Tennessee Preview |
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
Head coach: Philip Fulmer
15th year: (128-37)
Off. 20, Def. 23, ST 4
Lettermen Lost: 27
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.
at South Carolina
2005 Record: 5-6
at Florida L 16-7
at LSU W 30-27 OT
at Notre Dame
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
- 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
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)
…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)