Last season Volnation bore witness to the good, the bad, and the ugly. The Tennessee Volunteers were six points away from beating the Oklahoma Sooners and the eventual national champion Alabama Crimson Tide. SIX Points! With 18 returning starters and with an embarrassment of riches on both sides of the ball, the Florida Gators eleven year winning streak may finally be near its end and dreams of winning the SEC East may no longer be just a fair tale told in books.
If title contenders were determined by recruiting classes and future NFL talent, the Vols would be a top five program. Although the Vols certainly pass the eye test, this team’s success will be largely determined by the mush that is in between their ears. Last season, in his first year in a new system Joshua Dobbs made huge strides as a passer throwing for nearly 3,000 yards and only 5 interceptions. But if he intends to be a quarterback and not just an athlete who throws the ball his consistency on ‘third and distance’ MUST improve. If Dobbs shows more improvement as a passer a la Vince Young, the Vols backfield of Dobbs, Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara could be one of the best in the country.
The running back tandem of Hurd (1,288 yards 12 TD) and Kamara (698 yards 7 TDs) gave plenty of opposing DC nightmares last season, and since the Vols o-line is both a year wiser and a year stronger on game day highlight reel runs will be a frequent occurrence. Although Dobbs garnered most of the blame for the offense’s struggles, the wide outs certainly did not do him any favors. Jauan Jennings, Josh Malone, and Preston Williams may pass the eye test but 4 combined touchdowns ain’t gonna cut, I don’t care what size you are.
On defense, the Vols are littered with eventual NFL 1st Rounders, the defensive line led by Derek Barnett (69 Tackles 10 sacks) is so deep and talented that it would even make Urban Meyer and Nick Saban blush. Super Sophs Shy Tuttle and Kahil McKenzie will be terrors collapsing holes, mudding up the middle, and opening up lanes for All American linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin (105 tackles 6 sacks) to wreak havoc on all who dares to get in his way.
Coach Butch Jones was awarded with an extension after a dissapointing 9-4 campaign. Finishing 3rd in the SEC East may be acceptable to some, but average won’t cut in Knoxville. For four years, Vols faithful have heard one excuse after the other, with the level of talent Jones has its time to either put up, shut up, or move on. How will we remember the Vols in 2016, Rocky Top or Rocky Flop? Stay tuned…I know I will . – A. Denmark
Anthony Denmark is a writer for eatdrnkslpsprtz.com. Follow him on Twitter@eatdrkslpsprtz2, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google. Listen to eatdrnkslpsprtz radio Subscribe to podcast