Depends on who you believe

Marvin West
Sports

Butch and Tennessee assistant coaches talk as if they recruited well, assembled an excellent class of future Volunteers. Maybe they will be good enough to help win championships – which hasn’t happened around here in a long, long time.

Fans seemed a little disappointed there was no late drama, no prize that switched at the last moment and went orange. Oh well.

Recruiting analysts, almost ordinary people who get paid for perusing video and seeing stars, sound as if Tennessee finished in the middle of the Southeastern Conference pack, well behind the big boys but safely ahead of Vanderbilt.

Based on that limited information, you can choose optimism, realism or pessimism, depending on who you believe.

No matter how you view the recruiting scoreboard, whether your glass is half empty or half full, Tennessee is no closer to beating Alabama than it was last October. The Tide had more talent, has more talent and will have more next year.

That reassigns the burden of victory to coaching or luck – development, strategy, precise execution or who drops the ball or misses a tackle. None of that has been a recent Tennessee strength.

The Vols gathered several three-stars with great potential. When you hear about upside in recruiting, it usually means somebody else signed the top prospects and you got the could-be guys, hopefuls and possibilities.

Alabama was awesome, as usual. Georgia, with new coaches, came on boldly. LSU exceeded expectations.
There are several compelling thoughts about Tennessee recruiting.

(1) Securing offensive tackle Trey Smith, 6-5 and 310, of Jackson was a big win in more ways than size and need. It was very smart to have his sister employed in the athletic department. Perfectly legal. Also astute. Illustration of family atmosphere.

(2) The fence Butch built around the state has a hole in it. Clemson and LSU slipped through and hit us hard.

(3) Tennessee filled some vacancies but may not have signed the offensive game-breaker or future all-American on defense. Here we go again: development can make up the difference.

(4) Recruiting gets more difficult as you go along. In the beginning, Butch presented an exciting plan for restoring Tennessee credibility. Brick by brick. Some called it a vision. It was contagious.

There were glaring gaps in his inheritance. He could offer immediate playing time. Sign right here, young man, fill this void.

Lyle Allen “Butch” Jones Jr., a very good salesman, essentially solved the roster problem. The cupboard is no longer bare. The Vols are not juveniles. They have matured into adults. Lots of seniors on the next team. OK, some on defense contributed to record yards allowed.

Unfortunately, the great goal in the sky has been capped at 9-4 and 9-4. Butch is 30-21 in four seasons. He is 1-3 against Florida, 2-2 versus Georgia, 2-2 against Vandy and not very good at all against the SEC West.

The dream has been scarred by results. Prospects with medium intelligence might wonder how could you possibly lose to South Carolina? What if a parent sought an explanation of the Vanderbilt game?

Forget it, that is past tense. The Vols won their bowl game. Recruiting was pretty good or at least so-so. New coaches brighten the horizon. Some of the injured are healing. Spring practice is not far away.

If you chose optimism …

Marvin West invites reader reaction.
His address is westwest6@netzero.com

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