Despite a tough schedule, Tennessee is an improved football team -- and no category exemplifies that more than the Vols' third-down defense. A year after finishing 92nd nationally in that statistic, UT currently sits atop the entire country by allowing teams to convert just 11 of 53 third-down attempts (20.8 percent).
What accounts for this vast improvement? An infusion of talent? A scheme change? A new song?
A new song, you ask? Well, yes, the recruiting and marketing machine that is modern-day Tennessee football took Lil Jon's rap song "Turn Down For What?" and turned it into a "Third Down For What" spin-off that blares from the Neyland Stadium speakers this season when an opponent lines up on third down.
The players love it and so does the student section. The new song has been so successful that fans have taken to cranking it up during in-home viewing parties while the Vols are on the road.
Even Lee Greenwood got caught up in the frenzy, wearing a "Third Down For What" shirt during a recent halftime performance of (what else) "God Bless The USA."
God Bless The USA performance by @TheLeeGreenwood at halftime of #Vols game - http://t.co/F3QGnKprwm pic.twitter.com/mhnh1S5ZoJ— Tennessee Football (@Vol_Football) September 6, 2014
So are the Volunteers now going to take this phenomenon to an even greater level? There aren't any clear answers yet, but a Tuesday afternoon tweet from Lil Jon to the official UT football account certainly has plenty of Tennessee fans buzzing.
@Vol_Football HOLLA @ ME— INSTAGRAM LILJON (@LilJon) September 30, 2014
Is this the funniest start to a copyright conversation ever or could this be the introduction needed to ensure Lil Jon performs "Third Down For What?" live during a game? And could it be as soon as Saturday's showdown with arch-rival Florida?
The Vols -- through a fan-led initiative -- are already pulling out all the stops to try to put a stop to that nine-game losing streak to the Gators. For the first time in the history of 93-year-old Neyland Stadium, UT fans will attempt to mimic the school's distinct orange-and-white checkerboard end zones by "checkerboarding" the entire 102,000-seat cathedral.
It's Florida Week! Time To #CheckerNeyland!: #VolNation, you asked for it! Make it a reality! http://t.co/JBFxUP3zgv pic.twitter.com/gz0oU4fO1t— Tennessee Football (@Vol_Football) September 28, 2014
That's fine, @Vol_Football. But we'd like you to make something else a reality: Thousands of older-aged SEC fans rising as one on third down and waving their hands up and down as Lil Jon screams out from the sideline and asks them the most important question of all: Third Down For What?
Make it happen, Tennessee.
UPDATE (10/1/14): Then, on Wednesday afternoon, this happened...
We're still not sure quite what it means -- is he actually going to make an appearance at Neyland Saturday? -- but make no mistake, the UT football program is not shying away from the rap star's attention. Today's tweet was RT'd by the official Tennessee football account and by Butch Jones himself. And it had a pair of Vol assistant coaches fired up as well.
#ThirdDownForWhat @Vol_Football #BEATFLORIDA #YEAHHHH— INSTAGRAM LILJON (@LilJon) October 1, 2014
Wordddd!!!!! pic.twitter.com/p4XOI1aQuQ— Tommy Thigpen (@UTCoachThig) October 1, 2014
And don't think Lil Jon isn't having some fun with his newfound popularity among the Vol Nation, retweeting to his one million followers these two messages from UT fans...
Even @LilJon is excited about this weekend#GBO pic.twitter.com/iP328FAFJt— Willie Martinez (@UTCoachMartinez) October 1, 2014
If the VOLS win on Saturday, I'm just gonna go ahead and propose we put up a @LilJon statue next to Robert Neyland's... just a thought.— Sarah Webb (@iamsarahwebb) October 1, 2014
@voltattoo Was this along the lines of what you had in mind for a Vol-ized @LilJon? Go Vols! pic.twitter.com/JI16WG7E7n— Spencer Barnett (@CleVOLander) October 1, 2014