Fall Report: Tennessee

Fall Report

EMERSON, Ga. — Tony Vitello knew when he took over as head coach at Tennessee in the summer of 2017 that the Volunteers wouldn’t be Omaha contenders overnight. It was going to take some time to make headway in the rough-and-tumble SEC, and the Vols took their lumps in Vitello’s first season, finishing 12-18 in conference and missing the SEC tournament.

But he also knew that he had inherited some nice building blocks, which Vitello and his energetic young coaching staff augmented by bringing in a large, exciting recruiting class this fall. In Sunday’s 10-1 win against Georgia State in an exhibition at the LakePoint complex, the UT newcomers showed why Vitello is optimistic about the future, and the returnees showed why the Vols might be able to make some noise in the short term, as well.

“It’s a lot of the same guys — the bulk of these guys are returners who didn’t make the conference tournament last year,” Vitello said. “We’re hoping to see those rewards (of experience and development), but I think kind of what you’re seeing in the freshmen is what we want: some stability.

“I’m always paranoid about year three and year four, but now in year two I know we’re better all the way around. This time last year we didn’t even have a strength coach hired … We had an umpire out yesterday who said, ‘Man, you guys look more like an SEC team physically.’ It’s more fun to come to practice, it’s more competitive, but how many more wins does that mean? You just don’t know. I just think at the end of the day, like it or not, you’re judged on wins, and I don’t know if there’s more wins there with this group or not. There should be, but we’ll see.”

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