By Steve Williams

Surely you know figuring out how Tennessee football will do based on National Signing Day results is about as accurate as Punxsutawney Phil’s forecast on Groundhog Day.

Still, after many Tennessee fans woke up last Thursday morning in Volville, it wasn’t long before they were clicking on sports websites or reading the newspaper sports section or tuning in radio sports talk shows or watching the recruiting wrapup on ESPN to find out the latest direction of their favorite football program.

I’m guilty too and will share with you my findings and hunches a little farther down in this space.

Will Butch Jones’ 2017 team have four more weeks of bad football, like it went through last season in losses to Texas A&M, Alabama, South Carolina and Vanderbilt? Or will happy times come early for the Vols with wins over Georgia Tech, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina and a 6-0 start?

Tennessee recruiting or “crutin’,” as some like to say it, ranked No. 17 on the national level and No. 7 among SEC foes. Both Georgia and Florida moved back ahead of the Vols, and the Bulldogs’ No. 3 national ranking really hurts as far as UT’s future SEC Eastern Division title hopes are concerned.

The Eric Ainge Show asked its listeners to tweet in a grade for UT’s 2017 signing class. Out of 988 voters, 3 percent gave Coach Jones’ recruiting report an A, 44 percent a B, 46 percent a C and 7 percent a D/F.

Based strictly on the numbers, it looks like Jones’ rebuilding plan at Tennessee has slipped a little. But don’t throw in the towel yet.

These rankings can be severely affected by many other factors … like how the ball bounces, fumbles and interceptions, injuries and suspensions, wise coaching moves and wimpy coaching decisions, player development and player attitudes and more.

After looking over the thumbnail sketches of the new Vols and hearing this class may have a “blue collar mentality” instead of a galaxy of star status, I have a good feeling about it. Now, if we could just get a couple more offensive linemen like Trey Smith, 6-6, 315 and rated the nation’s No. 1 prospect by some sites …

I’m going to keep my cup half full for now, even if Butch did see his shadow last Thursday, just like Punxsutawney Phil did.


POOR PEARL: One thought that kept running through my mind as I watched Tennessee pull away from Auburn on the road last week was how awful this Bruce Pearl-coached team looked. For much of the game, the Tigers just threw up 3-point shots and repeatedly got outhustled for rebounds. It looked like a very poorly coached team or his players aren’t listening.

When Bruce first got the Auburn job, I really thought he might do well with the Tigers. I feared he might elevate them to great heights like he once did with the Vols.

I would really hate it if Tennessee had a team like Pearl has now.

Meanwhile, the Lady Vols really had a good week with its road win at South Carolina and the home victory over LSU. Tennessee deserves to be back in the Top 25 again.


TOURNEY TIME: Have you ever been to the Knox County Middle School Basketball League’s annual post-season tournament? You can’t beat it for the energy, excitement and tourney atmosphere.

Four semifinal games – girls and boys — will be played Tuesday, Feb. 7, at Karns Middle School and the consolation and championship games are Thursday night. Games times each day are 4:30, 5:45, 7:00 and 8:15. Come and watch them cut down the nets!