There is a new, yet all too familiar, air around Knoxville these days. A new coach, new promises, new hope, new players and, last but not least, new expectations.
So what's different?
First of all, and most importantly, there's a sense of urgency.
Oops...that was Dooley too.
Coach Butch Jones has taken it upon his honor that he will restore the Vol's football program back to conference, if not national, prestige. That was also promised the last couple of coaches ago.
Many professionals in the industry have touted Butch Jones as the man that can do what Derek Dooley could not.
But, lets be fair. While Derek Dooley couldn't pull the trigger and seal the deal on signature games, he did restore some sense of respectability to the program that Lane Kiffin left in shambles. From recruiting hostesses to questionable traffic stops and player infractions, Dooley said enough is enough and wouldn't be persuaded to turn a blind eye.
So, once again a new coach finds himself in the deep waters of the SEC, where sink or swim is an understatement. Anyone that's followed the SEC knows that success is imperative when wins are measured by teams like Florida and Alabama, which Dooley of course never realized.
Okay, what is different?
The energy. Players and coaches alike all have their arms perpetually extended now for the brass ring. Butch Jones is accused on a daily basis of being the global leader for power walking, coursing from office to field, then to film, on to the assistant offices then back again for another rogue impromptu circuit. He's on the move and can't be chastised for micro managing.
Recruiting is the flavor of not just the day, but every day. Not only is Jones pursuing recruits harder, there is also a more personal approach, demonstrated by his penning letters by hand on a daily basis.
When Lane Kiffin started his recruiting escapades, it was fostered by his stormtrooper in Ed Orgeron and highlighted by extravagant displays. Now it's truncated by honesty and potrayals of former Vol players and what they could eventually become if they have the passion and will to succeed. It's a far cry from helicopter flyovers and hostesses.
Back to urgency.
Jones recognizes the need to win. The resounding comments are "Pushing them harder". In football, like any other sport, that's a necessity. What's different now is that excelling is the dominant requirement; before, the standard was merely winning.
"Needing to win" doesn't necessarily mean winning. You can need to do something all day long but at the end, it won't guarantee a victory. Jones and his staff are pushing Tennessee players to be champions. That was something that Dooley and his staff weren't able to achieve.
I've always said that it's easy to coach from the bleachers, but the underlying difference is realism. Every fan and coach wants their team to win, but at the end of the day, judgement is on that who wins. When Derek Dooley rose to power I suggested that patience be given. I find myself reiterating that sentiment out of necessity, and not choice.
Vol fans were ready for Jon Gruden and any other similar savior that would restore the program, but nobody, and I mean nobody, expected Dave Hart to pick Butch Jones.
But I digress. Where is the difference?
Butch Jones doesn't have a father's shadow to fill. Butch Jones will succeed where others could not. He has a passion for football and success. Just be aware that not since Bill Battle and Phillip Fulmer have recruits started to stand up and take notice of the intensity that is surrounding the Tennessee program.
Did I mention that current players on the Vol's roster are not absconding?
For the first time since Phillip Fulmer's legacy years, fans and players alike are saying:
"IT'S GREAT TO BE A TENNESSEE VOL!"
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