Random thoughts on Tennessee football 

Marvin WestFeature, westwords

Moment of reflection: 2017 was truly awful and maybe worse.

Outlook: Lane Kiffin, expert on many subjects, says Jeremy Pruitt will do a great job solving Tennessee problems and restoring happiness.

“He is extremely intelligent. You’re looking at Tennessee back in the top 10 and making a playoff run within two years.”

Thanks Lane, we needed that.


Sobering thought: Somebody has to play cornerback.


Phillip Fulmer likes to say, “Keep the main thing the main thing.”

You can decide whether the opener against West Virginia is the main thing or whether it is doing something about the ungodly losing streak against league foes.

Expectations are all over the field, much better or much the same. We keep doing it but it is illogical to base forecasts on previous results.

Cases in point: Florida was 9-4 in 2016 and 4-7 last season. Michigan State went from 3-9 in 2016 to 10-3. The Tennessee yo-yo was 9-4 up and 4-8 down.

Indirectly, the shocking decline is the reason Fulmer is now athletic director: Others demanded a new coach, found the search unsatisfactory, chose self-defense, settled on a calming solution.

Fulmer is very aware. He says the thought of his alma mater losing all Southeastern Conference games still irks him.

“To be honest with you, every time somebody mentions 0-8, it sickens my stomach.”


Tennessee faces a difficult and perhaps deadly middle-late October, one of the most challenging schedule segments in the country.

The Vols will play at Auburn on Oct. 13. Alabama comes to Neyland Stadium on Oct. 20. Tennessee goes to South Carolina the following Saturday.

Recent Octobers have not been much fun against SEC foes – as in 4-24 over the past eight. If you are still counting, the losing streak against Alabama is now at 11. The Vols last whipped Auburn in 1999. This should be Will Muschamp’s best group of Gamecocks.


Tennessee is on commission for the opening game in Charlotte. UT is guaranteed $2.5 million. It will receive additional money based on the number of tickets sold.

If paid attendance reaches 66,000, it will profit another $400,000. If 70,000 tickets are sold, the take-home pay will be plus $500,000. A sellout (72,500) generates another $200,000 in commission.

Step right up. It is only 181 miles from Knoxville to Charlotte.


According to ESPN, West Virginia is a really big deal in Tennessee’s pursuit of respectability. Right now, the Vols have a 59-percent betting chance to gain bowl eligibility (six wins). If they lose to the Mountaineers, happy holiday probability drops to 47 percent. Go Vols.


If you believe you get what you pay for, Tennessee will be some better on offense this season.

In 2017, Tennessee paid $655,000 to offensive coordinator Larry Scott and $300,000 to quarterbacks coach Mike Canales. The Vols ranked 124th nationally in total offense.

Additional info: Below Tennessee were Wyoming, Illinois, Kent State, Rutgers and UTEP.

This season, Tyson Helton, offensive coordinator and quarterback coach, will receive $1.2 million. Interpretation: Expect progress.


Get what you pay for, part 2: We’ll soon see if there are immediate returns from a sizable investment in strength and conditioning.

Tennessee spent $659,309.91 on revamping the weight room. Strength coach Craig Fitzgerald will receive $625,000.

Last year, before the beginning of fruit-basket-turn-over, the weight room had fancy machines and mirrors, much like health clubs. Strength coach Rock Gullickson was paid $375,000, up boldly from 2016 instructional costs.

In 2016, key Volunteers missed 52 starting opportunities because of injuries. That was second worst in the country.

In 2017, Tennessee had 55 missed starts. That led the country in something you don’t want to lead the country in.

If strength and conditioning had anything to do with those disasters, if money really makes a difference, count on better days to come.

Joy, joy.

Marvin West invites reader reactions. His address is marvinwest75@gmail.com

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