Randy Smith: Are Vols Really That Soft?

Friday, August 11, 2017 - by Randy Smith
Randy Smith
Randy Smith

According to a report by Mike Griffith on SEC Country this week, an anonymous NFL scout said that Tennessee's upper-classmen, the ones who will be draft eligible next spring, are "soft." That's quite an observation and it's obvious why that particular NFL scout wants to remain anonymous. Calling college football players "soft" is perhaps the worst thing you could say about them. It's hard to believe any Division One player at any school could be "soft" especially the way they train these days. Year around workouts, always under direct supervision by specialized trainers and strength coaches make it virtually impossible to have a player who is not in really good physical condition.

There are other ways to describe soft when you're talking about college football.

Perhaps lack of toughness would be better in describing these players, which include a couple of Tennessee offensive linemen. If the comments from the NFL scout aren't enough to make Vols' fans a bit uneasy as the season is almost here, take a look at the All-SEC pre-season teams. No Tennessee player is listed as a first or second team selection. 

It's hard to believe that the Vols are tabbed to finish third in the SEC East with no real stars. However, there are several players who could develop into top echelon SEC stand outs. One is wide receiver JuJuan Jennings. Running back John Kelly has that potential as does quarterback Quinton Dormady. The Volunteers have recruited very well under Butch Jones and even though they are not represented on the pre-season  all-star teams, they have as much talent as any team in the SEC, not coached by Nick Saban. 

There are so many question marks regarding this Tennessee football team, they may not all be answered between now and the end of the season. Some of the same college football writers who chose to name the pre-season glitter squads without Tennessee representation have also written that unless Coach Jones puts up nine or ten wins, he'll be asked to leave Rocky Top. I have written before, I don't believe that theory for one minute. Overall, the Ternnessee program is in better shape now than it's been in for more than a decade. The only thing missing is an SEC East title. You know, the one they were supposed to win last year and the one they could have won in 2015. Maybe the reason the Vols fell short is they were "soft." Even mentally soft or a mental lack of toughness led to those losses last year to Vandy and South Carolina; losses that cost them that title they were picked to win a year ago. 
 
So, there may be something to this "soft" accusation. It could be more than just out of shape or under achieving players. It could be a culture within the Vols' program. If that is truly the case, Coach Jones could very well be gone at the end of this campaign. I prefer to believe it's a combination of youth, inexperience, multiple injuries and just plain bad luck. Calling some of the players "soft" is a bit of a stretch however. If I were Butch Jones, I would post that article all over Big Orange country. I would use it as motivation to encourage my players to never give any scout or writer any reason to call them soft ever again. I would have that article in the back of my mind each time I hit the practice field or playing field. Being soft should be totally unacceptable for any young man who wears the orange jersey. 

* * *

Randy Smith has been covering sports on radio, television and print for the past 45 years. After leaving WRCB-TV in 2009, he has written two books, and has continued to free-lance as a play-by-play announcer.  His career has included a 17-year stretch as host of the Kickoff Call In Show on the University of Tennessee’s prestigious Vol Network. He has been a member of the Vol Network staff for 30 years. He has done play-by-play on ESPN, ESPN II, CSS, and Fox SportSouth, totaling more than 500 games, and served as a well-known sports anchor on Chattanooga television for more than a quarter-century. In 2003, he became the first television broadcaster to be inducted into the Greater Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame. Randy and his wife Shelia reside in Hixson. They have two married children, Christi and Chris Perry; Davey and Alison Smith. They have five grandchildren, Coleman, Boone, Mattingly, DellaMae, and CoraLee.

He can be reached at rsmithsports@epbfi.com



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