Garner: 'Nobody came to Tennessee to say they want to be 7-6'

Tennessee Athletics photo / Tennessee second-year defensive line coach Rodney Garner stressed Monday that the Volunteers have to take a step forward and not rely on last year's team that exceeded most expectations.

For many players in Tennessee's football program, last year's 7-5 regular-season record and journey to the Music City Bowl represented the high-water mark of their time in Knoxville.

Not defensive line coach Rodney Garner.

Last season was Garner's first under head coach Josh Heupel but his third with the Volunteers, having been an offensive assistant for Tennessee's 1996-97 teams that combined to go 21-4 overall and 14-2 in Southeastern Conference play. The 1997 Vols won the league championship by rallying past Auburn 30-29 in Atlanta.

So forgive Garner for putting last season in a bit of personal perspective.

"We've got to take a step forward," Garner said Monday during a news conference. "I think we exceeded the expectations for everybody except for the guys in the room and probably the coaching staff, but nobody came to Tennessee to say they want to be 7-6.