KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee football has its collective back to the wall with the Oct. 14 South Carolina game approaching
The Vols (3-2) are coming off a historic loss to No. 5-ranked Georgia, a 41-0 loss that ranks as the worst shutout defeat in Neyland Stadium history.
That makes the game with the Gamecocks as close to a must-win as possible at this point in the season, as the interest of the Tennessee fanbase is at stake — and Coach Butch Jones’ immediate future might also be.
There have already been rumblings that the Vols need to find a new head coach, and some have even suggested an interim head coach if the team does not appear inspired.
Jones has said he’s focused on his players, recruits and programs and has blocked out the external noise, but how the team performs against the Gamecocks will be the first indicator of how effective the staff has been.
Tennessee associate head coach Brady Hoke, whose resume includes coach of the year honors in three different conferences, was asked how the staff has responded.
“I’ve been doing this a long time, and these guys are excellent teammates and staff mates and guys you want to work with,” Hoke said. “The positivity that Larry (Scott) brings, and Bob (Shoop) brings, and think that’s a real plus, I just think it’s a great working relationship in how everyone treats each other.
“We’re competitive as hell, and you look at us in staff rooms and we may not agree on everything, but there’s always one boss and one voice, and the way our guys have responded the coaches have done a real good job.”