The Calm Before the Storm: Awaiting the 2019 Season
By: John Dunn - Founder; The All Vol Call in Show. - Sports Editor; Daily News. Every -- single -- year, we get to the off season and it seems like it takes an eternity before the next season starts. Is it like this for every fan base, or is it just because we are fans of one of the most storied programs in history? The University of Tennessee is ranked tenth in all-time wins with 838; slightly edged by the University of Southern California with 839. A lot of people seem to forget that the Volunteers used to routinely dole out tail whippings to opponents both in and out of conference. Of the 14 teams in the SEC, Tennessee bolsters dominant win/loss records in a head-to-head comparison with over 2/3 of the teams in the conference. Kentucky has served as the Volunteer stepping stone more so than any other team; Tennessee holding an 80-35-9 record head-to-head against the Wildcats. Yet, with all of the historical success that the University of Tennessee has garnered throughout their history, why do people only focus on the time period that the Volunteers have been down? Because they know we will bounce back. From 1903-1906, Tennessee went 11-25-3. How did they respond? By going 14-4-2 from 1907-1908. You're probably thinking, "well that was when the helmets were basically nothing; football was different back then". The Volunteers went 21-28 from 2010-2013 but answered by going 18-8 from 2015-2016. "History is doomed to repeat itself," they say. If that's true, then Tennessee is poised for big gains in the 2019 season. After going 9-15 in the last two seasons, the Volunteers seem to be trending in the right direction while simultaneously making a splash in the wide world of sports. ESPN had the big orange ranked at number fifteen in their preseason Football Power Index. So, why take a team that has won less than 10 games in two seasons and put them in the top-15 of the FPI? In 2018, Jeremy Pruitt was named the head coach after an absolutely zany coaching search riddled with scandal, rumor and gossip. Pruitt had limited time to finish out a recruiting class, as the new early signing period was introduced that year. Pruitt found a way to capitalize in a short two-week window of time, convincing players like J.J. Peterson, Alontae Taylor and Bryce Thompson to sign with the Volunteers. Tennessee finished the 2018 recruiting cycle with the twenty-first nationally ranked recruiting class, good for eighth best in the SEC, averaging a recruit rating equivalent to a high three-star. There were no five stars. After building the deepest, most ridiculously knowledgeable staff in the country, including 247sports' National Recruiter of the Year in 2019 Brian Niedermeyer, Pruitt and the University of Tennessee saw a sharp up-tick in recruiting. After the 2019 cycle wrapped up in the Spring, Tennessee finished with the twelfth-ranked recruiting class nationally, including five-stars Darnell Wright and Wanya Morris. A bevy of highly-rated recruits seemed to flock to the big orange, as they increased their average recruit rating to the equivalent of a mid-four star. It's no wonder that Pruitt and the Vols have gained the attention of sports journalists, analysts and fans everywhere. All of the things that you need to build a program back to its prominence are there. The recruiting, the development and the overall feel of the program are proof enough that Pruitt is getting results, but when will we see them on the field? Just weeks before naming Pruitt as the head coach, Tennessee found themselves without an Athletic Director after an ugly ousting of a weaselly John Curry. Enter: the savior of Tennessee athletics -- the man who led those beloved Vols in 1998 -- the one who coached Manning and countless other legends -- our beloved coach, Phillip Fulmer. It seemed like the second he was announced, there was a sense of calm that washed over most of the fan base -- everyone felt it; the man was home. Fulmer wasted no time in naming Pruitt as the head coach, showing the administration, as well as the fan base, that he knew exactly what he was doing and that we were in safe hans. He didn't stop at football. Fulmer has seen to a substantial rise in all of Tennessee's athletics, with the exception of Tennessee women's basketball. The men's team had a particularly dominate season in 2018, the baseball team went to the NCAA tournament for the first time since Fulmer was still the head coach of the football team, and various other programs have seen a surge in all measurable aspects of growth. You can feel it in the air -- something just feels good about the football team. It feels like we have depth, talent and knowledge at just about every position on the field. You can certainly see why the Vols have garnered so much attention in the world of division one football. All the signs point to one conclusion, Tennessee is on the upswing. With a weaker out-of-conference schedule in the upcoming season and a better-looking team than what they've had in the past, the Volunteers could sneak up and surprise some teams that they shouldn't in Jeremy Pruitt's second year leading the Vols through the "T". "History is doomed to repeat itself," they say. Well, it seems like this is just the calm before the storm..