KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — After three consecutive losses and then Jalen Hurd’s sudden exit from the program, Tennessee’s season has spiraled downwardly. Fast.
Once a storybook 5-0 start, a trip to Atlanta for the SEC Championship is no longer assured even if the Volunteers win out down the stretch.
But as Team120 looks to get back on track against Tennessee Tech on Saturday, the Volunteers remain adamant their confidence hasn’t been shaken following an ugly October.
“We beat Florida and Georgia back-to-back, so I don’t see any reason for us not to be confident,” junior left tackle Brett Kendrick said.
“We had a tough loss to South Carolina this past week, but we’re over it. We’ve got a mature football team. We’re going to come back. We’re going to bounce back good.”
Tennessee’s players, as well as head coach Butch Jones, have cited a Sunday meeting that allowed to team to “clear the air” and “settle everything.”
While a player-led meeting certainly won’t solve Tennessee’s sloppiness, turnover woes or general inconsistencies on both sides of the football, it could serve as a positive influence on a team desperate for an identity.
“When you lose a few games, everyone wants to point fingers and think the sky is falling,” Jones said.
“I do think our football team is close, but I think there’s a separation. There has to be a separation between friendship and leadership. There’s a big difference there in holding each other accountable.
“Our players left that meeting feeling very, very good. I think it’s healthy. It’s like a family coming together and sitting down for dinner.”
After hashing everything out, the Volunteers, now 5-3, will find out a lot about themselves over the final month of the season.
October was a chaotic month, as Tennessee lost games, teammates to injuries, guys to transfers and even a senior leader to an out-of-nowhere dismissal.
No longer ranked or atop the division standings, the Volunteers hope to salvage their season by winning out and seeing what happens when everything shakes out.
“We know what we’re capable of,” junior safety Todd Kelly Jr. said.
“We know what Tennessee football is about. When we played in those games, we didn’t play Tennessee football.”