Tennessee Preview 2006
Tennessee - Turk McBride
Posted Aug 8, 2006

Tennessee Volunteers Preview 2006

- Tennessee Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart | Further Analysis

It's one thing to have a down year, but it's another to have a 5-6 season when you're predicted to play for the national title.

Everyone around Tennessee spent last year trying to figure out who to blame for such a lousy, disappointing season, and while the coaches did a bad job, the players didn't play up to their talent level and the media overhyped the team thanks to top ranked recruiting class after top ranked recruiting class. There's one factor that seemed to escape the discussion ...

Things weren't really that bad.

Of the six losses, the first was at Florida. No shame there. The second was against Georgia. Didn't the Dawgs win the SEC title? The third came on a few fluky late plays in a 6-3 heartbreaker at Alabama. What's wrong with that? The fourth was on a last-second field goal against South Carolina, and the fifth was against a Notre Dame team that played in the BCS. Yeah, losing at home to Vanderbilt is unacceptable, but by that point the team was so mentally beaten down after such a disappointing season that it was a shadow of its former self.

Head coach: Philip Fulmer
15th year: (128-37)
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 20, Def. 23, ST 4
Lettermen Lost: 27
Ten Best Tennessee Players
1. OT Arron Sears, Sr.
2. RB Arian Foster, Soph.
3. FS Jonathan Hefney, Jr.
4. DT Justin Harrell, Sr.
5. DT Turk McBride, Jr.
6. WR Robert Meacham, Jr.
FB Cory Anderson, Sr.
8. P Britton Colquitt, Soph.
LB Marvin Mitchell, Sr.
10. PK James Wilhoit, Sr.

2006 Schedule
CFN Prediction:

9/2 California
9/9 Air Force
9/16 Florida
9/23 Marshall
9/30 at Memphis
10/7 at Georgia
10/21 Alabama
10/28 at South Carolina
11/4 LSU
11/11 at Arkansas
11/18 at Vanderbilt
11/25 Kentucky

2005 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2005 Record: 5-6

Preview 2005 predicted wins

9/3 UAB W 17-10 
9/17 at Florida L 16-7
9/24 at LSU W 30-27 OT
10/1 Ole Miss W 27-10
10/8 Georgia L 27-14
10/22 at Alabama L 6-3
10/29 South Carolina L 16-15
11/5 at Notre Dame L 41-21
11/12 Memphis W 20-16
11/19 Vanderbilt L 28-24
11/26 at Kentucky W 27-8

Fine, so the offense was awful, but the defense was one of the best in America and there was a fantastic overtime win at LSU that should've saved some face when it came to national respect. But not going to a bowl doesn't play well around Knoxville, and things have to change in a big way this season of there will be a new coaching era beginning next year at this time.

There are few teams in America that can match the overall speed and athleticism of the 2006 Vols, but all the skills have to translate into better overall play and, of course, wins. The offense can't be any worse, and should be a force with new/old offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe taking back his offensive coordinator job. The running backs can fly, the receivers are even faster, and the line is bigger than more NFL front walls. If quarterback Erik Ainge is merely competent, and the defense can avoid falling off the map after losing six of the starters on the front seven, the Vols should be back in the SEC title hunt.

Maybe last year was a big step back to take a giant leap forward. Maybe the embarrassment the players felt gave them the fire to work harder and not rest on their high school accolades. Or maybe, just maybe, Tennessee football isn't nearly as good as the brand name suggests it should be. One way or another, this will be a watershed season. 

The Schedule: The Vols can't use the schedule as an excuse if there are more problems like last season. Of course there are tough games, but most of the big ones are in Knoxville with Cal, Florida, Alabama and LSU coming to town. There's only one absolute killer of a road trip coming midseason at Georgia, while games at South Carolina and Arkansas will also be tough. You can't ask for a better end to the season than at Vanderbilt and at home against Kentucky.

Best Offensive Player: Senior OT Arron Sears. The monster senior will start at left tackle, but he showed last year that he can play either tackle or guard position. The 320-pounder will be an several preseason All-America short lists and will have to be a steady rock as the only starter returning to the front line.

Best Defensive Player: Senior DT Justin Harrell. The 300-pound senior is the only returning starter on the front seven, and he should be up for several all-star honors. He's quick enough to play end and strong enough to be a rock of a tackle.

Key player to a successful season: Junior QB Erik Ainge. There's no Rick Clausen or Brent Schaeffer to pick up the pieces if Ainge can't get the job done. There's talent among the reserves with Jonathan Crompton and Bo Hardegree good enough to step in if needed, but they don't have any experience. Tennessee can't come up with a bounce-back season if Ainge isn't great.

The season will be a success if ... the Vols win the SEC East. After last year, anything less than an appearance in the SEC title game will leave the sour taste of 2005 in everyone's mouth. The schedule, athleticism, and fire are all in place for a good season.

Key game: Sept. 2 vs. California. Cal has the talent to be a top 15 team and is more than good enough to beat the Vols in the season opener. Tennessee must win this game convincingly to get its confidence back, while a home loss would get everyone screaming for heads to roll.

2005 Fun Stats: 
- Third quarter scoring: Tennessee 35 ... Opponents 18
- Yards per carry: Tennessee 3.5 - Opponents 2.5
- Fourth down conversions: Tennessee 5 of 17 (29%) - Opponents 2 of 11 (18%)

The Last Time Tennessee…
…played in a bowl game…2004 (Cotton Bowl vs. Texas A&M)
…missed a bowl game…2005
…pitched a shutout…2003 (Vanderbilt)
…was shutout…1994 (Florida)
…scored 50 points…2003 (Mississippi State)
…went undefeated…1998
…won a conference title…1998 (SEC)
…had a 3,000-yard passer…1997 (Peyton Manning)
…had a 1,000-yard rusher…2004 (Gerald Riggs)
…had a 1,000-yard receiver…2001 (Kelley Washington)
…had a first-round draft choice…2006 (DB Jason Allen)

Related Stories
Tennessee Preview 2006 - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 8, 2006
Tennessee Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 8, 2006
Tennessee Preview 2006 - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 8, 2006

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