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Previews 2015: Tennessee Volunteers

Previews 2015: Tennessee Volunteers

Between a heavy concentration of returning starters, improved recruiting and some of the best offensive skill talent in the conference, Tennessee is hoping it can finally lift itself out of the doldrums it’s been in for at least the last eight seasons. Roughly from the time Nick Saban arrived at Alabama, Tennessee has been irrelevant in the SEC. The 2015 Volunteer team is still not perfect; the offensive line, while experienced, wasn’t good in 2014, the defense has some holes up the middle and the book is still out on Butch Jones as both an x’s-and-o’s coach and a program leader. But things are looking up.

2014 Previews: Tennessee Volunteers

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2014 Previews: Tennessee Volunteers

If win-loss records were determined by bravado and bull hockey, Tennessee’s Butch Jones would have a team in the national title game every year. Jones has done a good job selling the illusion of improvement, but the Vols had better hope he can continue to recruit well – because success in the present day isn’t coming. Tennessee might have the league’s worst offensive and defensive lines simultaneously, certainly a first for this program and maybe the first for any SEC program not named Vanderbilt. Aside from a few bright spots at receiver and an above-average linebacker corps, Tennessee doesn’t have much. Hitting .500 this season would be a major accomplishment.

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Tennessee wrap-up: Vols have found out how the other half lives

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Tennessee wrap-up: Vols have found out how the other half lives

For a period of time about 15 years ago or so, the SEC football world revolved around Florida and Tennessee.

Phil Fulmer had built the Volunteers into a powerhouse, putting out NFL players left and right and – at least in years he could get by Steve Spurrier’s Florida team – annually threatening the top of the AP and Coaches’ polls. In addition, Tennessee enjoyed a cozy relationship with the SEC office, and there was little hiding the fact that Tennessee wanted to consign Alabama to the SEC’s second tier, or worse.

Funny what a difference a decade makes.

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2013 Fall Previews: Tennessee Volunteers

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2013 Fall Previews: Tennessee Volunteers

The Derek Dooley era is over in Knoxville, but the aftereffects of his regime will continue to be felt for at least a couple of years. Tennessee comes into 2013 at a severe talent disadvantage to most of its rivals, and is also both changing its defensive scheme and rebuilding on offense. Were it not for the lucky accident of having the most talented offensive line in the conference, Tennessee would be a candidate to lose 10 or 11 games. As it is, the Volunteers will have to scratch to equal last year’s 5-7 mark, and will need at least two significant upsets to get bowl-eligible. Add to this the uncertainty of just how good new coach Butch Jones really is, and the Vols could be on their way to the SEC East cellar once again.

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