What kind of decade was it for Tennessee? The total unpredictability of last season is only good enough for eighth on our list of the most important football stories of the last ten years.
The version of 2019 where it doesn’t work out for Jeremy Pruitt and the Vols down the road leaves last season as an interesting anomaly, but beyond that? We talked a lot late in the year about the most impressive piece of history from 2019: the Vols covered the spread six games in a row, from Mississippi State to Missouri, for the first time since 1990. In that run, Tennessee turned 1-4 into 8-5, and earned forgiveness for losing to Georgia State. It’s an impressive feat.
But for 2019 to truly be remembered well, the Vols of the current decade have to do more than make us forget Georgia State. They have to make us remember it.
If Darrell Taylor doesn’t get drafted in the first round after my bedtime, the Vols will continue this trend:
- UT First Round picks who played for Fulmer: 19 in 18 years
- UT First Round picks who played after Fulmer: 3 in 10 years
(If Taylor does get drafted tonight, he’ll at least join a strong group of Cordarrelle Patterson, Ja’Wuan James, and Derek Barnett as post-Fulmer first rounders.)
If no Vols are taken in the second round, you’ll have this:
- UT Second Round picks who played for Fulmer: 17 in 18 years
- UT Second Round picks who played after Fulmer: Justin Hunter
(Alvin Kamara was quite the steal in round three.)
One of the best parts of last season’s finish is the way it came on the shoulders of guys who stayed. Darrell Taylor, Daniel Bituli, Nigel Warrior, and Marquez Callaway all made an enormous difference; they’ll all get a phone call at some point this weekend, be it the draft or free agency. And of course, Jauan Jennings was building on an already memorable legacy.
Tennessee didn’t beat any ranked teams in their late season run. But they also weren’t sending the kind of talent that regularly beats ranked teams to the NFL this season. Before the turnaround, all of us spent time lamenting the fact that, “Just play the young guys!” wasn’t necessarily an option the Vols weren’t already exploring. This team was what it was after losing to Georgia State and BYU. This program was what it was after the last 10+ years.
But they found a way anyway.
I want only good things for those five seniors, this weekend and in the years to come. The truth is, their Tennessee legacy is now out of their hands.
If 2019 stands alone, it’s a really interesting story. But if it becomes the first chapter?
Of the most important stories of the last decade, it’s only number eight for now. But if Pruitt and the Vols get things right to start this decade, 2019 will become one of the best and most important stories of the 2010’s.
More in this series: