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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Sportaholic College Football Preview: Tennessee Volunteers

College Football is just around the corner with the first games scheduled on September 1. So with that in mind, we here at the figured it was about time to rev up the college football machine and review some local team in our area. With our expanded roster, we now can cover teams from all over the nation but we will start with our home teams. Each week leading up to the season we will have capsules on the University of Tennessee, Vanderbilt University, and Tennessee State University. We will follow those teams with some of the national powers as well, just to make sure we cover all of our bases.

To start things off, we will ask just a few basic questions on each team as: Offense, Defense, What are their strengths, What are their weaknesses, Who will be their impact player and What do you project as their season outlook just to name a few. We love college athletics here at the Sportaholic and this just one of many college football posts we have awaiting our viewers this season. So sit back and relax as we here at the Sportaholic preview some of your favorite teams from all over the nation.

University of Tennessee

By Carlos Paige

1. Offense - Tennessee’s offense will revolve around sophomore stud Tyler Bray as he looks to build off an impressive freshman campaign. Bray was 125 of 224 while throwing for 1,849 yards and 18 touchdowns last year. He won SEC freshmen of the week honors three of the four weeks he started last season as well, throwing for more than 300 yards in four games. So you can see why UT fans are antsy to see what Bray can do in a full season of work. Coach Derek Dooley just wants to see more consistency from his QB. The Vols also return 1,000 yard rusher Taurean Poole, who gained those yards running under a inexperienced offensive line. The line should be much improved after a year of experience under their belt, especially young players like Ju'Wuan James, Zach Fulton and James Stone, who all started as true freshman at one point or another last season. Look for sophomore Raijon Neal to take the load off Poole as he did last year and is a good second option for the Vols. 4-star incoming Freshman Marlin Lane has also received a lot praise this spring, as some have even compared him to former UT great Jamal Lewis, so expect for him to steal a few carries from Poole and Neal as well. The receiving core took a couple of big losses in Gerald Jones and Denairus Moore but it opens the door for two talented sophomores in Justin Hunter and Da’Rick Rogers. Both showed flashes of becoming the next great at the school formally known as Wide Receiver U. Hunter is a just a freakish athlete who made multiple spectacular catches and averaged an unheard of 25.9 his freshman year. Rogers, who was more heralded than Hunter coming out of high school, has NFL size and measurables already and made his mark on the offense last year with his versatility. When you add incoming 4-star recruit DeAnthony Arnett in the mix and possibly at the slot receiver, than you have the makings of an explosive effense.

2. Defense – It was tough to watch sometimes for the Vols defense last year, as they lacked the physical bruisers on the interior of the defensive line that you need when you play in the ultra physical SEC. As a result, they allowed 25.1 ppg and 382.2 total ypg in 2010, in other words this was a bad defense. They still face that problem this year as DT Malik Jackson is the only proven big man for the Vols, but they did snag the 2nd rated JUCO defensive tackle in the nation with Maurice Couch. A lot will be riding of the contributions of Couch and converted offensive linemen Daniel Thomas as Tennessee’s much maligned defensive front tries to raise its level of play from last year. The ends will be anchored by Jacques Smith, Willie Bohannon and Marlon Walls who all have experience but will receive expansive time at the position. The linebacker core took a big loss as Junior Herman Lathers suffered an ankle injury that will sideline for a few weeks. He was the teams most experienced player at that position, recording 75 tackles last year. In Lathers absence, seniors Daryl Vereen and Austin Johnson will finally get their shots at starting. They will most likely be joined by one of the two impressive freshman coming into the fray, A.J Johnson and Curt Magiit. The coaches have raved about Magiit as he has wowed everyone in spring practice. He has been exceptional in playing either from the 2.0 stance or the 3.0 and could serve as the all important edge rusher for the Vols. He could also provide depth for the defensive line. The most impressive unit for the Vols has to be the secondary. After a tumultuous off-season, Janzen Jackson returned to bolster an already strong unit. When you couple Jackson with, sophomore Brent Brewer and Prentiss Wagoner at the safety positions then you can see why it should be one the better secondary’s in all of the country. Dooley also recruited well in that department as he landed speedster Justin Coleman and former USC player and transfer Byron Moore. Both of them should push incumbents Marsalis Teague and Eric Gordon for playing time. If the defensive front can at least hold their own, then this could be a surprisingly good defensive unit.

3. What are the team’s strengths? It has to be their athleticism at wideout with Justin Hunter and Da’Rick Rogers. These two will be beasts as they have the size and speed to create problems all over the field. Tyler Bray has a gunslinger mentality so they will have plenty of opportunities. You also can’t forget incoming freshman DeAnthony Arnett at the slot position as his speed will offer a counter to the size of the outside receivers. The Vols will be able to create multiple mismatches with these guys and if they face an inferior secondary then you can forget about it, as Big Orange should put up huge numbers on them.

4. Who are the team impact players? Tyler Bray and Malik Jackson. Both players are the leaders on their respective sides of the ball for the Vols. A lot is expected from Bray after his sensational freshman campaign. And to be realistic he has to be even better than he was last year when there wasn’t any film on him besides his high school days to study. Bray has the chance to follow in the footsteps of the great Peyton Manning as he has all the tools to become that good. His learning curve and ability to lead this team could be the difference in a 6-6 year or a 8-4 year. Malik Jackson is the lone starter on a defensive line that was mediocre at best. The USC transfer produced the most for the Vols recording 5 sacks and 19 tackles as he was named to the AP All-SEC Second Team. He has to be the leader for that unit as they hope to improve to at least average this year in the SEC.

5. What is the team weakness? It has to be the defensive line. The Vols ranked ninth out of twelve teams in the SEC in total defense last year, they were 60th in the nation with 26.0 sacks, and 60th again in the nation in rushing defense. Those numbers will not cut it for a winning club. The Vols as we all know have their problems up front and its difficult to fathom a team that has had greats like Reggie White and Albert Haynesworth (At least while he was in college) now having trouble landing the big time recruits for big men. Hopefully junior college transfer Maurice Couch can provide any type of contribution to Malik Jackson and that would help improve this unit's performance from last year.

6. Season projection and predicted record: I have seen some projections that the Vols will finish second to last in the SEC East and some actually have them winning the East. I say it’s somewhere in-between with this current version of the Vols. I believe this team is good enough to win 8 games this year. It will all depend on how they play early and especially what they do in their first real test of the season versus Florida. If they go out and defeat the Gators, then the season could gain momentum and be a good one. The Vols could be 4-0 entering October, but thats when the real meat and potatoes of the schedule hits Rocky Top. The Vols have one of the toughest stretches for any team in college football as they face Georgia, LSU, Alabama, and South Carolina in consecutive weeks in the month of October. That tough spell will truly test the Vols will. If they could win at least 1 or 2 of those games and finish strong in November as they always do, then they could be on their way to a New Year’s Day bowl game. Realistically, I see the Vols winning 7 games, which will be just the next stepping stone in the rebuilding of the program under Derek Dooley.


  1. Great post. it was evry in depth. TYVM for commenting on my Yao Ming post btw.

  2. Thanks JT, I enjoy reading your basketball columns bro, so I had to drop a comment for you on the Yao Ming subject. I thank you for taking the time to stop by and comment on here as well man.