College football teams usually have to accomplish something to receive praise.
But after all that has transpired elsewhere this preseason, Tennessee deserves credit for what it hasn’t done.
UT didn’t cancel the Oregon game.
Tennessee’s schedule is tough enough with the usual fare in the SEC East and national champion favorite Alabama from the West. But playing third-ranked Oregon in Autzen Stadium in the third game of the season is clearly the most daunting challenge on the schedule.
A trip to the northwest corner of the country will be compounded by what comes next: a Saturday afternoon in The Swamp, where the Vols have lost 11 of their last 13 games.
And to think that just a few years ago, former Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton and former football coach Derek Dooley courageously teamed up to cancel a road game with big, bad North Carolina.
Coach Butch Jones hasn’t ripped his own players.
In a move that should forever endear him to his returning players, Kansas coach Charlie Weis flippantly referred to his last team as “a pile of crap” at Big 12 media days.
He apparently regarded that as a shrewd recruiting move. His message: Anybody can play for us right away.
In fact, the only time Weis has been accused of being shrewd was when he coordinated the New England Patriots’ offense and had Tom Brady for a quarterback.
He was 1-11 last year at Kansas, set Florida’s offense back 50 years in one season as coordinator and was fired after four years as head coach at Notre Dame.
Tennessee didn’t sign Michael Dyer.
The former gun-toting Auburn running back was on the open market after having been dismissed from two schools and sitting out last season, presumably with the intent of working out a few personal glitches in his game.
His prior problems didn’t stop Louisville coach Charlie Strong from signing Dyer, who starred in Auburn’s victory over Oregon for the 2010 national championship.
Strong, who turned down the UT coaching job after last season, said Dyer deserved another chance. And he didn’t hesitate providing it.
Surely, Strong’s decision was based solely on his concern for a fellow human being and had nothing to do with the fact his team’s top two running backs are attempting comebacks from knee surgery.
Jones didn’t welcome a repeat offender back into his program.
Strong probably would sign running back Jeremy Hill, too, if he had the opportunity.
Hill recently was
reinstated to LSU’s team after pleading guilty to simple battery. That wasn’t his first guilty plea.
His arrest constituted a violation of his probation since he pleaded guilty to carnal knowledge of a juvenile in 2012.
Nonetheless, coach Les Miles — another great humanitarian — believed Hill deserved a third chance, as long as his team concurred.
So Miles let his players vote on whether Hill should be allowed to return to the team. Shockingly, they were in favor of it.
The coach must have been proud to know he had such a compassionate team.
No Vol has been arrested this summer.
Given the program’s history and what’s going on in the rest of college football, the Vols should be applauded for an uneventful preseason.
It’s also worth noting that UT players haven’t been accused of selling their autographs.
All the Vols have done this summer is improve their team grade-point average and make a greater commitment to community service, according to Jones.
But what they haven’t done is even more significant.