Before the season, it was clear what recruits wanted to see from the Vols in order to raise their interest in the program – wins. Modern facilities, sleek uniforms, and popularity among the fan base are all great factors that help draw in recruits, no doubt. But winning is above all else. And if you’re not winning, you better be showing clear signs of improvement. For the first quarter of the season, neither of those were the case.
As Vol fans, we could see improvement on the team. Our offensive line has been a clear upgrade from last year, we have several studs at receiver, and many of the newcomers are standing out. But many of the high-profile recruits that we need to get look at wins on the schedule. And if they don’t see wins, they need to feel like it’s a situation where they can come in and create wins. Therefore, this past Saturday was big for several reasons:
First: It was obvious we were not going to win this game. Georgia should be in the CFP this year, and I think could beat Bama for the SEC Championship. Many of us were only looking for one thing in this game. The feeling of hope among the players that they could win. That all started with Brian Maurer. We had all heard about how much emotion and energy this guy had, but could he carry it into a start against the #3 team in the country? And if you’re like me, I think he showed that he could, and could do it on a consistent basis. The offense moved like it hasn’t since probably the Auburn game last year. All due to a freshman QB that showed he wasn’t afraid to step up into the pocket and fire some darts.
Second: Maurer’s play at QB showed the improvement throughout the other units of the team. The O-line gave him good pockets to throw from, the RB’s busted some big, tough runs with the opened up running lanes, and the receivers were given chances to win routes and show their talent. Before Maurer took over Saturday, we hadn’t been given many chances to really see this improvement. Sure, Georgia made adjustments at halftime and stifled the freshman for most of the second half. But the Vols made Georgia sweat for a half. And at this point, with the way this season has gone so far, that felt like a big victory.
Third: The Vols showed direction. They looked like they had a gameplay, and were able to execute it for a while. Losing is one thing – you’re never happy with losing. But losing while the team collectively looks lost and uninspired? That is UNACCEPTABLE. With Brian Maurer at the helm, the team looked like they had a spark that we haven’t seen so far this season. The offense, and defense, as a result of offensive advancements, played with fire Saturday. The crowd was jumping for the first time this season. You could sense optimism and hope. Hope can be a heckuva drug, and can lead a program to fast-tracked progress quicker than a jackrabbit on cocaine.
So after the game, it was nice to see some of our commits take notice of the new direction and offer support. Take this tweet from current commit Cooper Mays for example:
That attitude/belief is one that I hope resonates throughout our current class and with players that we’re targeting. It’s obvious that there’s opportunity to come in and help right away. You just have to hope and believe in this staff to bring in future classes that all have this same mindset. And with their track record, and the group of freshman we have right now, I like our chances.
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