2007 Tennessee Preview

Posted Jul 30, 2007

Preview 2007 Tennessee Volunteers

Tennessee Volunteers

Preview 2007

By Pete Fiutak

- 2007 UT Offense Preview
| 2007 UT Defense Preview
2007 UT Depth Chart | 2006 CFN Tennessee Preview 

Tennessee was roughly three plays away from being 12-1 and the hot team going into this season, but tough losses have become the forte of a program that continues to tease the college football world with its talent and potential.

Despite struggling offensively, Tennessee needed just one defensive stop to beat Florida, and after that didn’t happen, it needed just one decent drive to get into field goal range. It didn’t get either. LSU was a beaten team before JaMarcus Russell and his boys marched on the Volunteer D to win on a touchdown pass in the final seconds. Penn State was in big trouble in the fourth quarter of the Outback Bowl before Arian Foster’s fumble was returned for a score leading to a Volunteer loss.  

Head coach: Philip Fulmer
16th year: 137-41
Returning Lettermen: 45
Lettermen Lost: 25
Ten Best Tennessee Players
1. FS/PR Jonathan Hefney, Sr.
2. QB Erik Ainge, Sr.
3. LB Jerod Mayo, Sr.
4. DE Xavier Mitchell, Jr.
5. OG Anthony Parker, Jr.
6. RB Arian Foster, Jr.
7. RB LaMarcus Coker, Soph.
8. LB Ryan Karl, Sr.
9. P Britton Colquitt, Jr.
10. OT Eric Young, Sr.

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 9-3

Sept. 1

at California

Sept. 8

Southern Miss

Sept. 15

at Florida

Sept. 22

Arkansas State

Oct. 6


Oct. 13

at Mississippi St

Oct. 20

at Alabama

Oct. 27

South Carolina

Nov. 3

UL Lafayette

Nov. 10


Nov. 17


Nov. 24

at Kentucky

2006 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2006 Record:
Preview 2006 predicted wins

9/2 California W 35-18
9/9 Air Force W 31-30
9/16 Florida L 21-20
9/23 Marshall W 33-7
9/30 at Memphis W 41-7
10/7 at Georgia W 51-33
10/21 Alabama W 16-13
10/28 at So Carolina W 31-24
11/4 LSU L 28-24
11/11 at Arkansas L 31-14
11/18 at Vanderbilt W 39-10
11/25 Kentucky W 17-12
1/1 Outback Bowl
Penn State L 20-10

Tennessee wasn’t nearly as bad as it appeared in its 2005, 5-6 season, and it wasn’t quite as good as it looked in the 2006, 9-4 campaign. Now it’s time to be Tennessee again, the elite national player it appeared to be after starting off the season with a dominant win over California. 

There’s more than enough athleticism on both sides of the ball to keep the NFL stocked for years to come, Erik Ainge is going into his fourth year as the starting quarterback, the backfield has more good backs than it’ll know what to do with, and the defense, which struggled so much with its consistency last year, has just enough experience to be far better.

So can the Vols finally put it all back together and win the SEC title for the first time since the 1998 national championship season? With road trips to Cal and Florida in the season’s first three weeks, we’ll know pretty quickly. 

What to watch for on offense: More of a commitment to the running game. Tennessee, the program of Jamal Lewis, Travis Henry and other stars, ran for more than 100 yards in only five games last year, and won them all. After playing musical running backs throughout last year, Tennessee might have a star to carry the offense in LaMarcus Coker, but he has to be consistent, and he has to beat out Montario Hardesty and one of the stars of spring ball, Arian Foster. They’ll have to, given the loss of top receivers Robert Meachem, Jayson Swain and Bret Smith.

What to watch for on defense: Improvement in the run defense. Long known for being a brick wall against the run, the Vols got steamrolled by Arkansas, Penn State and LSU and got pushed around way too often, allowing 100 yards or more in ten games, including each of the last six. Part of the reason was injuries, like the loss of top tackle Justin Harrell, and part of the reason was a lack of consistent pass rush to bring down the net numbers. That’s why …

The team will be far better if … the defensive front four plays like the Tennessee defensive front four. Job one will be to focus on being better up the middle, which might be a problem without tackles Turk McBride and Matt McGlothlin. Some semblance of a pass rush has to be generated from the outside with Xavier Mitchell, Antonio Reynolds and Robert Ayers all looking the part, but needing to be more productive.

The Schedule: Does any national title-caliber team (at least in expectations from the fan base) have two tougher road games before September 15th than going to California and Florida? The rest of the away dates aren’t horrible, as the Vols travel to Mississippi State, Alabama and Kentucky, and there’s a nice four-game homestand over the second half of the season against South Carolina, UL Lafayette, Arkansas and Kentucky.

Best Offensive Player: Senior QB Erik Ainge. From all indications, the knee injury suffered this spring isn’t going to be any big deal once the season starts. The bigger problem will be the loss of Robert Meachem, who made Ainge look good. Yeah, he was night-and-day better once David Cutcliffe came aboard to handle the offense, but it helped when his receivers took several short passes a long, long way. Of course, Ainge had to put the ball in the right spot and he set up his targets well, and now he’ll have to be even better.

Best Defensive Player: Senior FS Jonathan Hefney. There might not be a better pound-for-pound tackler in the country. The 5-9, 185-pound senior has been all over the field for three years, getting in on 226 tackles while being a top ball-hawk, breaking up 16 passes and picking off nine others. He’s also becoming an elite punt returner.

Key player to a successful season: Sophomore OT Chris Scott. Senior Eric Young will find a starting spot at one of the tackle spots, with a gaping hole still to be filled at the other. The 325-pound Scott has the size, and he has a year of tutelage under his belt after backing up Arron Sears. Now he’ll likely have to step in at left tackle and replace the All-American, while the rest of the line tries to improve after two off years.

The season will be a success if ... Tennessee wins 11 games. Yeah, you heard this last year, but California really is good enough to be in the national title discussion, and playing Florida at Florida is as tough as it gets. If the Vols can at least split against those two, an 11-1 regular season is an attainable goal. Missing Auburn and LSU from the West is a huge break. A little more offensive consistency, and more close wins, should lead to a double-digit win season.

Key game: Sept. 15 at Florida. The Vols likely will be favored in every game after the trip to The Swamp, so if they can pull off the win they’ll be the favorites to win the East and to play for the SEC championship. If they can also beat California, then it might be Tennessee vs. LSU for the conference title, as well as the national championship.

2006 Fun Stats: 
- First quarter scoring: Tennessee 65; Opponents 34
- Sacks: Tennessee 17 for 122 yards; Opponents 19 for 134 yards
- Rushing yards per game: Tennessee 108; Opponents 146.7



Related Stories
2007 Tennessee Preview - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 30, 2007
2007 Tennessee Preview - Defense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 30, 2007
2007 Tennessee Preview - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 30, 2007

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