Tennessee football preview for 2016, including keys to success for the Volunteers, best players and season prediction.
What You Need To Know About The Tennessee Offense
Is this when the offense starts to work? The Volunteers had the talent and had the experience last year, but the offense was spotty, inconsistent, and faded late.
This year there’s no reason to not expect a lot more pop with Joshua Dobbs a crusty veteran who should be more dynamic with his downfield play. Four starters are back on the O line to pound away for Dobbs and Jalen Hurd, while the receiving corps is full of talent and upside – now they all have to start making more big plays.
Biggest Key To The Tennessee Offense
Can the passing game really start to work? The Volunteers should be able to push the ball down the field, and they should be able to light things up with a fun air show, but now it has to actually produce.
The ground game is going to be fantastic, and that’ll be where the bread is buttered, but with a quarterback like Dobbs, and with high-end receiver prospects who are way overdue to blossom, the Vols need to be far more efficient and they’ve got to be better than 92nd in the nation in passing.
What You Need To Know About The Tennessee Defense
Defensive coordinator Bob Shoop has a potential killer ready to roll. The defense was fine, and it rocked over the second half of the year when it played offenses that couldn’t do anything.
Now it should be steady and fantastic throughout the year with a potentially dominant front four with pass rusher Derek Barnett on the outside and 2015 super-recruit Kahlil McKenzie ready to take over in the interior.
The secondary could use a little help, but the linebacking corps has the upside to be among the best in the SEC East with depth and speed to work into the rotation.
Biggest Key To The Tennessee Defense
The defensive line should be special. New defensive coordinator Bob Shoop has plenty of nice parts to work with, and they mostly start up front on what could be one of the deepest and best lines in the SEC East.
Derek Barnett is an NFL-caliber pass rusher on the outside, while last year’s super-recruit Kahlil McKenzie is ready to roll in the interior. Start with those two, throw in Kendal Vickers at one tackle spot, Corey Vereen at another, and several excellent options in the rotation, and look out.
Tennessee Will Be Far Better If …
It stops cracking under pressure. When push came to shove last year, Tennessee got shoved. Whether it was having the Oklahoma game all but won before wilting late, or allowing Florida to convert five fourth down chances, or getting pounded on by Arkansas and Alabama – and losing the time of possession battle to each by more than ten minutes – this wasn’t a team that handled itself well when it dealt with good teams that didn’t quit. It might sound cliché that a team needs to get tougher both mentally and physically, but to get to the next level, that’s exactly what the Vols need to do.
Best Tennessee Offensive Player
QB Joshua Dobbs, Sr. – RB Jalen Hurd might be the true workhorse the offense works around, and guard Dylan Wiesman is the all-star in the interior who helps make it all go, but Dobbs is the catalyst. He’s the ultra-smart, talented leader every program dreams of to be the starting quarterback, but he still has to be better.
He needs to be a more explosive downfield passer, and he has to be more effective in crunch time. Now that he’s been through everything in the SEC world, he has to be the one who carries the experienced team – he can do it.
Best Tennessee Defensive Player
DE Derek Barnett, Jr. – He suffers from not being as good as Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett – the SEC’s other superstar young pass rusher who’s dominated over the last two years – but he’s still a next-level talent who should be among the conference’s most disruptive forces.
Active against the run as well as in the backfield, he knows how to make big things happen. With the rest of the line around him full of talent, offenses can’t key on him. Look out.
Key Player To A Successful Season
WR Josh Malone, Jr. – Or Josh Smith, or Jauan Jennings, or Preston Williams. The Vols are loaded with receivers who look the part and have all the tools and talent to become fantastic, but now they all have to actually do it.
Malone is the leading returning wide receiver with 31 catches, but he came up with just 405 yards and two scores. They all have to rise up and be better, but if Malone can break from the pack and be the guy – or if any of them can – the offense will start to work far, far better.
The Tennessee Season Will Be A Success If …
The Vols win the SEC East. It’s way past time when Tennessee should be a major player in the conference race. It has the experience, the talent, and the coaching in place to be the best team in the okay-not-phenomenal East, and now it has to at least get to Atlanta in December. Beating an Alabama, or LSU, or SEC West champ would be icing on the cake, but it’s next step time, and that’s winning the division and getting to the title game for the first time since 2007.
Oct. 1 at Georgia The Florida game is in Knoxville, and so is the annual showdown against Alabama – but the Vols can lose to the West and be fine. What they can’t do is lose to a potentially resurgent Georgia team that might be able to own the East with a win in Athens.
The second half of the schedule is a breeze – the last five games are against teams that didn’t go bowling last year – but going to Texas A&M won’t be easy and, obviously, the Gators and Crimson Tide will battle. Beat Georgia, though, and the division should be there for the taking.
2015 Tennessee Fun Stats
– First Quarter Scoring: Tennessee 130 – Opponents 52
– Fourth Down Conversions: Tennessee 13-of-17 (76%) – Opponents 18-of-24 (75%)
– Kickoff Return Average: Tennessee 33.4 yards – Opponents 18.2 yards
2016 Tennessee Season Prediction
What’s going to happen to Tennessee this season? Check out what the final record is going to be …