football Edit

Where do the Vols go from here?


Here's what we know. It was a butt-kicking of epic proportions. The worst shutout defeat since 1981. The biggest margin of defeat in Neyland Stadium history. The most uncompetitive I have seen the Vols since their 31-0 shut out loss to Florida in 1994.

Vol fans know more than enough stats and no one needs a rehash of the details of the 41-0 beating on Saturday afternoon in front of a nationally televised audience.

What those in Big Orange Country want to know is where does this program go from here?

We fully expect Butch Jones to be back at work Monday, and while that's not the answer many want to hear, it's what's next.

But there are major issues and major questions.

Saturday was a bad day for the Vols. It started Saturday morning as Jones was the butt of jokes (whether it was fair or not) on ESPN Gameday over his Monday press conference. Jones, who handled himself fine, was asked about it on live TV on SEC Nation.

Then the day concluded with a Butch Jones-led team being shutout for the first time in his head coaching career.

So the where does it go from here?

The answer is no one knows. Jones has declared ever position open and says it's back to work. But it's certainly fair to ask and wonder how his staff, which features six coaches either in their first year here or their first year in their current positions, respond?

It's more than fair is to wonder how this team at 3-2, who could as easily be 4-1 or 2-3, responds.

“Well first of all, everyone should hurt. If it doesn’t hurt, then that shows that you’re not heavily invested. If you’re invested, you hurt. This one stings," Jones said.

"And it’s going to take a while. And like I told our team, if you don’t feel like coming to practice, you better remember how you feel right now. And if that’s not motivation, I don’t know what is. But also, we have a group of individuals that understand our expectations here at Tennessee.

"And especially when we play in Neyland Stadium. There’s a tradition of excellence that we expect and that we demand. So, to me, if you’re a competitor, you can’t wait to get back to work. And again, it starts with us as coaches, of holding everyone accountable. It starts with us, and it starts with everyone in our organization.”

In that 1994 Florida game, while uncompetitive, the Vols flashed some individual talent in a freshman class ranked No. 1 in the country. The next week, that talent took center stage in a 5-turnover loss to Mississippi State, where Peyton Manning found Joey Kent for 10 catches.

And we all know where things went from there.

But that was then and this is now. Saturday night, leaving Neyland Stadium after the University of Tennessee's worst lost in the house that the general built, there's not a clear picture of where things are going.

And that's why for the next two weeks, the questions will be a plenty. Who's the quarterback? Is there leadership? Can the offense find a pulse and a direction? Where's the locker room chemistry both players and coaches?

But the single major question no one can answer but everyone, and I mean everyone, will be asking...

Where does this program go from here?