Earlier today Joel had an informative post using Phil Steele’s injury data from last year. The fact that Tennessee led the nation in starts lost to injury last season shouldn’t surprise any Vol fans. But seeing the data presented in this format does give some additionally helpful perspective:
- Tennessee lost 52 starts to injury last year. Only the Vols and Syracuse (50) lost more than 44.
- The median starts lost last year was around 20. This means Tennessee was more than two-and-a-half times less fortunate than the average team with injury luck last season.
- The Vols did this while facing what Steele ranked in his magazine as the 17th toughest schedule in the nation. Shout out to Syracuse, who lost 50 starters while facing the 2nd toughest schedule in the nation (Clemson, Florida State, and Louisville are all in the ACC Atlantic, plus they drew (and beat) Virginia Tech from the Coastal).
“Injuries are a part of football,” you’ll say. Of course they are. But this is the most helpful metric I’ve seen to show how abnormal Tennessee’s season was last year. Every team deals with injuries; no one but Syracuse dealt with this level of attrition, then had to play that schedule.
Injuries are not an excuse, but they are reality. The same is already true for the 2017 Vols with potential starter Chance Hall out for the year. The start and the finish last year left little room for grace and understanding, and this too is simple reality. But perhaps, if the 2017 Vols are able to do something this year we can all celebrate, we might be able to look back on 2016 with at least a little more understanding.
With a more manageable rhythm to the schedule, fewer expectations carrying a decade’s worth of weight, and significantly better odds on the injury front, 2017 should have a chance to be a healthier experience in more ways than one.