Besides College Football, I have always loved movies. In one of those old corny Burt Reynolds movies from the 70s, he pulls into a gas station in the South. He looks at the old man gas station attendent and said “how bout them Vols?” The old gas station attendent looks at him grumpily and replied “I don’t give a dog bout them Vols”.
Probably some people in Tennessee would like to say they don’t care about the Vols right now, but they mostly still do. The once mighty Tennessee Volunteers have been down for a few years.
I don’t think that will last forever.
It may not be this season because they lost all 5 starters in the Offensive Line, but the Vols signed one of the top recruiting classes in the country. Coming in at #5, the Vols class is one of the nation’s best and has 35 new Volunteers in it and some of them are really good.
To me, the fact that the Vols signed the #5 class in the country does not say that they are back. But, it does scream very loudly that they will be back very soon. A lot of these recruits will play in 2014, but the season should be a struggle with that much youth. 2015, looks to be a season when we see the Vols return to prominence or at least be very competitive.
It’s been a while.
In 1998, Tennessee went 13-0 and won the National Championship under Head Coach Phillip Fulmer. Coach Fulmer would remain with the Vols until 2008 and with him calling the shots, the Vols went 156-52.
Since Fulmer was removed, the Vols have gone 28-34. This is not acceptable in Knoxville, or Tuscaloosa, or State College, or Austin, or most any other football town.
I don’t believe anyone will rank the Vols very highly this season just because of the loss of their entire Offensive Line. That’s a pretty tough break for them.
Tennessee hired Butch Jones away from Cincinnati before last season and he went 5-7 in his first season in Knoxville. His team looked good at times last season in beating South Carolina and losing to Georgia in Overtime. They looked bad at other times, losing to Oregon, Alabama, Missouri and Auburn really big. They lost a heart breaker to Vanderbilt.
This season does them no favors on their schedule. Oregon is replaced with Oklahoma, and the SEC teams they have are the toughies.
It could be a long season for the Vols and their faithful.
Senior Justin Worley (6-4,225) would have to be considered the starter going into next season. He started 8 games last season and then injured his thumb. He threw 196 passes and completed 109 going for 1239 yards and 10 TDs.
Worley is going to be pushed hard by Joshua Dobbs (6-3,205) a true sophomore out of the Georgia high school ranks who was pressed into duty last season with the injury to Worley’s hand. Dobbs threw for 695 yards and 2 TDs, but he also had 6 INTs. Clearly, Dobbs needed a redshirt season but he still has the skills and the talent to get the job done at Tennessee. Dobbs was the #4 rated dual threat QB in the country a year ago. Give him a little time and he will be a good QB for the Vols.
Two of the other possibilities at QB for the Vols are Sophomore Nathan Peterman (6-2,225) and redshirt Freshman Riley Ferguson (6-3,190). Peterman played a little last season but a lot of it was a disaster for him and the Vols, unfortunately. Ferguson came in with Dobbs, but had the luxury to redshirt. He was a 4 star recruit out of North Carolina.
Senior RB Marlin Lane (5-11,210) is the leading returning ground gainer for the Vols. He ran for 534 yards a year ago and has 1472 yards for his entire career.
The Vols have senior Deanthonie Summerhill (5-9,200) but he has played very little and only has 115 yards rushing since he’s been in Knoxville. Promising sophomore, Alden Hill, has transferred out.
The future at RB for the Volunteers is Jalen Hurd (6-3,225). Hurd is a big, strong true freshman that supposedly runs a 4.4. I have seen him play and I would believe he is close to the 4.4 40 time. He’s a big kid that can move. They were claiming he was 6-4,240 in high school which is more of a Tight End sized player, but he is looking like a RB all the way and was an early enrollee that had a big day in the UT spring game.
Derrell Scott (5-11,180) is a quick and shifty back out of North Carolina that should be on campus in the summer.
The Vols have some talent returning at WR and some more talent coming in. Marquez North (6-4,220) is a big body WR with some skill hauling in 38 balls a year ago as a freshman. I hate to call a man ‘pig’ but Pig Howard (5-8,185) is another talent that had 44 catches last season.
Jason Croom (6-5,220) was an impressive freshman a year ago and caught 18 passes. Johnathon Johnson (5-9,180) had 13 catches and Josh Smith (6-1,195) had 12.
JC transfer Von Pearson (6-1,180) and freshman Josh Malone (6-2,195) might be ever bit as good as the ones above.
Devrin Young (5-8,175) is also back at WR.
The Vols have always been known to have a talented group of WRs. This year’s may not be as good as the old days WR units, but there is some talent here.
Tight End should be manned by Brendan Downs (6-5,250) but he only caught 12 passes last season and only has 18 for his entire career here. There is little experience behind Downs. Alex Ellis (6-4,240) redshirted last year and Woody Quinn (6-5,250) is a JC transfer that hasn’t played football for long. AJ Branisel (6-4,225) had 3 catches in 2013. Incoming freshmen Daniel Helm (6-4,225) and Ethan Wolf (6-6,250) have a great shot at early playing time. Helm is a 4 star recruit but Wolf has that size that you love in a Tight End.
I would have more hope for the Volunteers this season if they had a at least a couple of Offensive Linemen coming back. But, they have zero returners on the line. This is going to be tough.
The new starting center should be Mack Crowder (6-2,285) and the guards should be Marcus Jackson (6-2,305) and Kyler Kerbyson (6-4,305). Jackson started a few games back in 2011 and Crowder started 1 game last year. Dontavius Blair (6-8, 315) started at Left Tackle in the Spring and Coleman Thomas (6-6,310) lined up on the Right side. Blair is a JC transfer and Thomas is a true freshman. Jacob Gilliam (6-4,295) is a walk on that may start instead of Blair.
Austin Sanders (6-5,310) is a redshirt freshman and Ray Raulerson (6-5,275) is a true freshman and they are all that provide depth at the tackle spots. Jason Carr (6-5,290) has moved over from the defense to add another body to the mix. How does a program get in this kind of shape?
Might suggest the coaching staff add 5 High School Offensive Linemen next year and a few JC guys as well. The depth on the OL is limited at best.
Defensive Line is a mess, too.
One of the starting ends should be either senior LaTroy Lewis (6-4,255) or Corey Vereen (6-2,245). They did not start a year ago but they are not totally green, either. Williams had 18 tackles and Vereen had a sack. At the other end, Curt Maggitt (6-3,245) or Jakob Johnson (6-4,230) could play.
Jaylen Miller (6-2,250), Malik Brown (6-4,250) are young guys already on campus that should provide depth.
Dewayne Hendrix (6-5,255) Derek Barnett (6-4,275) and Joe Henderson (6-3,230) are on their way in the summer.
Danny O’Brien (6-2,285) played some at Defensive Tackle in 2013 and had 12 tackles. Trevarris Saulsberry (6-4,290) was playing before getting hurt early on 5 tackles. Owen Williams (6-2,290) is a JC transfer that probably will start. Jordan Williams (6-5,265) could play one tackle spot or even
Dimarya Mixon (6-3,265) a true freshman from Texas needs some size but he may be in the mix at Defensive Tackle in 2014. Charles Mosley (6-5,350) Michael Sawyers (6-2,300) have the size, but are freshmen which may not matter at Tennessee right now.
The team’s best returning defender is A.J. Johnson (6-2,240) who led the team in tackles a year ago. The Vols will probably play more of a 4-2 defense with Jaylen Reeves-Mayben (6-2,210) at the other LB spot. Kenny Bynum (6-1,235) and Justin King (6-2,245) should be the back ups.
Chris Weatherd (6-4,225) and Dillon Bates (6-3,215) could help in the Fall.
At CB Justin Coleman (5-10,185) has plenty of experience and Cameron Sutton (6-1,180) started as a freshman last season. Emmanuel Mosely (5-11,165) could play as well. Riyahd Jones (6-0,185), Malik Foreman (5-10,180) and D’Andre Payne (5-9,180) could all play here.
Returning at the safety positions are LaDarrell McNeil (6-1,205) and Brian Randolph (6-0,185). Lemond Johnson (6-1,195) and Devaun Swafford (5-11,185) should provide depth here.
It’s going to be a couple of more years on the Vols recovery. They lack depth and experience at several key positions. If they can manage to win 7 games this season and recruit well again, they may be on their way.