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14 for '14: Tennessee and the Bright Side of Turnover

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The new Rorschach test for Volunteer football.

Andy Lyons

One of the more common clichés about the SEC is that it's a line of scrimmage league. Everyone says it no matter what their general philosophy about football is. Well, the Vols are the only team in the country replacing every starter on both lines. They're totally doomed, right?

How you go about answering that question probably says a lot about how you view Tennessee in general.

Since winning the East division in 2007, the program in Knoxville has basically been in rebuilding mode. The offensive transplant of 2008 didn't take. Lane Kiffin was around for one year in 2009. Derek Dooley referred to his first year as "Year Zero" with his second being his real first year because the project was so big. He only got two "real" years then, and now Butch Jones is here in his second.

Replacing everyone on both lines? Boy that must be rough, especially coming off a 5-7 year. Rebuilding continues, right?

To an extent, sure, but what is Tennessee losing? The Vols were below average in league play in rushing last year, and at a 70% success rate but only three yards per carry, they got just enough but nothing more on third-and-short. On the flip side, the run defense was also below average in league play and was abysmal in third-and-short situations in allowing a first down or TD 79% of the time on rushes. About the only thing you can say either unit did well was avoid allowing sacks. The lines aren't only to blame for those stats, but they're a major part of them.

Clearing out the old to make way for the new is more of a good thing than bad in Knoxville. Only Ju'Wuan James was a high draft pick from those who departed, with two others being sixth-round picks. Clearing out the old isn't even completely happening this year anyway, with seven of the nine projected starters being upperclassmen. Getting the new guys to play together will be a challenge as it always is with lots of new linemen, but it's not like they're all fresh out of high school.

Jones's 2014 7th overall class was the highest ranked haul for the school since 2007's third-ranked group according to the 247sports Composite. The 2015 class is on track to have a higher average quality if it holds, though it probably won't be as highly ranked as last year's due to being smaller. Things are headed in the right direction talent-wise, at least. Turnover won't be a bad thing over the next couple of years.

What will it mean for 2014? A forecast for five-to-seven wins, just like the past several years. Jones all but said that it's going to be another rough season at media days last week. It's getting better, but this year won't be the breakthrough.