By Jimmy Hyams
Tennessee signed graduate transfer Madre London to bring some depth and competition to the running back position.
Perhaps the Vols also wanted his optimism.
After Tennessee’s humiliating 47-21 loss to Florida at Neyland Stadium on Saturday night, London shed light on what appears to be a dire situation.
Tennessee committed six turnovers and surrendered a safety against the Gators, and while London gave credit to Florida, he also said this:
“There are some things we got to fix; once we fix those things, we’ll be a great football team.’’
Maybe competitive. But not great.
Tennessee is about eight All-SEC players from being great. It’s about eight players from the 1998 national championship team from being great.
Tennessee likely won’t be favored to win an SEC game this season. It could very well go 0-8 in SEC play for the second year in a row. It’s hard to believe the Vols haven’t won a conference game since Nov. 19, 2016.
There’s little chance Tennessee can beat any of its next three opponents – Georgia (a 32-point favorite), No. 10 Auburn and No. 1 Alabama. South Carolina is coming off a 37-14 victory at Vanderbilt. And UT’s defense appears to be no match for Missouri’s pass game or Kentucky’s run game.
This, folks, has all the makings of a long, long season. A 3-9 record isn’t off the table.
And realistic hopes of a bowl bid came crashing down against a faster more athletic Florida team that isn’t quite so bad after all.
Here’s the bottom line for Tennessee: The Vols don’t have enough players who are mentally tough, physical enough or talented enough to compete with the elite in the SEC. Too many players don’t play with football smarts and too many players were overrated coming out of high school.
Coach Jeremy Pruitt has a bigger rebuilding job than I anticipated.
It’s true that Nick Saban lost to UAB in his first season at LSU and to Louisiana Monroe in his first season at Alabama. It’s true Kirby Smart went 7-5 in the regular season at Georgia after inheriting a 10-win team. It’s true that Frank Beamer was 24-40-2 after his first six seasons at Virginia Tech.
But I would argue that Saban inherited better talent at LSU and Alabama than Pruitt at UT. I would argue Smart inherited very good talent at Georgia. And I would argue that Tennessee won’t be as patient as Virginia Tech with its football coach.
That means Pruitt’s first two full years of recruiting are vital.
I don’t care how many four and five star plays dot the Tennessee roster, the Vols don’t have enough talent to be above .500. Some would argue to even be .500.
That tells you how important it is for Pruitt to do a bang-up job recruiting.
Being competitive in the next month of the season would help in recruiting because I’m not sure how many talented players want to be a part of getting their butts beat by a wide margin.