I awoke this morning to an enlightening and most encouraging headline on my newsfeed.
We've made it, boys and girls. The 2017 offseason has now ended and the 2017 preseason has begun.
And as for most turning points in life, it's time to reflect on how we got here and highlight the best and worst from the 2017 offseason.
Let's start off on a positive note and begin with the best part of 2017.
The Vols have landed crucial pieces all over the board for 2018. Important positions such as quarterback, defensive line, and offensive tackle have been secured via the top recruits in their respective class.
If Tennessee can creep back into the top five, which shouldn't be an issue, then this would be their third top ten class in five seasons, their second top five class, and their sixth straight top 25 ranking under Jones.
To put it into context - the Vols had not had a top five recruiting class since 2007 until Butch came along.
Credit must also be given to Jones for making the necessary changes to his staff, which has helped with recruiting.
The work is far from over, however. The Vols are still battling for talented corner Jaycee Horn and safety Trey Dean - two players that would not only bolster the team's ranking, but add much needed talent and depth to a defensive backfield that is going to lose a lot of experience after this season.
Look for new defensive backs coach Charlton Warren to play a big part in whether or not the Vols can land these two youngsters. If he were able to do so, it'd be another card that Jones played very well during a telling offseason.
Speaking of Jones, that leads us to the worst part of 2017, and it may not be what you're thinking...
The Constant Questioning Of Butch Jones' Job Security
Hey, I get it. The Vols disappointed last season. 8-4 with no trip to Atlanta and bombing to South Carolina and Vanderbilt in a relatively weak SEC East sucked.
But you know what was awesome? Starting 5-0 and beating Florida for the first time in eleven years. Beating Georgia for the second straight season - the first time that had happened in ten years. Beating both teams in the same season since 2004. Beating four teams that ended up playing for their conference championships. Beating a very good Virginia Tech team in front of the largest crowd in college football history.
Tennessee did a lot of good things on the field last season. Yes, the end result was a disappointment, but you'd have to be remiss to ignore the impact of the injuries that occurred for the Vols.
Last season was meant for the starters to lead the way while the depth developed behind them. The rash of injuries led to multiple, young players being thrust onto the field at a time that did not suit them best. It would be different if one or two players were missing time, but when you have ten players out on one side of the ball - you are going to get exposed.
I do not blame injuries for all of Tennessee's miscues, there were times when the coaches and players exhibited questionable decision making. However, the end result of last season should not have led to this masquerading of Jones' "inability to coach".
Just as recently as Wednesday of last week, there were stories still being published about how many wins it will take for Jones to keep his job. What a tiresome topic.
Let me break it to you, Jones is going nowhere in 2018, unless the Vols fall hard. And I am talking 3-9 or 4-8 hard.
The Vols are one of only two existing NCAA FBS teams to have never lost more than seven games in a season. Not even Derek Dooley could screw that up.
The fact that some experts are saying that he should be fired after another eight win season is ridiculous and short-sighted. One can only hope that Jones and his players will use this as material to prove the doubters wrong.
If Jones compiles an eight win season, considering the amount of talent he lost - it will be a very good season. It will show that he has laid a foundation that he will be able to build upon in the coming years.
Regardless, we are officially on our way to the beginning of the season, and damn it feels good.
What Do You Think Was The Best Part Of The Offseason?
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