By Jimmy Hyams
Chris Rumph knows Tennessee fans have been asked to be patient with each new coaching staff that has arrived in Knoxville since 2009.
From Lane Kiffin to Derek Dooley to Butch Jones and now Jeremy Pruitt, the Vol Nation has been told to give the new regime a chance.
That can be a tough selling job when you get blown out 47-21 by an apparently average Florida team in Neyland Stadium with members of the 1998 national championship team on hand.
But Rumph asked folks Monday at the Knoxville Quarterback Club to hang with this team.
“It’s coming,’’ said Rumph, UT’s co-defensive coordinator. “I don’t know when … I know it’s been hard, it’s been a long time. It’s been tough.
“I wish I could say we’re going to win the rest of them, but I promise you before long we will put a product on the field you’ll be proud of.’’
When? Who knows?
The immediate future for this season isn’t bright. The Vols visit No. 2 Georgia this Saturday, then face, in a row, Auburn, Alabama and South Carolina.
Rumph was told the UT team quit last year and he was asked how to you prevent that from happening this season.
“They’re going to respond,’’ Rumph said. “We’re not going to allow them to quit. Quitting is not an option. This is not a multiple choice deal. This is a straight essay.’’
Rumph said if players tried to quit, the coaching staff might get in trouble.
“You’d probably get fired because there’d be some coaches choking some kids out,’’ Rumph said, sternly but not seriously.
The personable Rumph had an interesting way of describing UT’s predicament.
“Right now it’s an ugly baby,’’ Rumph said. “Let’s just be honest, but we got to take that baby home, all right. We got to own that baby. We got to nurture it, we got to love it, we got to support it, we got to discipline it. We got to teach it.
“One day, hopefully sooner than later, this baby’s going to grow up. It’s going to be everything that we want it to be, and this program will be the program that it once was because if it was done before, it can be done again.’’
What is biggest challenge to turning around UT program?
“It ain’t about the Xs and Os,’’ Rumph said. “It’s about the Jimmys and Joes. We’ve got to get some more players in here.’’
Rumph said the starters are “pretty good’’ but there’s a big gap from first and second team.
What do you say to recruits after a blowout loss like UT had against Florida?
“I tell them, `You see why we’re recruiting you?’’’ Rumph said.