It says August up there, which means it's time to say goodbye to rational thought and hello to sensational optimism. So on the first day of the last month before football returns, we offer one final time that all signs point to 2012.
Next year the Vols will be trying to win with juniors instead of sophomores. Next year the rent will be due for the first time on Derek Dooley's lease. Next year, if you believe in DooleyMath (also acceptable: The Dooleyan Calendar), will be the mythical Year Two.
So what does Tennessee need to accomplish in 2011?
Is it possible that the Vols could go 6-6 in Dooley's first two (actual) years and then compete for the SEC Championship in his third? Sure. But it's going to be a much, much longer offseason for all involved if that ends up being the case at the end of this fall.
It's one of those years where 6-6 wouldn't necessarily be failure - though I'd say 5-7 definitely would be - but it's also not like last year, where we come into fall camp with the singular goal of bowl eligibility. So if 5-7 is failure but 6-6 is a push, what's success?
The logical choice would appear to be 7-5, which would technically be progress...but at no point in this offseason have I felt like 7-5 would end up feeling like we made real progress. No matter who the Vols beat for their seventh win (assuming that record involved them taking care of business in the games they're supposed to win) - even if it was Florida or Alabama - I'm not sure there would be enough forward momentum there to overcome the weight of five losses to make the season as a whole feel like a success.
8-4 would do it for sure - that's a number that would be a definitive success, and a logical progression: six wins in 2010, eight in 2011, and hopefully ten (or more) in 2012. That should also give you two of the marquee wins that Dooley's resume still lacks, and nothing will help Tennessee fans believe in their coach more than getting big wins.
Still, the record isn't always the best progress indicator. The Vols were 8-5 before time was put back on the clock last year. The record - and the momentum - can also be thrown off by the bowl game. 7-5 could end up feeling like real progress if the Vols play well in the bowl game. That'll especially be the case if it's against a name team.
8-4 is the line for success on the season as a whole. But if progress is the true goal in Dooley's process, what should we look for this fall?
What would define progress and/or success for you for the Vols this fall?
We won't have to wait long for answers - practice starts today.