football program..their big game is Ole Miss..their next big game is Ga ..and Vandy has a very good chance of beating them at home..Georgia has no chance of replacing bama, LSU, S Car and maybe Fla as top dog in the SEC..as for UT ...they are positioned very good for one or more major upsets..and what does it matter if Texas has 19 returning starters who couldn't play dead in a western movie..

sameolvolalum writes:

I despise trolls....the one who you thoughtlessly reposted in particular, but I agree with you that Texas doesn't have a snow flake's chance in hades at winning ANY championship, as those 19 starters are barely better than average to start with. UGA has too many stars to replace and bama and LSU are both totally reloaded. Vandy won't circle the UT game? Nuff said. Next time, ignore the trolls and grow up and quit acknowledging them on this site. GBO!

DawgDayAfternoon writes:

in response to 10seVol85_Part_Deux:

You do realize that all of those streaks (with the exception of Bama) would have ended last year if Sunseri's defense had even been in the top-100, right? Gawja, Floriduh, S Car, etc all barely escaped, only due to that confused defense. No confused defense this year. Returning to at least top30 in total defense. Offense is totally unpredictable at this point, but I expect it will be decent. I hope they're all discounting and overlooking the Vols like some of their foolish fans (that would be you) are.

Last year, about this time, all of GoVols was jabbering up Sunseri to be the be all and end all of defensive geniuses. He was a can't miss mastermind. That's all anyone needs to know about this current jabbering up of Butchie boy. It's 5-7 or 4-8, this year, for the Vols; just accept it.

trl_x writes:

I say 6-6. Maybe 7-5 with a few breaks. But I do believe things are looking up.

They can't get much worse...

CroKev writes:

Adams might gain some reader credibility if he changed the "You" in "Reasons why you might be more optimistic about UT football" to "I", or better, "We."

OrangePride writes:

What's this??? Another positive article on Vol
Football under the John Adams byline? OK KNS....what have you done with him? Where have you taken him and what have you done with him? But this new guy is good too! :)

johnlg00 writes:

in response to sameolvolalum:

Thanks, JA, for this optimistic perspective. Maybe many more are to follow. Dooley was a mistake, but time had to tell its story and those of us who supported his program aren't at all the dummies the (so far not involved in this conversation) trolls stupidly call us. We're fans like everywhere else and we're simply supporting one of the elite and most legendary college football programs in ncaa history. There's much more reason for our optimism regarding this upcoming season so, thanks again John Adams for stepping up and making note of it. BTW Vol fans: As for the soon-to-appear trolls on this site......please hit "Suggest removal" and pass up the urge to respond by reposting. If you have to say something.....at least do so without going through with the process by hitting "Reply to this post." Save that option for civilized repartee and keep out the trash. Here's to a great season. GBO!

Hear, hear! My sentiments exactly!

johnlg00 writes:

in response to DawgDayAfternoon:

Last time I checked the Dawgs are roaring for four - in a row! Now, I don't keep up with the Tide and Gators, but I think they're going for something like 9 and 11. Tell me more about folks who go around being completely irrational and banging their heads into things while not getting it. It's not 1939 anymore and the Vols can't schedule W&L each week, though I know they'd like to.

Those teams you mentioned may be GOING for those streaks, but that is no guarantee that they will extend them. One way NOT to extend them is to take the Vols lightly. Every (Smokey) dog has his day, and ours is coming. Maybe not this year or even the next, but it is coming.

abnerPeabody writes:

in response to antonio14313:

exactly! i took him saying that to be just another one of his MANY jabs to the UT program.

there's a BIG difference between a losing program, and a losing season (or 3). BIG difference!

GO VOLS.

t

If your program aint winning,then they must be a losing program. That is what it is for now,a losing program.Get over what ever you have that is causing you and others to be such morons. Go Vols!

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