By Steve Williams
It seems like Butch Jones’ brick-by-brick rebuilding project is moving at an inch-by-inch pace by the look of the 2014 season forecast and preseason all-conference selections at SEC Media Days last week.
Tennessee was picked by the media to finish fifth in the Eastern Division and only two Vols – A.J. Johnson and Marquez North – were named to the All-SEC team, which included first, second and third-team units. Johnson, a senior linebacker, made the first team. North, sophomore wide receiver, got a spot on the third team.
UT fans, however, shouldn’t be discouraged. The SEC media has built quite a reputation over the years of being wrong.
Real results will be produced on the field. That’s why the ole ball coach last week called this “the talking season.” The college football season is still six weeks away.
A young but talented Tennessee team has a chance to make the SEC media look really bad.
WEARING THIN: Over the past five years, Tennessee football fans have heard the word “patience” many times, and a local radio sports talk show host recently said “patience will be the theme word of the upcoming season.”
Frankly, I’m over being patient. I’ve gotten to the point, in the case of UT football, where I dislike the word. It has a defeatist connotation, if you ask me.
As I wrote last week, Mike Hamilton and those who persuaded the former athletic director to call for Phillip Fulmer’s resignation during the 2008 season deserve the blame for starting the downfall of Tennessee football.
I still wonder why Hamilton received a parting gift when he resigned under pressure in June of 2011. Hamilton should not have received a “buyout,” but UT-Knoxville Chancellor Jimmy Cheek gave him over $1.3 million in severance.
I’m also surprised Cheek is still employed by UT. After all, didn’t Cheek rubber stamp every controversial decision Hamilton made from February of 2009 on, including the hiring of Derek Dooley and the on-and-off support of Bruce Pearl?
BIG ADDITION: Kahlil McKenzie’s recent commitment to play for Tennessee starting in 2015 could very well be Coach Jones’ top recruiting prize yet.
McKenzie is a 6-4, 341-pound 5-star defensive tackle with Knoxville ties. His dad, Reggie, and uncle, Raleigh, were standouts at Austin-East, UT and in the NFL.
Kahlil, who had offers from Alabama and Arizona among others, will play his senior season this fall at Clayton Valley High in Concord, Calif., and could very well end up being the nation’s best DT. Word has it he’s a good guy with a “mean streak” when it comes to football. A perfect combination.
HELP WANTED: New UT basketball coach Donnie Tyndall lost a key commitment last week when Eric McKnight’s graduate transfer wavier was denied because of SEC by-laws. McKnight is a 6-9 forward from Florida Gulf Coast University and was expected to give the Vols much needed inside help this coming season.
I’m wondering if there might be a big, tall guy with basketball skills on the Tennessee football team who Butch could loan to Tyndall next basketball season? Surely there is. Come on Butch, let’s turn this lemon into lemonade.
GOOD HIRE: It’s good to see Jeff Jarnigan, a Fulton High product, named as the new public address announcer for Neyland Stadium and Tennessee football. Jeff has the voice, experience, sports knowledge and most of all the love and passion for UT athletics to do a splendid job following in the footsteps of the late, great Bobby Denton.