This year it seems that coaches all around the country are placing a bigger emphasis on spring games, especially new coaches that have more on the line with overtaking large SEC programs, such as Kirby Smart at Georgia and Will Muschamp at South Carolina.
This Saturday was busy for SEC fans with seven different schools showcasing their new talent at spring games. Schools such as Alabama and Mississippi State both have questions concerning their quarterbacks, with eight quarterbacks among the two teams competing for the starting job. Luckily for Tennessee fans, they know who their quarterback will be.
Thanks to Butch Jones’ powerful work ethic and charisma, he has landed two top five recruiting classes since his arrival at Knoxville and finished at No. 14 this year in recruiting. Without a doubt, talent for the Volunteers is not a question this year. Early enrollees have an opportunity to showcase their skills and talents early at the spring game.
Spring games are certainly exciting, but do they provide an accurate prediction of how a team will do in the fall?
Looking at it from a fan’s perspective, many flocked to Neyland Stadium on Saturday to watch one of the deepest and most well-rounded teams Tennessee has had in years. Putting the team aside, spring games serve as a morale-boosting event for hopeful fans where they can talk to players and coaches and let their kids immerse themselves at the fan fare. Fans even get to walk around the field and tour some of the world-class training facilities on campus. For the fans, spring games can be a reminder of what you believe in and how much the program means to you.
Even though Tennessee may not have filled its stadium with 93,000 fans like Georgia did, it still had over 67,000 loyal fans show up on Saturday, which also can give the players a bit of a morale boost.
This year’s game was different in comparison to years past, with 22 players out with injuries. Talent did not hide Saturday afternoon, as some of the early enrollees and players that returned from injuries throughout the season last year excelled in their spring performance. Of the players that stood out the most, Jeff George, a four-star junior college transfer, wowed fans. At 6-foot-6, George used his frame to secure jump balls with ease.
The spring game proceeds the short, fifteen-day spring practice period where players are getting back into shape from the off-season and returning to their normal routine. That is why spring games may not be an accurate indicator of how well the team will do in a given year, but they still serve as a test of who can keep their talents and athletic ability tuned and honed in the off-season, where working out and exercise is more voluntary.
Spring games may not tell us everything that will happen in the upcoming season, but they do boost morale among players, fans, and coaches, and that will positively impact the team down the road.
Featured image by Donald Page, courtesy of Tennessee Athletics
Edited by Cody McClure