Vols must lower goals, raise effort

The national title is gone. The SEC title is gone. A national ranking and New Year's bowl game may be gone, as well. So, what do the Tennessee Vols play for now?

Obviously, the Big Orange must adjust its hopes, refocus its goals and try to remain enthusiastic. The prospect of a Peach Bowl bid isn't exactly inspiring, but UT players can't afford to lower their efforts, as well as their expectations.

''If any team goes through this, there's going to be a problem trying to get guys to refocus ... focus on the task at hand,'' Vol defensive end Karlton Neal said. ''The biggest thing is, the guys that tend to stay away, we've got to pull 'em back together, bring them back into the bunch. We're all in this together.''

Although Tennessee's lofty preseason goals are no longer attainable, a strong finish to the season can still provide benefits. Finishing 8-4 instead of 6-6 will leave a better taste in the mouths of coaches, players and fans throughout the offseason. It will make winter conditioning workouts a little more palatable. It could help recruiting, and it might provide a little momentum for next year's team.

As Neal noted: ''We all know some unfortunate things happened this year. But we've got to build on winning the rest of the games this year and get some guys in there so we can see what we have for next year. That way, something like this won't happen again.''

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