Last season the Tennessee Volunteers managed to go 7-6 despite coming off of an offseason of controvery and a coaching change.

Given the circumstances, it was a successful first year for the program under Josh Heupel, but if defensive line coach Rodney Garner’s comments during a Monday news conference are any indication, no one is ready to start celebrating.

“We’ve got to take a step forward,” Garner said, per David Paschall of the Chattanooga Times Free Press. “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. That is not the standard.”

Garner will have to fill some holes on the defensive front and is hopeful that some of the young talent will emerge in the weeks leading up to the season opener against Ball State.

“We are moving in the right direction, but everybody, when they look in the mirror, can see where we can get better. If we want to be great, then we’ve got to get comfortable being uncomfortable. That’s what it takes.”

Garner has been an assistant coach in the SEC since 1990. He coached at Tennessee in 1996 and 1997 before going to Georgia from 1998-2012. Garner coached at Auburn from 1990-95 and again from 2013-20.

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Sports betting in Tennessee officially launched on November 1, 2020, and many of the largest sportsbooks are live and operating in the volunteer state. Tennessee is only one of a handful of SEC football states with legalized sports betting.