#SECPreviews- East: #3 Tennessee Volunteers
I watched “SEC Coaches’ Corner” over Cinnamon Toast Crunch this morning. This is what I learned from Maria Taylor’s one-on-one time with Butch Jones: he thinks Tennessee is back. There were a lot of program building-oriented questions, and Jones kept using a phrase very familiar to SEC fans– “the process.”
What Happened Last Year?
Tennessee did what I expect Kentucky to do this year: win enough games to play an extra game! The Vols opened 0-4 in the SEC, which is fairly misleading. They may have been a Justin Worley injury away from pulling a massive upset at Georgia, then the following week lost a 10th straight to Florida in a 10-9 barnburner. They proceeded then to get blown out by Mississippi and (though the scoreboard won’t indicate it) Alabama.
Then, at South Carolina, a funny thing happened: they won! Then they beat Kentucky! Perfect, they’re going to save Georgia’s season by beating Mizzou at home! Well…nope. Effing Vols. They then beat Vanderbilt and are generating hype from beating a sad Iowa team in the TaxSlayer (erstwhile Gator, I think?) Bowl.
So now, they’re the East’s ‘sexy’ pick. For comparison’s sake, the West’s sexy pick is Arkansas.
There is nothing sexy about Butch Jones or Bret Bieleima.
Three Key Games
Sept. 26, at Florida: They’ve somehow lost 10 in a row to Florida. That’s crazy. They may get them early enough (as they always do) to take advantage of a new coaching staff/scheme/QB, but the same could’ve theoretically been said last year. By not having listed Florida yet, I hereby implicitly expect the streak to go to 11.
Oct. 10, Georgia: Though I don’t think Tennessee is going to win the division (West opponents: Arky and Bama), this game scares the living bejeezus out of me. 2010 was the last time Georgia won by more than one possession, and ‘exploding ACL day‘ as its known on this website still lingers in my mind.
Nov. 21, at Missouri: IF they’re in position to win the division, the Vols are going to have to end another streak. They’ve yet to beat an SEC Mizzou team.
Five Players to Watch
It should be noted that they bring back their entire offense, including the offensive line and a patently absurd group of skill players who have yet to fulfill their high school rankings. If they come into their own, they may very will win the division.
– QB Josh Dobbs: In addition to somehow being the most-accomplished returning SEC QB, he’s responsible for keeping all of these guys happy. Included among them are top 9 returning receivers from last year– names to know: Marquez North, Pig Howard, Josh Malone, Von Pearson, Jason Croom. Those are just the receivers.
– RB Alvin Kamara: Kicked out of Alabama, hit the junior college ranks, and should be a more svelte fit for the offense than incumbent monster Jalen Hurd.
– DE Derek Barnett: This is a new name to me, honestly. All he did as a true freshman was 10 sacks, 10.5 tackles for loss, and an absurd-for-a-DE 72 tackles. I’d say he’s a primary reason that they doubled their sack total from 2013.
– DT’s Kahlil McKenzie/Shy Tuttle: The only spot on the DL two-deep vacated was the rush tackle spot, and they brought in two five-star replacements.
– CB Cameron Sutton: The anchor of the secondary has made an All-SEC team in each of his first two seasons.
The more I wrote here, the more I realized that Tennessee has the POTENTIAL to be great this year. I may pick them #1 next year.