Rebuilding a fallen football program can be a painfully slow process ... or it can take place in 50 weeks. After all, Bama is the toast of college football less than 12 months after finishing the 2007 regular season 6-6.
I mention this because Tennessee can finish the 2008 regular season 6-6 by winning its three remaining games.
Can the Vols be 9-0 this time next year? You wouldn't bet the house on it, but who would've bet a year ago that Bama would be 9-0 this year?
Alabama's blueprint for going from 6-6 to 9-0 was simple: Sign a bunch of great recruits, coach them up and simplify your scheme enough to accommodate them.
Despite the recent resignation of head coach Phillip Fulmer, Tennessee is on pace to sign a bunch of great recruits. If the 2009 coaching staff can coach them up and find a scheme that will accommodate them ... well, who knows where the Vols could be 50 weeks from now?
Tennessee's 2008 season, like Bama's 2007 season, has been an unqualified disaster. The 3-6 record is lousy. The 1-5 SEC mark is putrid. The offense is stagnant. The forced resignation of a head coach with a 35-year bond to the program is sad. The outlook is bleak. But, trust me, it was every bit as bleak in Tuscaloosa one year ago. At least the Vols haven't lost to Louisiana-Monroe.
Am I suggesting Tennessee will be 9-0 and ranked No. 1 this time next fall? Not at all. What I am suggesting is that Vol fans need to rekindle that unbridled optimism they were known for until the trials of '08 arrived.
Trust me: Expecting a miracle and being wrong is a lot more fun than expecting mediocrity and being right.