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2016 Fierce 40 Previews: #9 Tennessee

by DJ Boyer on Aug. 16, 2016

#9 Tennessee Volunteers

2015 Recap:
Tennessee finished the season as one of the hottest teams in the country. Through seven games the Volunteers stood 3-4. All losses came against teams that were ranked at the time (Oklahoma in OT, Florida, Arkansas and Alabama). Not only was it four losses but the largest margin of loss they uffered was a touchdown and that game was in overtime. Tennessee went on to win their final six games including a 45-6 drubbing of Northwestern in the Outback Bowl. Tennessee won their final six games by a combined score of 220-87.


Coaching:
Butch Jones is at his third head coaching stop after spending three seasons at Central Michigan and then three seasons at Cincinnati, Jones now enters his fourth year with the Vols. The trend is there for Jones with Tennessee...started 5-7...went to 7-6 and 9-4 last year. I guess this can only mean an 11-win season is in the cards.


Offense

The Volunteers may have the best rushing attack in the nation led by senior running back Jalen Hurd. Hurd had nearly 1,300 yards and 12 touchdowns but he is just one of three excellent running options Tennessee can throw at opponents. Alvin Kamara can do just as much damage catching the football as running with it. With 34 catches last season, Kamara is the leading returning pass catcher and he is deadly in the open field. The third option is quarterback Joshua Dobbs who along with Ole Miss signal-caller Chad kelly, is the most talented quarterback in the conference. Dobbs has been a bit underachieving throwing the football but many are pointing to his senior season as being his time to shine and break out. the "Joshes" provide cap[able targets along the outside with returning receivers Josh Smith and Josh Malone. Marquez Callaway is a true freshman that could emerge as a huge downfield threat for the Vols...he is someone to keep an eye on. The interior of the line is in place with a pair of new bookend starting tackles. The Voluneteers are athletic and taleneted but inconsistent up front.
 

Best Draft Prospects: Jalen Hurd RB 4th/5th Round 2018.

                                       Joshua Dobbs QB 4th Round 2018.


Defense

There are many starters returning from last years squad that was 16th nationall in scoring defense at exactly 20.0 PPG allowed and 36th overall in total defense. Tennessee is led by the best defensive end in the country outside of top prospect Myles Garrett of Texas A&M, in Derek Barnett. Barnett had the attention of the SEC previously and last year the entire country took notice with his 10 sacks. Barnett was not the only Tennessee defender to catch the eye of the sports nation, linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin had a 105 tackle season and proved to be a menace all over the football field. Tennessee also has top cornerback Cameron Sutton back after changing his mind late about going pro and coming back for his senior season at Knoxville. Not only do we have three defnders mentioned who are all NFL bound, they provide leadership and Tennessee has one at each section of the defense, the front line, the linebacking corps and the secondary. Other contributors on defense will be Corey Vereen at defensive end as well as linebacker Darrin Kirkland.

Best Draft Prospects: Derek Barnett DE 1st Round 2017 (Early Declaration).

                                      Cameron Sutton CB 3rd Round 2017.


Special Teams:

Evan Berry and Cameron Sutton were both amont the best return men in the SEC on kickoff and punt returns. Trevor Daniel and Aaron Medley both have shown the ability needed for life in the SEC at pounter and kicker but consistency is something that seems to have eluded them both.


Schedule:

Tennessee better not overlook Appalachian State to open the year. Florida and Alabama are the teams Tennessee has had the most problems with in recent years and both have to come to Knoxville for 2016. The month of October looks to be the Vols toughest stretch with three of their four games coming on the road in the heart of the SEC schedule with Georgia, Texas A&M, Alabama and South Carolina. If Tennessee does not go at least 3-1 in this stretch then all the hype may have been for naught.

Draft and Overall Outlook:

Tennessee seems to be the "it" team going into the year. We thought by starting them at #9 we would cause major waves but the AP Poll released had them at #10 and with a first place vote (we always have our poll up about a month before so...yeah maybe we tipped off the voters). The individual talent is there, Tennessee just has to beuild chemistry, especially on offense. If Tennessee does this could be the surprise team and don't laugh....they could be in the BCS Playoffs.

DJ Boyer