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The Tennessee Vols Are Looking to Climb Past 7-6 in Year Two

NCAA Football: Tennessee and QB Recruit Nico Iamaleava

The first year of Tennessee Football during the Josh Heupel era was a success.

That’s fairly easy to say, right?

The Vols launched past their 2020 win percentage of just 30 percent, beat No. 18 Kentucky on the road, and found a bowl appearance in Nashville. While all of those things were legitimate successes in the first year of rebuilding Tennessee, the Vols aren’t comparing success to the standard of a first-year program anymore. Instead, the Vols are raising their expectations and goals to meet the standard of the historic Tennessee football program.

Tennessee defensive line coach Rodney Garner spoke about the Vols’ mindset heading into year two on Monday in Knoxville.

“I think maybe we exceeded some expectations last year, but it’s still not the expectations that we want, that we came to the University of Tennessee for,” Garner said. “So we’ve got to raise the bar. And we’ve got to continue to raise the bar. I don’t think any of those young men when they signed to come to Tennessee, signed to say they want to come be a part of a 7-6 program. They said they want to come and compete for championships – SEC Championships, National Championships. I know that’s what I want. I know that’s what Tennessee wants. I know that’s what the expectation is.”

See Also from RTI: Elijah Simmons’ Offseason Preparation Will Be Key for Tennessee’s Defense

The offseason is all about steady improvement, and that’s where the Tennessee football team is. It’s easy to get lost in the football mindset during spring camp and forget that it’s only March, but in reality, there is still a lot of ways to go until the season this fall. As the Vols hit the field, it’s not about putting in a specific defense for a specific formation or making sure the two-minute drill is humming before the scrimmage on Saturday.

Instead, the players and coaches are using this opportunity to prepare and become familiar with one another.

“All of the guys are working hard but we have to grow,” Garner said about the Vols so far through a week of spring camp. “We have to get better and that’s what’s expected. Time waits for no one. So we have to go out there every day. And our goal, when we hit that field, is we want to be better today than we were yesterday. We’ve got to go ahead and look at the film and see if we met that standard today. Or did we not? I do know this – we’re too thin and we’re not talented enough not to get better every day. Because our opponents are getting better. We’re not going to stay the same, so we have to get better. And we have to strain. We’ve got to get comfortable being uncomfortable so we can be comfortable later. That’s the standard. That’s the expectation.”

The first on-field scrimmage of the Tennessee football spring camp will be this Saturday morning.

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