Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
WVLT is thankful to be the official station of the Vols, and I've loved working here this season.
Looking back on this last year, Tennessee fans have had a lot to think about -- and a lot to be thankful for, too.
Here are my Top 5 things Vol fans can be thankful for in 2018.
5) A Great Fall
Superb athletes, good coaching and a lot of hard work have given us the most entertaining slate of fall Olympic sports we've seen in several years.
It's been awesome seeing fall sports get noticed across the nation - in particular, the nationally ranked Lady Vols soccer team. Tennessee has made it to the Elite Eight in the NCAA tournament for the first time in program history. This season has been the peak of coach Brian Pensky's time at Tennessee. There's such a great core there with Bunny Shaw, Danielle Marcano, and the rest of that team of unselfish leaders.
A low-profile hire by Phillip Fulmer - new volleyball coach eve rackham - got the tennessee team back to respectability, in the top 25 nationally entering this week.
Call it the #FulmerEffect if you like (more on that in a bit). Morale is up. Tennessee is at its best when all its sports compete at a high level and are in the mix for championships. Fall 2018 has been great.
4) A Vocal Fan Base
Remember the non-hire of Greg Schiano?
You cannot deny the passion of this fan base. It came to the forefront last November.
Vol fans made national headlines - and got a lot of grief from national writers - for expressing their frustration on Twitter and protesting then-athletic director John Currie's decision for the next head football coach.
Empowered: The Fan ReVOLution That Changed College Football— Celina Summers (@CelinaSummers) November 21, 2018
by Tom Mattingly and Celina Summers
Now the # 1 Amazon Bestseller in Football *AND* History of Sportshttps://t.co/KGeZyMvrtK#Empowered #CollegeFootball #UniversityofTennessee pic.twitter.com/w4zOmsZ9Oo
They're writing books about it now! Mark Nagi and Celina Summers are just the first two to tackle the subject. They've taken on that backlash and kind of redeemed and justified the fan base's action.
Nothing personal against Schiano, who's currently serving as Ohio State's defensive coordinator (albeit with mixed results this season).
But so far, the protests and passion of the fans have worked out for the best. The fans knew what was right.
Hey y’all... let’s do another live twitter periscope tonight at 930pm. Will talk about the week leading up to Schiano Sunday. Plus Jauan’s Instagram post, the Vandy loss, Currie at the beach with Vols hoops, etc... tune in! https://t.co/RJkwirPZyj— Mark Nagi (@MarkNagi) November 21, 2018
3) The Foundation for Sustained Success in Football
This time last year, we didn't have a head football coach at Tennessee. UT was at the lowest of the lows, coming off a 4-8 season -- the worst in program history -- and winless in conference play.
Today, you can be thankful for a guy who's a defensive-minded coach, who knows the SEC, who's recruiting high-profile guys to create a big, fast and physical team.
Jeremy Pruitt's teams have played hard, and have turned in some of the best wins in recent memory (Auburn and Kentucky come to mind).
Who knows when Tennessee will win its next division title? Who knows how the team will fare against the rest of the SEC in 2019? Will current fan favorites like Jarrett Guarantano, Marquez Callaway and Jauan Jennings be here when the Vols finally make it to Atlanta for a conference title game?
I don't know. Maybe.
But if you want a glimpse of the future, look at the Vols' two freshmen cornerbacks already making an impact. Alontae Taylor and Bryce Thompson are two core pieces that play the right way. Looking at 2019, you'd hope to see pieces like linebacker JJ Peterson, defensive lineman Greg Emerson, and incoming freshmen like Wanya Morris and Jackson Lampley become immediate impact players a part of this foundation.
2) A Top 5 Basketball Team
This is what Tennessee has been building toward ever since Rick Barnes got on campus.
We got just a taste of what the men's basketball team could achieve when they won a share of the SEC regular season title a year ago. The Vols had a deep run in the conference tournament in St. Louis, and unfortunately saw their NCAA dreams dashed in the Round of 32 in Dallas.
The 2018-2019 Tennessee basketball team is loaded with talent. They're also very likable and easy to root for.
What makes watching this team extra sweet is, while you want to see the Vols make it to the Final Four this year and win it for the seniors like Kyle Alexander and Admiral Schofield ... I truly believe this doesn't have to be the year. There's plenty of talent waiting in the wings.
Rick Barnes just signed a five-star point guard in next year's recruiting class in Josiah James. DJ Burns and Yves Pons were highly-touted recruits who still have their best years ahead of them.
The Vols have a championship-caliber team. They should continue to have that beyond 2019.
1) Phillip Fulmer
I'm sure about 99 percent of Vol fans agree, this was right move for the future of Tennessee Athletics.
Bringing the championship coach to lead UT athletics into the future just makes sense.
Phillip Fulmer cares deeply about all things Tennessee. Having witnessed his reactions up close for the upset wins over Auburn and Kentucky, I believe he was the happiest guy on the field. And when he's happy, everyone's happy.
He'll no doubt give Jeremy Pruitt and the football program everything they need. He's got two solid basketball coaches in charge of their respective programs. And like I wrote above, all the Olympic sports have competed very well this fall.
Even if Coach Fulmer is running the show for only four or five years, he can still make an impact that lasts deep into the future. Fulmer has created a sense of stability, a feeling that things are looking up, and that sense of togetherness -- remember, he says "warmth" is one of the core values his administration holds dear at UT.
The #FulmerEffect is real.
So that's my list. Feel free to shout me out on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook and let me know what you're thankful for, or if i missed anything.