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Prelude to a Season… #14

#14.) Tennessee

What You Need to Know:
The Good: Tennessee opens 2008 with a surprising season behind them, highlighted by an improbable SEC East division title and a lead on eventual national champion LSU late in the SEC title game. The good news continues with a strong offensive line returning 5 starters which will provide ample and needed protection for new QB Jonathon Crompton. Returning on the offensive side of the ball is the best WR in the conference, senior Lucas Taylor. In the backfield with Crompton will be Arian Foster, who will likely break the career rushing record at UT this season. The Vols would do well to feature a hardnosed, possession based offense centered on a premier back while Crompton finds his confidence under center.

The Mediocre: Defensively, the secondary took a black eye last season. The corners and safeties often looked undersized, overmatched, and markedly lost-in-motion much of the time. The front 7 was adequate but not impressive, and the D-line wasn’t overpowering enough to prevent the inevitable double-teams on a blitzing linebacker in Jerod Mayo. With a season behind them, growing pains worked out, and another year of experience the defense for UT looks at least ok. They aren’t a deep unit, and injuries to the D-line will be disaster.

The Bad: Rookie QBs in the SEC usually perform poorly. Crompton has his work cut out for him with an absolutely brutal schedule early. Significant off-field turmoil dominated the headlines in the winter, prompting Fulmer to have to write a letter to local media outlets that were calling for his job. Significant movement in the coaching staff brings continuity in to question as key offensive assistants David Cutcliffe and Trooper Taylor moved on.

The Worse: The SEC is loaded. Simply loaded. There are two Top-5 teams (Florida & Georgia) in UT’s division and another Top-10 conference school on the schedule in Auburn. They open the season against UCLA in Pasadena, and kudos to UT for not scheduling soft. Thankfully, LSU is not on this year’s schedule.

Who You Need to Know and Their 07 Stats:
RB Arian Foster: 1193 yds, 12 TD
WR Lucas Taylor: 73 rec., 1000 yds, 5 TD
LB Rico McCoy: 106 tkls, 4.5 TFL

Game To Watch: Selfishly, the game I’ll be watching will be Nov. 29 against Kentucky. But if the last quarter-century or so is any indicator, Take UT, lay the points, and thank me for the profit. Realistically, the game that will have the most impact on UT’s season will be Sept. 20 versus Florida. A win puts UT in the driver’s seat in the East with the Georgia game looming. A loss means the Vols will need to win at Georgia and for Florida to stumble twice for UT to have any hope in the SEC East. For sheer entertainment purposes on the internet, the lead up to the Alabama game figures to be a HATEHATEHATEHATEHATEHATE game deluxe.

They’ll Do Well If…: Crompton picks up the offense well enough to avoid a season opening loss at UCLA.

Season Outlook: UT is looking at 3rd in the East, 4th or 5th in the conference, and probably a three-loss regular season (UGA, UF, Auburn). That means they win all the games they should and at least put a good showing on in the games they won’t be favored in. An upset here or there and some stumbles by the Georgia’s and Florida’s (which is entirely possible in this conference) means the Vols are right in the hunt for the East Division. From an outsider looking in, I’d say 9-3 is a great season, but if my UT friends have taught me anything, it’s a loss is never ok on Rocky Top.

3 Responses

  1. Have you forgotten Eric Berry in our secondary? Other than that, I say your assessment is pretty close. UCLA is a trap game but we should grind it out. Our offensive line looks amazing and Crompton is much more mobile than Ainge. Georgia is the beast in the east but they could implode under the weight of expectations. Florida lost their TE today. Fulmer will fight the subpoena and inspire Rocky Top to new heights. It’s great to be a Tennessee Vol this year.

  2. The Vols will beat the GAYtors this year, but I don’t see them winning the Auburn and Georgia games.

    I’d like to see Herban get arrested on the sideline during the game in Knoxville for having that perpetually stupid look on his face.

  3. Eric Berry was left out, for no reason whatsoever. The kid is unbelievable and I can’t wait to watch him this year.

    I don’t view UCLA as too much of a trap. That’s the byproduct of losing your top two quarterbacks within a minute of each other in spring practice.

    Be confident, Vols fans.

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