Editorial: Vol fans right to feel good about upcoming season

Aug. 15, 2013 @ 11:00 PM

There hasn’t been this much excitement and anticipation heading into a Tennessee football season in many years. A new coach, more emphasis on inclusion instead of exclusion, a new attitude — it all combines to make the 2013 season one filled with hope and expectation.

Those feelings are understandable. Butch Jones has infused the Vols and the Vol Nation with something it hasn’t had for quite some time. He has become more involved on campus. He welcomes rather than shuns the Vol Nation. He opens practices. He speaks everywhere. And he has a talented team.

He also has a demanding schedule. That’s not surprising. Tennessee plays in the nation’s toughest conference, and competes against some of the finest teams in the country. The excitement about the season has to be tempered with a dose of reality. Tennessee may not be as good as it will be, and it may not achieve success in 2013 — at least the kind of success the Vols and their fans once were accustomed to.

Tennessee was where winners were produced, where championships were won, where other SEC teams looked at Tennessee on their schedule as the key game.

That hasn’t been the case lately, and the three years of Derek Dooley were, by almost every measure, a disaster. Things couldn’t sink any lower than they did in 2012. No bowl. Loss to Kentucky. Dissension on the team. Defections. Low spirits.

Wait ’til next year, many said. Yes, this is next year. Hopes are high. The season begins in two weeks. Tennessee should win its first two games but then has to visit Oregon and Florida.

Georgia and South Carolina come to Knoxville, but the Vols must visit Tuscaloosa.

This is a daunting schedule, but Butch Jones has everybody feeling good about the team and the future.

Time for the kickoff. And for renewed optimism.