It’s no secret that this season didn’t end like anyone anticipated. After all, a world-halting global pandemic isn’t exactly the type of scenario that comes around every couple years. Nevertheless, it looks like we’re going to be without sports for the foreseeable future. This season saw the BaseVols start 15-2 with quality wins over #1 Texas Tech, #25 Stanford, and an offense ranked at the top in terms of nearly every statistical category. But, now… nothing.
With SEC play quickly approaching, the season was really about to get fun. In fact, today was supposed to be the beginning of the Vanderbilt series. The Vols and Commodores playing on a Friday night in Knoxville in a battle of what looked to be the league’s top teams. I just became noticeably more depressed typing that sentence… but, it’s not all doom and gloom.
If this abbreviated season taught us one thing, it’s that this program is quickly becoming one of the premier destinations for top talent in the country.
And judging by the last couple recruiting classes headed to Rocky Top, the influx of talent won’t drop off anytime soon. While the Vols did have several senior contributors this season, a lot of the production came from underclassmen. Garrett Crochet will likely be gone (depending on what happens with the MLB draft) but the status of the rest of the upperclassmen remains unknown. The NCAA’s recent ruling to grant another year of eligibility from this lost season will create a difficult decision for many athletes around the country.
While some will want to get back lost time, the lure of professional money/endorsements will win over in multiple cases. For the Vols, I wouldn’t expect to see many departures. Crochet is likely gone, and I don’t blame him, but when looking at the rest of the roster, there aren’t any other sure-fire first rounders this year. Many will wonder about preseason All-American Alerick Soularie, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see him back. After all, he was one of the first players to speak out about lost eligibility:
And, while trying to remain positive, the season wasn’t completely lost. They say experience is the best teacher, and the Vols did gain some valuable knowledge. We saw that this team is feisty, and doesn’t shy away from adversity. Going into Round Rock and beating the #1 team in the country is one thing, but being able to come out the next two days and beat another top-25 team and a solid Houston squad, showed that a winning mentality existed with this group.
By now, we’ve seen that Tony Vitello will settle for nothing less. Maybe the one good thing that comes out of this mess will be that fewer programs try to hire him away. Offers will still roll in, but Vitello won’t walk away now. Not after seeing what this team can be and knowing what this program can become. He’ll want to see it through this year and continue to grow.
As for now, we’ll have to sit here and wonder what could have been for this squad. It was fun being able to cover the team in person for a few games, and I can’t wait to be back. There was a palpable energy in Lindsey-Nelson Stadium this year and it was fun to be apart of.
In the meantime, I’ll be following along to Vol pitcher Sean Hunley’s daily baseball-less tweets:
Stay safe, Vol Nation.
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