What Santa Brought Tennessee for Christmas

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    (Photo via @Santa_Vol on Twitter)

    It’s Christmas time, so you know what that means! Time for gifts in stockings and under the tree!

    Santa stopped by Rocky Top on his way around the world this year, and he dropped off a few goodies to Tennessee’s football, men’s basketball, and women’s basketball programs along with a couple gifts to Vol fans as well.

    What did Santa leave at Christmas this year? We take a peek inside Tennessee’s big orange stocking to see what the Vols (and Vol fans) got for the holidays this year.

    A Weebles Toy

    This one may be unfamiliar to some younger Vol fans, but if you’ve heard the phrase “Weebles wobble, but they don’t fall down,” then you’re on the right track.

    Tennessee’s 2019 football season was on the verge of crashing and burning after an 0-2 start and a 1-4 record through the first five games of the season. But just like a good Weebles toy, the Vols wobbled but never got knocked completely down, bouncing back up to win six of their last seven games, including five-straight wins to end the regular season.

    Plane Tickets to Jacksonville

    Because of that turnaround, Tennessee was able to get back to a bowl game for the first time since 2016. And the destination is in the sunny state of Florida.

    Santa has included plane tickets for Jacksonville, the site of the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl. The Vols will be taking on Indiana in this edition of the TaxSlayer Bowl, marking the second time in the last five years that UT has played down in Jacksonville for the postseason. The last time, Tennessee blew out Iowa 45-28 to finish the season 7-6.

    Vol fans hope Santa’s tickets come with another resounding bowl victory just like the last time they made the trip down to Jacksonville.

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    A Slice of “Patience Pie”

    In men’s basketball, the 2019-20 season hasn’t gotten off to the start Vol fans were hoping for. Tennessee certainly hasn’t looked bad, but with some disappointing offense, the denial of Uros Plavsic’s immediate eligibility waiver, and the sudden loss of Lamonte Turner for the season, the immediate future doesn’t look all that bright for this season.

    For this year, Santa has given Vol fans a nice, hearty slice of “patience pie.” The Vols are still good enough as a team to flirt with making it to the NCAA Tournament, but this season was already a transition year and has become even more of one with the loss of Turner.

    This season certainly isn’t in the can just yet, but some patience will be needed to get through some parts of it, to be sure.

    5-Star Tree Topper

    That patience will hopefully pay off for next season, though, as the Vols are welcoming in two five-star guards and a four-star small forward as part of their 2020 recruiting class.

    Five-stars Jaden Springer and Keon Johnson headline Tennessee’s highest-rated recruiting class in men’s basketball history. Those two, along with four-star small forward Corey Walker and four-star point guard Santiago Vescovi, have UT in the top five in the country in the 2020 recruiting rankings.

    Add those two five-stars in with the young talent currently on this year’s roster, and the future beyond this current season seems plenty bright for UT’s men’s hoops.

    Energy Shot

    Vol fans had lost a lot of interest in the Lady Vols basketball program over the last few years because of the depths they had sunk to under then-head coach Holly Warlick. But Santa has brought the Lady Vol basketball team a jolt of energy in the form of new leadership.

    New head coach Kellie Harper has brought a renewed sense of optimism and hope to Tennessee’s women’s basketball program. The Lady Vols are back in the AP Poll Top 25, and they’re playing with much more poise and purpose this season than they have the last few years.

    The Lady Vols still aren’t where they need to be as a program, but they have an injection of energy that’s been missing from the team for years.

    A Big Orange

    Lastly, what would a Volunteer Christmas be without a big ol’ orange?

    It’s an old Christmas tradition for some to include an orange in a stocking, and that’s just what Santa has left Vol fans all across Vol Nation. Big Orange country deserves a big orange, and there’s no better way for Santa to finish off his gift-giving to Vol fans.

    Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from all of us here at RTI! From our family to yours, we hope you have a wonderful holiday season!

    Nathanael Rutherford
    Nathanael Rutherford is the managing editor and social media manager for Rocky Top Insider. Nathanael graduated from the University of Tennessee and cultivated a passion for the Vols while growing up in Knoxville a mere 10 minutes from Neyland Stadium. He's been a part of the RTI team since November of 2015 and has been the editor of RTI since June of 2017. If he's not talking or writing about Tennessee athletics, he's probably talking about Star Wars.