2008 CFN Tennessee Preview
Tennessee OG Anthony Parker
Tennessee OG Anthony Parker
Posted May 20, 2008

Tennessee might not be getting the same love and respect as Georgia or Florida, but after playing for the SEC title last year, Anthony Parker and the Vols might be good enough to do it again. Check out the CFN Tennessee Preview.

Tennessee Volunteers

Preview 2008

By Pete Fiutak

- 2008 CFN Tennessee Preview | 2008 Tennessee Offense

- 2008 Tennessee Defense | 2008 Tennessee Depth Chart
- 2007 CFN Tennessee Preview | 2006 CFN Tennessee Preview 

You’d never know it by the hype surrounding Georgia at the end of last year and with Florida’s Tim Tebow winning the Heisman, but Tennessee won the SEC East. Actually, the Vols won the tie-breaker to play LSU for the title, but it was still the type of solid season to prove the program is still excellent.

Outside of the 2005 5-6 clunker of a year, Tennessee has been excellent by almost any measure. Over 100 other programs would kill for three 10-win seasons and three New Year's Day bowls in a five-year span. Most coaches could only dream about winning 76% of their games over a 16-year span that includes five SEC championship appearances and, oh yeah, a national title. But even with all the success, Tennessee isn't quite at the level that it's probably supposed to be.

Head coach: Philip Fulmer
17th year: 147-45
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 21, Def. 22, ST 4
Lettermen Lost: 22
Ten Best Tennessee Players
SS Eric Berry, Soph.
2. LB Rico McCoy, Jr.
3. RB Arian Foster, Sr.
4. OG Anthony Parker, Sr.
5. FS Demetrice Morely, Jr.
6. WR Lucas Taylor, Sr.
7. RB Montario Hardesty, Jr.
8. DE Robert Ayers, Sr.
9. OT Chris Scott, Jr.
10. WR Austin Rogers, Jr.

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 9-3
2008 Record: 0-0

Aug. 30 UAB
Sept. 1 at UCLA
Sept. 13 OPEN DATE 
Sept. 20 Florida
Sept. 27 at Auburn
Oct. 4 Northern Illinois
Oct. 11 at Georgia
Oct. 18 Mississippi State
Oct. 25 Alabama
Nov. 1 at South Carolina
Nov. 8 Wyoming
Nov. 15 OPEN DATE 
Nov. 22 at Vanderbilt
Nov. 29 Kentucky

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 9-3
2007 Record: 10-

Sept. 1 at California L 45-31
Sept. 8
So Miss W 39-19
Sept. 15 at Florida L 59-20
Sept. 22
Arkansas St W 48-27
Oct. 6 Georgia W 35-14
Oct. 13 at Mississippi St W 33-21
Oct. 20 at Alabama L 41-17
Oct. 27 So Carolina W 27-24 OT
Nov. 3 UL Lafayette W 59-7
Nov. 10 Arkansas W 34-13
Nov. 17 Vanderbilt W 25-24
Nov. 24 at Kent. W 52-50 4 OT
SEC Championship
Dec. 1 LSU L 21-14
Outback Bowl
Jan. 1 Wisconsin W 21-17

Now that Lloyd Carr has left Michigan, Phil Fulmer moves into second place behind Bobby Bowden for the honor of being the coach with the most impressive combination of accomplishment and current disappointment, at least when it comes to the unattainably high standards set in the past. Tennessee is a factory for NFL talent, is strong every year, and is always a prime contender for the SEC title, but it's not mentioned in the same breath as LSU, Florida, and now, Georgia, as an elite of the elite of the elite superpower. Volunteer football is certainly respected, but it isn't feared like it used to be.

This might not be the team that can change all of that, but it'll be plenty good. It'll be a typically strong UT team with plenty of athletes and enough talent to beat anyone in the league, but is there enough in the bag to beat out national title-level, Georgia and Florida teams? Maybe.

No one will predict the Vols to win much of anything considering offensive coordinator David Cutcliff left to take over the head coaching gig at Duke, and four-year starting QB Erik Ainge is done, but Dave Clawson’s offense worked by the end of spring ball and new starter Jonathan Crompton is a sharp, accurate passer who should grow into the type of leader who can carry a team. And then there’s the schedule.

It’s brutal early with road trips to UCLA, Auburn and Georgia and a home date with Florida, but the Vols can win two of those, and if they win three, look out. The rest of the slate is relatively easy, the team should get much better as the year goes on, and once again, an under-the-radar run could lead the way to another SEC East title.

What to watch for on offense: Clawson. It's not like he fell off the turnip truck and into the coveted Tennessee offensive coordinator position, but he has a lot to live up to with Cutcliff gone. It's no coincidence that much of the Vols' offensive success happened when Coach Cut was running the show, then things fell off the map when he left for Ole Miss, and then the attack bounced back when he returned. Clawson isn't a born and bred Vol. From Richmond, he's bringing in some new ideas and an up-tempo offense with a shorter, quicker passing game. If the offense falls flat, he'll end up taking most of the blame.

What to watch for on defense: Can the tackles hold up? Demonte Bolden is a tremendous talent who hasn't played up to his potential yet. Junior Dan Williams is a promising inside presence. While those two haven't played like Reggie White and John Henderson, they'll need to early on as the young talent behind them develops. Most importantly, they have to stay healthy. Walter Fisher is a good option, but it'll be uh-oh time if the DTs are fantastic right away.

The team will be far better if … the Vols can generate a pass rush. It's inexcusable for a line with ends like Tennessee has to be so poor at getting to the quarterback.
11th in the SEC in tackles for loss and 25 sacks in 14 games ... this is Tennessee? If the ends can't get it done again this year, the linebackers will have to be sent more on a variety of blitzes. It'll help to have one of the nation's best secondaries, but if there's any consistent pass rush, the pass defense could be a brick wall.

The Schedule: Patience could be the key. If the Vols can keep their head above water early, they should blow through the late part of the schedule without breathing hard. Talk about top-heavy, there's at UCLA, Florida, at Auburn and at Georgia by mid-October, and Mississippi State, Alabama, at South Carolina, Wyoming, at Vanderbilt and Kentucky to finish. If Tennessee is actually good, it has to win all of those final six games. Layups against UAB and Northern Illinois will keep the first six weeks from being a total disaster.

Best Offensive Player: Senior RB Arian Foster. He's playing for a contract. After flirting with the idea of turning pro early, the 6-1, 215-pounder, who'd have been a top 50 pick and might go in the first round next year, if he stays healthy, tore off 1,193 yards and 12 touchdowns, and showed he could catch with 39 grabs and two scores. Jonathan Crompton will be fine under center, but the more Foster can carry the workload early on, the better the offense will be.

Best Defensive Player: Sophomore SS Eric Berry. Probably the best defensive back in America you've never heard of, if you don't live in SEC country, Berry was a superstar recruit with cornerback speed and big-time tackling ability for 5-11, 195-pounder. He'll be a free safety at the next level, with his range and skills to hunt down passes making him a perfect Cover 2 defender, but for now, he'll be one of the SEC's best all-around defensive backs and on the short list for All-America honors.

Key player to a successful season: Sophomore FB Kevin Cooper. The fullback wasn't used, and was barely existent, in the former offense, but might be a key factor in the Clawson attack. Cooper is a big blocker who might not carry much of the load, but he'll need to be a consistent hitter and a good receiver out of the backfield. There's a chance he could become the team's unsung star.

The season will be a success if ... Tennessee wins the SEC title. You don't try for anything less if you're Tennessee. The Vols know how to win the East, but now they have to close after losing the last three SEC championship games they've been in since 1998. The East is the better of the two divisions, Auburn is rebuilding, and LSU isn't going to be the LSU of last year until, maybe, next year, so if the Vols can win the division and get back to the show, they might actually be the favorite.

Key game: Sept. 20 vs. Florida. The Vols have lost three in a row to the Gators, and with road games at Auburn and Georgia to follow on the SEC schedule, a fourth straight defeat might mean a disastrous start to the conference season. It's not a stretch to suggest Tennessee could be out of the SEC title hunt if it loses to the Fighting Tebows.

2007 Fun Stats: 
- Sacks: Tennessee 34 for 144 yards – Opponents 4 for 44 yards
- Penalties: Opponents 91 for 641 yards – Tennessee 74 for 641 yards
- Average rushing yards per game: Opponents 164.6 – Tennessee 139