Here's a picture from spring practice last week:
If we were to have a conversation on whether the Vols should or will wear that smokey grey helmet/orange uniform combo this fall, would it be the most interesting thing that's happened this spring?
The Vols move to their final week of spring practice, and on the field it's been...quiet? Largely uneventful? Business as usual?
That's how it's felt from the outside, anyway. The expectations attached to this season are, of course, not business as usual. We all know how long it's been since we've had conversations like, "Did you see Tennessee is fifth in FPI?" But as Butch Jones enters his fourth year, with so many familiar faces (and even with so many of them recovering from off-season surgery) there's a bit of a nothing-to-see-here quality to this spring. There's been some buzz here and there, and unfortunately there has also been far too much to talk about off the field for the university. But if you're looking forward to Saturday's Orange & White Game, it's probably more for just the chance to be in Neyland Stadium and see the players you already knew than the chance to see anything new or exciting.
This was the case last spring, on a smaller scale. Butch Jones has done a great job playing hype man for the Orange & White Game, pulling in 60,000+ the last three years, all trailing only the 1986 attempt to set a record with 73,801 coming months after the dramatic SEC Championship season and Sugar Bowl win over Miami. But generally speaking, crowds are particularly drawn to the new. Lane Kiffin's one and only Orange & White Game drew more fans than any of Phillip Fulmer's. So did Derek Dooley's first appearance. On the all-time attendance list at Neyland Stadium you'll find games against UNLV and Southern Miss checking in at numbers four and seven, respectively, as those were the first chances to see freshmen quarterbacks take their first snaps.
So next spring, when Quinten Dormady, Sheriron Jones, and Jarrett Guarantano are dueling it out to be Tennessee's next quarterback, you can expect lots of chatter and plenty of interest no matter what the Vols do or don't do this fall. But the fact that, in the final week of spring practice, we're asking questions about third string running backs and whether early enrollees can help on special teams? So few questions for this team to answer this spring tells you what you need to know for this fall.
We'll come out Saturday, sing Rocky Top and have a hot dog. The most interesting conversation this week will probably center on uniforms. We'll enjoy it all because it's a glimpse of Tennessee Football.
And the fact that there's been so little to talk about out of spring practice is further proof we could be in for one of the most talked about seasons in a long time.