For nearly any generation of Tennessee fans, the program’s current malaise is difficult to fathom.
Teams from previous eras set their sites on Southeastern Conference titles. This season, players talk about reaching the postseason for the first time since 2010.
“Our goal is to get to a bowl game,” said offensive lineman Mack Crowder. “I believe that’s where we need to be.”
The Vols haven’t posted a winning SEC record since 2007. A year later, Coach Phil Fulmer, who won the first BCS National Championship in 1998, was fired and the program is on its third head coach, Butch Jones, since then.
This probably isn’t the year Tennessee gets over the hump. The Vols lost their entire starting offensive and defensive lines.
“We’re not at the norm in terms of having to replace a third of our team,” coach Butch Jones said. “We’re having to replace almost half of our team.”
A place to start might be the Vanderbilt game. Tennessee is 71-11-2 in the series since 1928 but has dropped two straight to the Commodores for the first time since 1925-26.