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Meet The Volunteers

Tennessee (2-1) – Last week: 59-14 loss to No. 2 Oregon

2012 Record: 5-7 (1-7 SEC)

Returning Starters: 13: Offense: 5, Defense: 8

Key departures: QB Tyler Bray (Kansas City Chiefs undrafted free agent, 3,612 yards and 34 TDs), WR Cordarrelle Patterson (Minnesota Vikings first round draft pick, 1858 all-purpose yardage and 10 TDs), WR Justin Hunter (73 receptions for 1083 yards & 9 TDs, Tennessee Titans second round selection), TE Mychal Rivera (Sixth round pick of Oakland Raiders), LB Herman Lathers (third on team in tackles with 66), WR Zach Rodgers (491 yards and 7 TDs)

Player to watch offense: RB Rajion Neal

After a bevy of early departures last offseason, UT’s versatile senior back remains one of its few talented skill players on a team mostly devoid of playmakers. Neal is hardly a flashy player, but he scored nine touchdowns in 2012 -- five as a rusher and four as a receiver. The Vols have major uncertainties at both quarterback and wide out, but team’s undoubted strength is its offensive line, and new Vols coach Butch Jones is likely to rely heavily on Neal’s wheels even though he prefers an up-tempo, pass-heavy attack. Neal leads the Vols with 257 yards on 43 carries (6.0 y/c) and four touchdowns this season. 

Player to watch defense: LB A.J. Johnson

The SEC’s leading tackler (136) in 2012 was the lone bright spot on an abominable Volunteers defense last year. Johnson, a coveted 2014 NFL prospect, led UT in tackles, quarterback hurries (8) and takedowns for a loss (8.5). Johnson is charged with conducting a unit again adjusting to a new scheme (UT is changed back to a 4-3 defense). To date, Jones has not utilized Johnson’s talents as a two-way player. In 2012, the linebacker scored six rushing touchdowns on 12 attempts as UT’s goal line back in its Wild-Vol set. 

2013 Outlook: Measurably bleak

The Volunteers actually led the Ducks 7-0 before surrendering 59 straight points. They return eight starters from a defense that ranked at or right next to the bottom of every statistical category in the league (scoring, rushing, passing, total, sacks, etc.) UT allowed 54 touchdowns in 2012, good for 94th nationally. The secondary and receiving corps are a total mess, and the quarterback competition between junior Justin Worley and redshirt freshman Nathan Peterman wasn’t settled during spring camp and remains in flux. Worley started the first three games but Jones reopened its quarterback competition this week.

Jones inherited a roster thin on elite talent, particularly with the exodus of Bray, Hunter and Patterson. UT’s new coach has already given the Vols faithful hope with a potentially dynamite incoming recruiting class (No. 2 in Rivals’ team rankings), but with a monster schedule on the horizon -- The No. 19 Gators, a cupcake, then three consecutive games against top 12 teams -- the program may spiral further downward before it can rise again. The Volunteers do boast a stacked offensive line. A unit, according to ESPN Stats Inc., that has 123 career starts. Antonio Richardson and Ja’Wuan James might be the top tackle tandem in the nation, but it’s quite doubtful an offensive line can carry an entire unit with few other discernable known quantities. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

Comments

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I actually hope Tennessee gets better soon. This used to be a great rivalry game, but it has become a lopsided mismatch.

I was rooting for the Vols last Saturday but man, they look awful.

"Awful?" Did you say "awful?"

Why, it is an SEC team. It is a powerhouse. Oh, they lost to Oregon by 45? Kentucky got pounded by Louisville? Vandy is 1 - 2? Georgia lost to Clemson?

Hmmmmm. Don't let facts kick your arse, SEC homers. Just keep chanting SEC.

Dang, thought this was an article on driskel and his and browns " voluntary turnovers. Lmao
Hola canetrash,harriet,d,72, gallo,calvin....lay in the bed U made!

UT just lost most of it's skill players from last year's high power offense. The D is still weak. Only the O line is legit and that is just not enough.
It may be a few years out until they are back to being a top program, we need to take advantage of that and have a great game against them on our road to Atlanta.
Go Gators!

Uh, j, Tennessee didnt have a high poweeed offense last year. Looks like they dont have a defense again this year. Maybe yall can give them some "gifts" to help them win this game being that winning is not important to gators.lmao. "gifts" lmao ,that will never get old!

You better fix that offense and quit being so " giving" if you are going to atlanta,

JLO better buy your tickets now for Atlanta to see GA or USC play Bama

The worst thing Tenn ever did was force Fulmer out. They just haven't been the same since. Lane Kiffin was a joke, as USC is finding out the hard way. Dooley the same. It's strange that a former top tier SEC school can't find a top tier coach to bring them back to relevance.

That shows the importance of having a good coach. I am amazed at how Kiffin has been able to land good job after good job while producing no results. The guy must be a good talker and bullshiter to con these jobs. Although his B.S. ability has surely run out after this USC stop, I don't think he will get any more prime job offers when he is finally let go from there.

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