Published June 23, 2011 - 10:51am
NEW: Discuss this topic in the Google+ community for SEC fans.
Saturday Down South will be counting down the SEC East predictions from No. 6 to No. 1. Obviously preseason predictions are based on pure speculation, and no one knows how crazy the SEC football season will turn out to be!
No. 4: Tennessee Volunteers
2010 Record: 6-7 overall, 3-5 in conference
Record Prediction: 8-4 overall, 4-4 in conference
The Tennessee Volunteers are entering year two of the Derek Dooley experiment in Knoxville. So far, Dooley has had more bad luck than anyone else at the helm for Tennessee, with the LSU and North Carolina clock fiascos to end the ball game.
I think better things are in store for Tennessee, not only this year, but the future as well. I’m just not convinced this year is Tennessee’s, even though the SEC East is wide open for the taking, with Florida and Georgia predicted to be down once again.
Offensively, Tennessee is young but very talented. Quarterback Tyler Bray will lead the Vols in his sophomore season, and he has garnered comparisons to Peyton Manning in his short tenure. The offensive line will be young but talented and deep. Even though the Vols struggled along the offensive line in 2010, I look for them to be much improved in 2011. Bray has talent all around him with Tauren Poole returning at tailback and big-time young prospects at wide receiver in Justin Hunter and Da’Rick Rogers. It will be fun to see how Bray works with both Hunter and Rogers.
Defensively, tackle Malik Jackson and end Jaques Smith will anchor this defensive line unit. Experience does return in Prentiss Waggner, Marlon Walls and hopefully Janzen Jackson to add a formidable line of defense. The defensive line and defensive backfield will be the strongest units of this defense, but there are holes to fill at linebacker. I have a feeling some freshman will get some much-needed playing time at that position.
I do look for teams to try and wear down this Tennessee defensive front four to get to the inexperienced linebackers at the second level late in ball games.
The Vols are entering what could be a must-win game on the road at Florida, but The Swamp is as tough of a place to play as anywhere in the country. If Tennessee wants to make a run at the East, they will need to upset the Gators on the road.
With that being said, my prediction for Tennessee is to finish with eight wins on the year and 4-4 in conference. Playing Florida, Alabama and Arkansas on the road and Georgia at home could be the losses for this team. I think the Vols pull upset wins against LSU and South Carolina – call me crazy!
Things are looking up in Knoxville, and 2012 could be the year of the Vols. But first, 2011 will have to be played out.