all VOL, y'all.

Orange and White Game Provides Showcase Opportunity

Photo: Amy Smotherman Burgess/ News Sentinel

Photo: Amy Smotherman Burgess/ News Sentinel

Tenneesee finds itself in a place it’s not been in quite some time: On the right side of momentum. Yes, Uncle Mo’s apparently missed the Sunsphere or something because it seems he’s decided to pull out some orange from his closet.

Sunday night, Tennessee landed its 9th recruit of the 2014 “legacy class” when 3-star receiver Lawrence Lee committed to spend his career on Rocky Top. Early signs point to the junior being a shifty player with speed in the open field. He is a dual threat that recorded over 300 rushing yards with four rushing touchdowns while also scoring on a kick return.

It’s still early, but with this latest commitment, the Vols’ 2014 class currently finds itself inside the nation’s top 5 with a gigantic weekend coming up.

The Orange and White Game

Because the Orange and White game is finally upon us. It starts at 2:00 this Saturday, April 20th, and there will be a group of talented and impressionable recruits gathered inside Neyland stadium. I’ve already touched upon how twitter has been a huge tool in drawing these kids’ attention to UT despite the fact the program’s coming off back-to-back losing seasons. Despite the fact UT’s being led by its fourth coach in just six years.

A lot of ground has been made up, but now it’s time to take the next step.

Sure. The virtual world played its role in helping pull these kids to campus, but now’s the time for the real world — the actual Vol Nation — to play its role by showing these recruits what their world would be like if they decide to don the orange.

They know how massive Neyland is. And they’ve imagined what it would be like to play in front of an orange-and-white sea of 102,000 strong. But Saturday is the day to make those images come to life — an opportunity for the fans to make yet another positive impact — both on the recruits as well on the national perception.

Do I really expect for 100,000 people to show up Saturday to a scrimmage? No, of course not. I’m realistic. The program has never come close to that, even when it was rolling at full speed.

In fact, the largest crowd ever gathered in 1986 when 73,801 watched the Vols scrimmage. The second largest crowd was in 2009 when just over 50,000 people showed up for the first ride on the Lane-Train.

To put those crowds in perspective, and to better gauge what might be realistic for this year’s Orange and White game, consider these numbers from across the nation from other teams’ spring scrimmages.

Nebraska  is currently the leader in the clubhouse with just over 60,000.

Coming in third, we find Texas, with a cool 46,000.

Some 45,212 fans came to check out Johnny Football in the Aggie’s spring game, good enough for fourth.

And the Georgia Bulldogs round out the top five with 45, 113.

No surprise to discover that two of the top five are SEC schools. Nor should it be a surprise when I tell you that it’s really three. Because, as you can see, I’ve omitted the team with the second-largest spring crowd, and that team does, indeed, come from the SEC.

What is a surprise, however, is which team it is.

Ready?

Brace yourselves.

Because this past Saturday, the Kentucky Wildcats had over 50,000(!!!) people attend their new coach’s inaugural spring game. That figure is up drastically from last year when only had an estimated 4,400 attended their spring game in Joker Phillips last season asleep at the wheel as head coach.

Kicker alert — they charged admission.

No, you did not read that wrong.  From Forty-four hundred to nearly fifty-one thousand despite the fact you had to actually pay for tickets. I know what you’re thinking, but I’m telling you the truth.

Fine, I can tell that you still do not believe me. See for yourself.

How the hell did Mark Stoops trick the kind-hearted people of the Blue Grass state into showing up for a spring football game?

Were they promised a glimpse of John Calipari’s process of perfectly gelling his hair? Did the basketball recruiting class show up at halftime to do magic tricks? Did Ashley Judd sunbathe at the 50-yard line? I need answers.

Nevertheless, color me impressed.

(Yes, the rhyme was intentional. I moonlighted as a rapper for a year or so.)

(I’m serious)

I don’t need to remind you of what the Wildcats did to the Vols in 2011, do I? The entire state of Tennessee lived through that nightmare together (well, excluding the six or seven hundred diehard Vandy fans).

If Volunteer fans cannot blow past Big Blue’s attendance mark, then ye shall not boast of past successes as a crutch to lean on and accept the fact that not only did Kentucky beat UT with a receiver playing quarterback, but UK can now also boast a more passionate fan base. At least when it comes to the spring game.

And I don’t know about you, but I’m not ready to live in a sports world where that’s a reality.

So get your candy ass down to the Orange and White game. For unlike past years, this is not one to be taken with a grain of salt. It’s a chance to make a much-needed statement to the rest of the SEC and to the entire country.

The game is free (parking, too, supposedly). And, seriously, do you really have anything better going on this Saturday?

Besides, I know you like tailgating. So make this an event. Y’all suffer through those 90-degree August / early-September days sweating as you man the grill, this despite the fact you could probably just use the scorching-hot sidewalk instead.

The weather for this game? Sunny and in the low 60s — aka PERFECT. So, get the grill ready, grab some drinks, chairs, and your cornhole board and make it an afternoon. You can even listen to John and his good buddy Brad Fullington on The BeRad and JCO show from noon to one on Tennessee Sports Radio while you wait.

It’s a perfect excuse to blow off some of the items on the ol’ honey-do list.

Packing the house with a record-breaking crowd would be the perfect way to show Butch Jones and company just how much we appreciate the hard work they’ve faithfully delivered since getting here. Plus, the recruits need to see firsthand what their future Saturdays in Knoxville could be like. And, perhaps most importantly, the players getting ready for the 2013 season deserve to know that the fans are still supporting them.

At very least, the Volunteer fans should use this game as an opportunity to celebrate surviving the Double-D era.

Pack the house. Break the record. Make a statement.

Still not convinced?

I hear that Peyton Manning will be sunbathing at the 50-yard line.

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