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2011 Pre-Season Preview: Tennessee Volunteers

2010 Record: (6-7, 3-5 in SEC)

Head Coach: Derek Dooley (23-27 All-Time, 6-7 at Tenn)

Last Bowl Game: 2010 Music City (lost to UNC 30-27)

CFBZ Vols Links

5 Players Ready To Breakout in the SEC

Pre-Spring All SEC Team

Returning SEC Offensive Firepower

Spring Football Questions: SEC East

 

Schedule

9/3: Montana

9/10: Cincinnati

9/17: at Florida (2010 result: lost 31-17)

10/1: Buffalo

10/8: Georgia (2010 result: lost 41-14)

10/15: LSU (2010 result: lost 16-14)

10/22: at Alabama (2010 result: lost 41-10)

10/29: South Carolina (2010 result: lost 38-24)

11/5: Middle Tennessee

11/12: at Arkansas

11/19: Vanderbilt (2010 result: won 24-10)

11/26: at Kentucky (2010 result: won 24-14)

2010 Offensive Statistics:

Scoring: 27.0 ppg (11th in SEC, 58th in Nation)

Rushing Yds/Game: 109.23 yds/game (last in SEC, 105th in Nation)

Passing Yds/Game: 254.5 yds/game (4th in SEC, 30th in Nation)

Total Yds/Game: 363.8 yds/game (9th in SEC, 75th in Nation)

2010 Defensive Statistics:

Scoring: 25.1 ppg (9th in SEC, 56th in Nation)

Rushing Yds/Game: 152.54 yds/game (8th in SEC, 60th in Nation)

Passing Yds/Game: 229.6 yds/game (8th in SEC, 81st in Nation)

Total Yds/Game: 382.2 yds/game (10th in SEC, 69th in Nation)

2010 Misc Stats:

Turnover Margin: +0.31 per game (6th in SEC, 36th in Nation)

Penalties: 44.1 yds/game (5th in SEC, 31st in Nation)

Returning Starters:

Offense: 7

Defense: 6

Kicker/Punter: 0

Top Returning Statistical Leaders:

Passing: QB Tyler Bray, Soph (125 of 224 for 1,849 yds, 18 TD, 10 INT)

Rushing: RB Tauren Poole, Sr (204 for 1,034 yds, 5.0 ypc, 11 TD)

Receiving: WR Justin Hunter, Soph (16 rec for 415 yds, 7 TD)

Tackles: LB Herman Lathers, Jr (75)*

Sacks: DT Malik Jackson, Sr (5)

Interceptions: S Janzen Jackson, Jr; S Prentiss Waggner, Jr (5)

*fractured ankle and is expected to miss multiple games at start of season

Bowl Predictions:

Athlon Sports: Gator (vs Iowa)

Phil Steele: Music City (vs Clemson) 

 

The Tennessee Volunteers have gone through three coaches and three years and it left Derek Dooley to pick up the pieces last year as coach number three. While Dooley’s team lost one more game than the team in 2009, Dooley faced a very tough first year on the job as he had to pick up the mess that was left by Lane Kiffin after he exited stage to the left coast. The Vols started just 2-6 with wins over Tennessee-Martin and an OT escape against UAB. At the end of the year, the schedule turned and the Vols rolled over Memphis and Ole Miss and beat Vandy and Kentucky to finish the year at 6-6. The Vols look like they found themselves a QB in Tyler Bray as he performed well during the second half of the season. Depth was a big issue for the Vols last year and while it won’t be as bad this year it will still be an issue. Just the other day Vols writer Wes Rucker said on Twitter that less than half of Kiffin’s Class of 2009 was still on the team. It’s hard to build depth when a recent recruiting class is already half-way gone. It will be very interesting to see how Derek Dooley does in his second year especially with such a tough schedule. The Vols draw the top three teams in the SEC West as they play LSU at home and go on the road to Arkansas and Alabama. We caught up with Joel Barker of the Tennessee Volunteers site Knox Vegas Vols to get his take on the 2011 season.  

Derek Dooley stepped into a no win situation last year. What are your thoughts on the job he did? 

Dooley did a remarkable job in 2010 considering the circumstances. The Vols played with less than 70 scholarship players on the roster for much of the season. To come within a couple of plays of an eight win season after all that the team went through with Lane Kiffin’s sudden departure in January, was almost a best-case scenario.

Tennessee finished 9th in scoring defense and 10th in yardage allowed in the SEC last season. What do you see as the biggest areas of opportunity on the defensive side of the football?

The Vols have a lot of talent on the defensive line, but lack of depth at that position–and at linebacker–will definitely hamper the Vols efforts yet again on the defensive side of the ball. Top tackler Herman Lathers was supposed to anchor the unproven linebacker corps, but he fractured his ankle last month and is going to miss a large chunk of time. The best unit on this defense will be the secondary with or without Janzen Jackson. Obviously, it will be much better with him than without, but the largest volume of playmakers on this defense is found in the secondary.

CFBZ Note: Janzen Jackson re-enrolled at Tennessee last week so all signs point to him being a go for the season.

Tyler Bray came on strong towards the end of the year last year. What are the expectations for him this year and is his performance in the Spring Game a cause for concern?

Tyler Bray has some growing to do–in size, mentality, and on the football field. Bray’s biggest games were against terrible defenses, but he did throw for a ton of yards despite only being fed a relatively small portion of the playbook. He was able to be a raw talent last season against the lesser competition. This year, he has to learn how to be a quarterback. The spring game was really a snapshot of Bray’s growing pains from this spring. It’s a learning curve that Bray will definitely have to get on top of heading into the fall. Is it cause for concern? Maybe. A bad preseason camp from Bray next month would not sit well with fans or coaches.

Who do you see as the break-out players for the Vols this year?

Junior college transfer Maurice Couch has a ton of potential at defensive tackle. He’s a large, disruptive force that will be counted on early and often on a depthless defensive line. Another JC transfer Byron Moore could play a big role at cornerback as well. And, of course, the wide receiver tandem of Da’Rick Rogers and Justin Hunter are the keys to the offense. Hunter has freak-like ability and Rogers is a game-changer.

Looking at the schedule, what are the most important games this year?

The Florida game will always be a key for Tennessee–especially since it appears the Gators are down this year. I can’t see this Vols team winning in the swamp regardless of how far down Florida might be. The Georgia and South Carolina games are probably bigger than the Florida game since both are played in Knoxville. Tennessee has to defeat one of those three teams or 2011 could be a disaster with games against LSU, at Alabama, and at Arkansas.

What is your gut feeling on the final record for the 2011 season and what makes the season successful in your eyes?

I think 7-5 is about the best that can be expected. 8-4 would be incredible given the circumstances, but it’s just unrealistic to at this point. Tennessee shouldn’t have much trouble with Montana, Cincinnati, Buffalo, or Middle Tennessee. The Vols can usually count on Vandy and Kentucky for a win as well. I can’t see Tennessee winning in the swamp, at Alabama, or at Arkansas. A decent bowl invitation should come down to home games versus Georgia and South Carolina. 7-5 should be considered progress in Knoxville these days.

Next Preview: Northern Illinois

Coming in August: SEC Preview

Coming in August: CFBZ Top 25 Countdown

2011 Team Previews

ACC- Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Maryland, Miami, NC State, Wake Forest

Big 12- Baylor , Iowa St, Kansas St, Texas Tech

Big East- Cincinnati, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Syracuse, UConn, USF

Big Ten- Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota ,Northwestern, Penn St, Purdue

C-USA- East Carolina, Houston ,Marshall, SMU, Southern Mississippi, Tulane, UAB, UCF

Independent- Army

MAC- Akron, Ball St, Bowling Green, Buffalo , Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Temple, Toledo, Western Michigan

MWC- Air Force, New Mexico, UNLV, Wyoming

Pac-12- Arizona , Oregon St, UCLA, Washington

SEC- Kentucky, Ole Miss

Sun Belt- FAU, FIU, Louisiana, Middle Tennessee, North Texas, Troy , ULM, Western Kentucky

WACFresno St, Idaho, Nevada, San Jose St

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