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Walkin’ the walk trumps talkin’ the talk

By Steve Williams

A Tiny comment could create a big fuss in November

The message on the sign at the Washington Pike Baptist Church was meant for everyone and folks in every walk of life, but I quickly applied it to football when I read it driving by last Monday.

After all, the annual SEC Media Days – the unofficial kickoff of the college football season – were about to get underway at Hoover, Ala. Fourteen head coaches and three player representatives from each conference team would be talkin’ football for three days.

Many fans can’t get enough of the preseason chatter, slick magazines or predictions. Will their team be a contender for a championship? Do they have any preseason All-SEC honorees or All-Americans on their roster?

All that talkin’ won’t mean much, I thought, and will mean even less when play starts in a little over a month. The teams that do their job on the field will be the most successful. It’s that simple.

Tennessee’s new head coach, Butch Jones, and Vols Ja’Wuan James, Antonio “Tiny” Richardson and Jacques Smith represented UT quite well at the Media Days.

Best I can tell, only one uh-oh comment slipped out.

Recalling UT’s embarrassing 41-18 loss at Vanderbilt last season, Richardson, a Nashville native, said, “That won’t happen again. I promise you that.”

Tiny’s promise might not stack up with Broadway Joe’s guarantee of a Jets win over the Colts in Super Bowl III, but you gotta admit, it’s pretty strong. It raised some eyebrows.

The Commodores, I’m sure, have filed the comment away for bulletin board material in November. Vandy will visit the Vols Nov. 23. Tiny didn’t say it out loud, but I bet he can’t wait.

While the Vols’ games with Florida and Alabama have just simmered in recent seasons, their in-state series with Vandy has gotten hot.

As I looked over comments made by Coach Jones in his first appearance at SEC Media Days, nothing qualified for the bulletin boards of 2013 opponents that I could see. Here are a few of his quotes that caught my eye:

Jones: “In order for us to make those (games against Florida and Alabama) rivalry games, we have to get back to being relevant and winning those football games.”

My take: It’s going to take time to build up the necessary talent and depth to beat the Gators and Crimson Tide again. That will require patience from the fans and administration.

Jones: “Recruiting advantages come with winning.”

My take: Recruiting advantages also come when a team is lacking in talent and depth, and there is an early opportunity to play.

Jones: “Winning championships is a by-product of playing great defense.”

My take: We didn’t have a chance, with the defense we had last season. Will it be better this year? It better be.

Jones: “I don’t believe in the term rebuilding. We’re building our team brick by brick, and each brick is important.”

My take: There’s nothing wrong with the term rebuilding. It is what it is. Maybe, someday again, the Vols can call it reloading, like Alabama’s doing now.

Jones: “Before we could ever think of being a championship football team, our team had to be comprised of individual champions.”

My take: The Vols have made great strides in the community, in the classroom and in their off-season conditioning workouts.

Jones: “It’s not where you start, but where you finish.”

My take: The media picked Tennessee to finish fifth in the SEC East, behind Georgia, South Carolina, Florida and Vanderbilt. Tiny and the Vols might have something to say, I mean do, about that.

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