TNJN writers Gray LaRose and Isaac Carver debate whether or not this season’s Orange and White Game holds any significance.
LaRose: I’m going to take a positive outlook on this one and say yes this year’s Spring Game actually matters, and for several reasons. This upcoming season is vital for Butch Jones after last season’s collapse. All throughout spring ball, this weekend’s O&W game has been circled on the staff’s bulletin boards. An opportunity for the new staff members to show off what positive change they can bring to the table. A solid spring game can bring a new energy and hype to Team 121 and hopefully reconnect with those fans who decided to abandon the “Butch Jones bandwagon” this offseason. There are also some key position battles unfolding this spring. Personally, I am going crazy in anticipation of the QB battle between redshirt freshman Jarrett Guarantano and junior Quinten Dormandy. With a solid performance this weekend in front of what the Vols hope to be 65,000 fans, one of the talented quarterbacks could emerge as the front-runner entering next season.
Carver: I will take the negative outlook and say that this year’s Spring Game is just like any other year. Does the team need to come together as a more well rounded unit and improve drastically on both sides of the ball? Yes, the team could use an entire makeover for the upcoming season, but that’s the same story every year. The Vols lost their starting quarterback and the job is open, but that happens to every program every three or four years. This game is nothing special and should not receive as much hype as it has been given. The Vols need to go out on Saturday and play a solid game to help shake off the rust from last season. This will be a great preview of how well the new coaching staff members have structured their specific positions. This game can be a great start to get the fan base ready for next season but don’t read too much into the hype.
LaRose: I agree that every college football team loses a starting quarterback every three or four years, but the Vols lost more than just an arm. Josh Dobbs was a leader on and off the field for Team 120. If Tennessee wants to compete in the East they need one of the quarterbacks to fill that leadership void. The O&W game is a perfect opportunity for either Guarantano or Dormandy to step up and take the reins of this offense. Stability under center leads to stability in the offense, something the Vols desperately need rolling into fall practice. The spring game has always been more about fan experience then about the players this year is different though. With the unorthodox amount of injuries last year, the Vols need to not only play and play well, but also show that they have shaken off the injury bug. Yes, in previous years, I would have completely agreed that spring games doesn’t matter. However, between Tennessee’s disappointing performance last year and the new administration, the Vols at a vital turning point. A solid spring game can propel both the student athletes and fans into a successful 2017 season.
Carver: Yes, Josh Dobbs was an amazing athlete and outstanding leader, but I think that Guarantano or Dormandy could do just as well a job. The pure athleticism of Guarantano or the presence of a pocket passer such as Dormandy would strengthen the team in different ways. This Spring Game will reveal the starter, but it shouldn’t be as big a deal. A decision will be made and the team will be structured around that specific player’s strengths. That is the norm in college football for most teams after losing an all star such as Dobbs. As for the rest of the team, skills positions need to be a focus especially on the defensive side of the ball. Other than some tweaks here and there the game should be just as amazing as Tennessee football should always be. Fans should not come to the game just to watch a struggle to find a quarterback, but to enjoy the game and preview the team as a whole.
Edited by David Bradford
Featured image by Ben Proffitt