1977 - 82 Volunteers
(Authentic Reproduction)




Johnny Majors, second to Paul Hornung in the Heisman vote of 1956 and successful head coach at Iowa State and Pitt, was one of the Majors clan that were considered to be the "first family" of Tennessee football. After winning the National Championship at Pitt in 1976, he was happy to come home to UT. He declared the cupboard bare of talented players  either because so much All SEC talent left after '76, because he felt he needed a lot of rebuilding time, or perhaps because recruiting had in fact fallen off in recent years. He would build around the core of QB Jimmy Streater, a Holloway-like darter and center Robert Shaw who again made All SEC but he would not win a conference game until the finale against Vanderbilt and finished at 4-7. Frosh TE Reggie Harper pulled in thirty passes. DB Roland James was the defensive standout, making 131 tackles and the entire defense was worse with LB Craig Puki out with injury. Punter Colquitt finished up with a 44.7 yard average and was the regular for the Steelers from '78 through '84 and punted for the Colts in '87. Majors kept the traditional Vols white helmet with immediately recognizable arched-"T" logo but significantly widened the orange center stripe for a distinctive appearance.   
Some improvement showed in the 5-5-1 record of '78 but it came after opening the season terribly at 1-4-1 and needing to close with a flurry. QB Streater set a school record for total offense with 2011 yards and exciting, daring play. The thirty-one receptions of TE Harper led the Vol receivers, and for the third year, C Robert Shaw was All Conference and became the Cowboys number-one draft choice, playing with them from '79 to '81. Track All American Roland James led the defense with seven INT's and returned punts well. LB Craig Puki and MG Jimmy Noonan were the other defensive stalwarts. Majors took his 7-5 alma mater to a bowl game in '79, his third year at the helm but the Vols lost to Purdue in the Bluebonnet Bowl, leaving fans testy. "Birdlegs" Streater closed out his career as the best of UT's quarterbacks, setting a school total offense record and also starred for the baseball team. He spent two seasons in the CFL with Toronto but fell to a life of drug addiction and illness, dying in 2004 at the age of forty-six. TE Harper was an All SEC choice, catching at least one pass in every game and the O-line moved around tackle Tim Irwin. Once again DB Roland James was the defensive key, going to the Patriots in the first round and playing for eleven solid seasons before becoming a high school football and track coach in the Boston area. LB Puki brought some stellar performances during his senior season, prior to three years with the Forty-Niners. A hot group of freshmen gave great expectations for the future and included WR Willie Gault, and DB Bill Bates.
Majors was still waiting for the breakthrough in 1980 as he now had "his guys" populating the roster but 5-6 didn't bring it, even with obvious talent. Tackle Irwin was a monster and played with the Vikings from '81 through 1993 and then added a season with the Bucs and Dolphins. TE Harper and speedy receivers Gault and Anthony Hancock, who averaged over eighteen yards per catch, were supported by RB's Hubert Simpson and James Berry who ran behind mobile center Lee North. Bates again was a terror as a safety although he took some national ridicule for being the player that Georgia frosh sensation Herschel Walker ran over on the way to his inaugural collegiate TD! Freshman DT Reggie White was a good fit next to MG Jimmy Noonan. '81 was a bit of a breakthrough as the squad went 7-4 and vanquished Wisconsin in the Garden State Bowl 28-21. North again anchored the O-line with WR's Hancock and Gault the major weapons. Gault, a member of the 1980 Olympic team, set NCAA hurdles records while Hancock became the Chiefs number-one pick and played with them from '82 through 1986 as a WR and return man. JC transfer Doug Furnas was a pounding fullback and one of the world's best powerlifters. DT White again was outstanding and the kicking game was among the best ever with freshmen kicker Fuad Reveiz out of Colombia and punter Jimmy Colquitt at the controls.
1982 was a disappointing 6-4-1 due to poor defense linked to a potent offense and losing the Peach Bowl 28-22 to Iowa made this just-breaking-even season a downer. Furnas and Alvin Toles were the power runners but Toles moved to LB to shore up a weak point. He joined sophs Carl Zander and Reggie McKenzie behind stalwart White who was often unstoppable. Bates finished his career as a four-year starter but wasn't drafted, instead signing as a free agent with the Cowboys and playing fifteen years with them as their special teams' captain who was named to the Pro Bowl in that specific capacity. QB Alan Cockrell came into his own, throwing for 2021 yards to the speedy WB Gault who was drafted in the first round by the Bears and split a twelve-year pro career between them and the Raiders as a kick returner and receiver.

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