College Football Preview: The 2014 Tennessee Volunteers
2014 College Football Preview
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Overview: It goes without saying that Tennessee Volunteers’ fans weren’t exactly thrilled with a 5-7 season in the first year with head coach Butch Jones. Shoot, those are the performances coach Derek Dooley was just fired for. Tennessee lost five of its last seven games and fell one win short of qualifying for a bowl appearance for the third straight season. While it all may sound negative, Tennessee did show bright spots at times and the fan base must realize that it takes time to make progress in a loaded conference like the SEC. Still, the fans want a bowl game this year.
Offense: Tennessee enters the season with question marks on the offensive side of the ball. First off, the Vols are losing all five of their starting offensive linemen. That’s never a good thing and is guaranteed to leave massive growing pains especially early on in the season. The Volunteers also don’t know if their starting quarterback is going to be Justin Worley or Joshua Dobbs. Neither sound like attractive options at this point. If you’re able to overlook those points, Tennessee does have a solid group of wide receivers with Jason Croom, Marquez North, Josh Malone and Von Pearson leading the way. If those guys are given chances to make plays, Tennessee could improve offensively.
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Defense: Tennessee was a lot better defensively than it was back in 2012, but 11th in the SEC still isn’t cutting it if you want to take that next step and get this program back in the glory days. The good thing is that the Vols do have some key pieces returning on this side of the ball who can continue to improve this unit such as A.J. Johnson, who has had more than 100 tackles his last two seasons. Brian Randolph had four interceptions as a sophomore and Emmanuel Moseley is so talented he’ll probably be starting as a freshman. The defensive line lost many of its key difference makers, but Corey Vereen and Danny O'Brien are more than capable of getting after the quarterback. Another step in the right direction may be in sight.
Special Teams: Matt Darr will get his starting punting job back after losing the position in 2012. He averaged less than 40 yards per attempt a season ago. At placekicker, it’s going to be nearly impossible to replace Michael Palardy, who made 14 of 17 attempts last season.
Outlook: Tennessee has to qualify for a bowl appearance or there are going to be serious questions about making another coaching change. But that’s just about all the Volunteers can do with a schedule that includes Oklahoma, Florida, Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina. The Volunteers still don’t have the depth it takes to make a run at the SEC East crown. Still, that doesn’t mean this team can’t make you some money if they figure out their quarterback situation and continue to improve their defense.