9-4 (4-4 SEC)
For the first time in four years, it seems like Tennessee hasn’t been in the main discussion for winning the SEC East. Thanks to a massive amount of change, I think it would be safe to say that there is just a big cloud of question over this team this year. Coming off of a 9-4 season where they finished tied for fifth in the conference, the Volunteers feel like a mystery in 2017.
What Happened Last Year?
What looked like a chance at a magical season ended with the walking wounded and what ifs.
A shaky season opener against a more than game App State program would prove to be a precursor to the crazy year ahead. Statement wins against Virginia Tech and at Florida catapulted the Vols all the way up to No. 11 in the polls.
Then there was that crazy night against Georgia. A Hail Mary from Josh Dobbs to Jauan Jennings had convinced almost everyone to become believers that this might just be their year.
However, a rough October led to three straight loses to Texas A&M Aggies, Alabama Crimson Tide and South Carolina Gamecocks. After falling hard, they would bounce back. A loss to Vandy in the final weekend of the regular season sealed the deal however, and subsequently sent Florida to the SEC Championship.
A Music City Bowl win against Nebraska Cornhuskers wrapped up the season on a good note.
The hype was all around the team, but it just feels like they never found a way to answer the call. Injuries, the bizarre case with running back Jalen Hurd going from impact player to just leaving the team and many more reasons left Vols fans just wondering and wishing.
This Year’s Topics
Butch Jones is going into his fifth year with the Vols. It seems like, for a coach that has put up back-to-back 9-4 seasons, that he’s on the hot seat. The last fews seasons have left the Vols feeling like they could have been better. This has raised the pressure on Jones, who most consider to be in a spot where they must show improvement.
This team lost a lot of pieces from last year. Most notably stud quarterback Josh Dobbs. They have yet to name a starter to replace the hole Dobbs left, but it will be up to junior Quinten Dormady or redshirt freshman Jarrett Guarantano. Either will have to find a way to get this offense at the high level that Dobbs left it at.
A top of the nation-level defense is going to be the biggest question to this team’s success. It is not as if they lack talent, either. Players like Evan Berry will be called upon to make big plays on defense as well as on special teams. This will make him a player to watch because if the Vols get rolling, I just have a feeling that he will have a major impact on it.
Best Case: 10-2 SEC 6-2
Worst Case: 6-6 SEC 2-6
Another tough schedule for the Vols all year long. The season will be a question to how good the QB play is as well as how good can their defense be. A team that has been killed by injuries and punishing losses over the years, they can be as great as a 10-win team. But I see no way that they go below six wins.
Keep an eye out for this team. The Vols can be crushing dreams and making their own throughout the season with the talent left and a coach that could possibly be coaching for his job. But their are a lot of question marks when you look at them.
The biggest question that everyone has: Is this team good enough to win the SEC East and finally get back to the SEC Championship weekend?
Only time can tell for these boys.