You'd be lucky to find a Tennessee football fan who is satisfied with this season right now. The Volunteers have lost to Florida, Georgia, Mississippi State and now Alabama. That zero in the conference win column is leading to many Volunteer fans calling for Dooley's head.
Really? Losing to four ranked teams who are better than the Vols makes you want to fire the head coach? As a Tennessee fan myself, I have no problem saying that a few of people in the fanbase who just don't understand the game. They see the record, and that's it. They don't see the offense improving, the defense adjusting to a new scheme or the fact that Dooley is just getting settled in.
First, Alabama and Florida are two of the best teams in the nation; Tennessee is not. Mississippi State is one of the most improved teams in the nation and continues to look more and more like a true contender week after week. At the time Tennessee played Georgia, the Bulldogs were a top-five team and considered a favorite in the SEC East.
I'll go ahead and say this as well: There is more than a good chance Tennessee will suffer yet another setback next week at the hands of South Carolina. Oh, by the way, South Carolina is yet another top-ten team. I'm sure if that becomes a loss, fans will want Dooley fired right then and there.
I don't expect any fans to be happy with a 3-4 record, but all four losses are to top teams. Besides, let's look at some of the other factors.
Offensively, Jim Chaney might not be the best fit, but nonetheless Tennessee has showed signs of improving. A pass-happy team last season, the Volunteers have shown signs this year of improving the run game as well as using their weapons effectively. Some of the offense's biggest problems have been Bray's lack of composure as well as questionable decision-making.
Also, entering the year, Tennessee's key weapon was supposed to be receiver Justin Hunter, but Hunter acts immaturely when he is not the focal point of the offence. He also has to be close to the top when it comes to dropped passes this season. How can we blame Chaney—or, for that matter, Dooley—for those problems?
Defensively, many fans seem to think that new defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri has struggled. He hasn't. Sunseri is playing with a group of guys who specialize in the 4-3 scheme. For the fans who didn't know, Sunseri is converting all of them to play his style, which is the 3-4.
It may not sound like much, but that is a big deal. Think back and now notice how many of the big plays Tennessee has given up this year have been due to confusion and missed assignments instead of missed tackles and blown coverage.
Tennessee is still in definite bowl position as four of the final five games come against unranked teams. A 7-5 final record isn't what Tennessee fans want, but honestly that was what I and many fans who took a good, hard look at the schedule expected.
A 7-5 record means seven wins over teams the Vols were supposed to beat and five losses to teams better and ranked higher than Tennessee. A 6-6 final record could unfortunately lead to Dooley being fired, which would lead to yet another four years of rebuilding in Knoxville—which nobody wants.
Next season is the season to watch the Tennessee Volunteers. I know that fans are sick of hearing the words, "next season," but seriously, look at what we have going for us.
The majority of the offense is expected to return, including Bray, Hunter and breakout star Cordarrelle Patterson. The defense will also return many starters from this year's team as well, as this will be Sal Sunseri's first 3-4 recruiting class.
Tennessee fans expecting a national championship need to wake up and realize the team is still a good ways away from that. At times, especially in college football and the SEC, you have to settle. Should we settle with a bad coaching staff and a bad team? No, but we have neither.
We have a fantastic coaching staff that may be one of the best in the nation, as well as a very well-rounded team that improves every week. So, Vol fans, why start all over and rebuild with somebody new when Dooley already has a successful foundation in place?
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