"These are the times that try Men's souls..." When Thomas Paine wrote this piece do you suppose he could also be describing the life of a Tennessee Volunteer Fan?
Some of the remaining Vol Faithful might say, yes. However, other would scoff at this as they turn the UT game off with six minutes left in the 4th quarter and the Vols down 31-17 against the Florida Gators.
However, what the fan missed was a display of heart and a team that has the heart of a champion. The young Volunteer Team played the last six minutes like they were its last, and more importantly, they didn't give up in the face of adversity.
Though some have a negative view of these Vols and the program as a whole, I'll shed some light on topics not seen by the general public to show that the dawn could soon come for the Vol Faithful who stick by this team.
As touched on in the previous slide, this team is fixing it's heart issues. No they're not suffering from Cardiac Arrest or a Blot Clot, it was far worse than that. This team's heart issue dealt with throwing in the towel.
After Matt Simms threw a back-breaking interception that was returned 72 yards for a Touchdown against Oregon in Week 2, the entire Volunteer football team gave up. With three minutes left in the third quarter of a home game on ESPN they just quit. Now let me note that they literally didn't give up, but their performance was lackadaisical and without passion.
Promptly, head coach Derek Dooley called out the entire team for this lack of effort that led to a 48-13 curb stomping by Oregon on National Television.
"Umm, Coach... We got the message."
As seen when the Vols hit the same adversity against Florida, they were faced with the same decision. Give in or push forward? The team chose to push on, albeit in a loss for the program. Improvement was made and this game won't soon be forgotten.
Tennessee has had a Quarterback problem this season, to say the least. But anyone who denies that Matt Simms didn't improve from his performance against the Gators didn't see the same game I did.
Simms has been mounted atop the UT depth chart at Quarterback since Spring practice began, and though he has struggled early on, he seems to have gotten it together.
Matt has been hounded for a slew of things this season already. To name a few, he stares down receivers, throws the ball with his palm, and lacks the physical tools to be an SEC Quarterback.
To that I look at the film of the Florida game and I see a Quarterback who was poised under pressure, made some bad mistakes, but grew more and more as the game went along, and began to get into a comfort zone.
Simms was continually under pressure, but he showed poise. His ability to keep his eyes downfield despite the pass-rush was incredible.
Look for even more improvement this weekend against UAB.
Pop quiz: Who led the SEC in rushing the first two weeks of this College Football Season?
Trent Richardson? Nope.
Jeff Demps, maybe? Wrong again.
It was none other than Tauren Poole of the Volunteers of Tennessee. Poole, a Junior, was spurned by Lane Kiffin and his staff and received very little carries or publicity last season.
However, Poole took it in stride and marched along, improving himself daily. In fact, that attitude has paid off, as he has taken a grip on the starting running back job and has been the emotional leader of this team as well.
Poole provides something every young team desperately needs...leadership.
Derek Dooley and Co. haven't held back in their efforts to bring Tennessee back to National Prominence. Proof you ask? Their solid recruiting efforts thus far for the 2011 Class.
Dooley has 15 commitments, with most being 3-Star prospects along with three 4-Star prospects. A few of the headliners of the class are Pat Martin, a Safety from South Carolina, Kyler Kerbyson, a massive Offensive Lineman from Tennessee, and A.J. Johnson, an enormous Linebacker at 6'3" 225 lbs from the state of Georgia.
One note that gives another positive light is the fact that Dooley has made it a priority to get top prospects in the nation. He has done so by remaining in great shape with Rivals Top 150 Recruits such as Antonio Richardson, Cameron Clear, Ray Drew, Blake Countess, DeAnthony Arnett, and Gabe Wright.
If Dooley lands a solid Top 15 Class this year and continues to steadily improve the Volunteer faithful should see solid improvement with the large upgrade in talent and depth.
How does starting a JUCO Center, two true Freshmen, a red shirt Sophomore, and a Senior with six, count 'em, six starts in his career effect your team?
Try fielding that team in the SEC with one of the toughest schedules in the nation and a new head coach. No easy task, eh?
If there is a bright side to this story, it's this alone: the experience these Vols are going to gain will lead to cohesion and fluidity among the team, that will pay dividends in the future, despite the current struggles.
It's tough being a Vol fan now, I will admit it...
But looking at the positives and having a realist approach, I see that this team will turn it around. And I believe Derek Dooley is the man to do so.
Give it time Tennessee Fans...your day is coming soon.