The latest ticket to the Tennessee hype train appears to have been bought by longtime ESPN college football writer Ivan Maisel. During Tuesday’s Championship Drive Podcast, Maisel made an interesting comparison between the two orange and white schools when discussing the favorites to win the SEC this season.
While Alabama and LSU are typically the two schools mentioned the most as the projected champions of the league, Maisel first pointed toward Knoxville, picking the Vols as potentially becoming the first East team to win the league title since 2008.
“It’s not just the orange that makes me think of Clemson when I look at Tennessee but it’s the hunger to be right on the cusp of breaking through,” Maisel said on the ESPN podcast. “I think all four of those losses in that 9-4 season a year ago, Tennessee had the lead in the fourth quarter in all four of those games.”
Maisel then asked his ESPN colleague and Tennessee alum Chris Low to give his thoughts on Tennessee’s chances. Low pointed out the talent acquired by head coach Butch Jones and his assistants put the Vols in position to succeed but the key to a breakout season comes from an offseason coaching hire.
“One of the big differences in this team from last year, and I give Butch Jones all the credit in the world for going out and doing this, he went out and didn’t sit pat and shook up the staff,” Low said. “He brought in Bob Shoop to run his defense… Who to me is one of the four or five best defensive coordinators in college football. The way he makes adjustments in game, the way he uses his personnel, the way he comes at you from all sort of different angles… I think Bob is a big reason they’ll be able to (close out games) this year.”
Had Tennessee shown the ability to close out games last season, the Vols would have coasted to Atlanta and potentially earned a spot in the college football playoff by beating Alabama, or Ole Miss in Atlanta, had the Vols held on and beat the Tide after leading late in the fourth quarter in Tuscaloosa last season.
According to Maisel and Low, Tennessee enters the season primed to avoid last season’s mistakes, thanks to an offseason of motivation and a key coaching addition, and finally complete the mission started by Jones when he was hired four seasons ago in Knoxville.
Source: Saturday Down South