The SEC Nation bus took a detour to Knoxville Friday from its originally scheduled location in Columbia, S.C., for the LSU-South Carolina matchup. Due to the recent flooding that has devastated the region, SEC Nation flipped the script and headed to Knoxville for Georgia-Tennessee Saturday (3:30 ET, CBS).
The Vols (2-3, 0-2) are looking for their first SEC win of the season against Eastern Division rival Georgia after being the only team in the NCAA to blow three double-digit leads. Naturally, Tennessee's current inability to finish games was a big topic of conversation amongst the SEC Nation crew.
“From my observation, it’s been a mentality that we’re controlling the game. Let’s try and win the game by not making mistakes,” former LSU defensive end and current SEC Network analyst Marcus Spears said. “Let’s try to let the time run out. In this league, you just have to keep your foot on the gas. From a coaching standpoint, I think it’s been a not-to-lose mentality … and then some is playmaking.”
Spears, who won a national championship with the Tigers in 2004, admits he questioned some of Butch Jones’ decision-making down the stretch this season but believes he’s the right man for the job at Tennessee.
“He’s managed the disappointment well, in my opinion,” Spears said. “It has been some questionable coaching from what I’ve looked at. I’m a big guy in hearing a coach say we’re going to improve, we’re going to get better, because usually that means you’re losing and that’s not where they want to be.”
His counterpart, former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, agreed. Tebow, whom Vols fans know well form his illustrious career with the Gators from 2006-09, believes Tennessee is playing with a fear of losing instead of hunger for winning.
“A lot of it’s do to the mindset,” Tebow said. “The mindset of ‘We’re going to win this game. We’re going to find a way to win this game,’ rather than, ‘We hope we can win this game. We’re going to hang on.’”
Known for a tearful speech he gave in a post-game interview that helped galvanize his team to win a national championship after losing to Ole Miss in 2008, Tebow discussed what it takes to spur a change in mentality inside the locker room after such heartbreak.
“It’s tough. You need leadership to say the past is behind us and we’ve got to move on and we can’t let yesterday affect today,” Tebow told InsideTennessee. “We have to just improve. If you look at Tennessee’s season so far, on one hand you can look at it and say there’s a lot of things to look at and be proud of, but then there’s a lot of heartache.”
Both Spears and Tebow believe the Vols should be 5-0 right now heading into Saturday’s matchup with Georgia, but both said Butch Jones has the program headed in the right direction and that Tennessee just needs to learn how to seal the deal in critical moments late in the game.
“They lost three games by a total of 11 points,” Spears said. “For everybody out there saying Tennessee’s not a good football team, Butch Jones and this coaching staff needs to be a total overhaul, it’s a good football team playing good football and just not finishing the right way. That’s something that you have to get fixed.”
SEC Nation will broadcast live from behind Aryes Hall on "The Hill" starting at 10 a.m. ET.