Typically, the only coach on Tennessee’s staff that talks to the media is head coach Jeremy Pruitt. He believes in a “one voice” policy for he and his staff, and he usually handles all the media opportunities. But co-defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Chris Rumph made an appearance at Knoxville’s Quarterback Club, and he answered several questions about the team.
According to quotes gathered from long-time reporter Jimmy Hyams, Rumph asked for patience from Vol fans with this season and the near future. He says he understands the difficulty, but he assured fans that things will improve.
“It’s coming. I don’t know when … I know it’s been hard. It’s been a long time. It’s been tough,” Rumph said, “but I promise you before long we will put a product on the field you’ll be proud of.”
The Vols turned the ball over six times and suffered a 47-21 loss to Florida on Saturday, marking the second consecutive loss to the Gators and the 13th time UT has lost to Florida in their last 14 meetings. The 26-point loss was the biggest margin of defeat the Vols had suffered at the hands of the Gators since a 59-20 loss in 2007.
For Tennessee, things are likely only about to get worse, however.
The Vols have to travel to No. 2 Georgia this upcoming weekend, face No. 10 Auburn on the road after a bye week, host No. 1 Alabama, then go on the road again to take on South Carolina to end the month of October.
Things may not truly improve for Tennessee this season, but Rumph has hope that the future is brighter in Knoxville. And one way he and the rest of Tennessee’s coaches intend to make sure that happens is through recruiting.
“It ain’t about the Xs and Os, it’s about the Jimmys and Joes,” Rumph stated, repeating a phrase that current Tennessee AD and former head coach Phillip Fulmer made famous. “We’ve got to get some more players in here.”
Rumph would go on to add that he believes Tennessee’s starters are “pretty good” but says there’s a sizable gap between the first and second team on the depth chart.
Though Rumph isn’t painting a pretty picture for the Vols’ current status, he doesn’t want fans to give up on him, Jeremy Pruitt, or the team. He hopes fans will continue to support the team and buy in for the future.
“We’re not going to quit, so don’t quit on these guys, don’t quit on the staff, don’t quit on this town, don’t quit on this university,” Rumph added. “We need you.”
Florida fans returned thousands of their allotted tickets for Saturday’s match-up, but Vol fans still showed out for the game. Neyland Stadium wasn’t quite to capacity, but the majority of the over 100,000 fans in attendance were clad in orange or white.
The big test of fan loyalty will come in four weeks when Tennessee has their next home game. No. 1 Alabama will come to town on October 20th. Rumph and the rest of UT’s staff will see how much fans have given up on this year by how many still show up for that game after Saturday’s blowout loss and Tennessee’s games against Georgia and Auburn.
It’s clear that this year won’t be one to remember for Vol fans. But Rumph is positive that things will turn around in Knoxville, and it’s only a matter of time.