The Tennessee Volunteers are in a somewhat unfamiliar position than in recent years.

While the Vols garner hype every year, this year is different. Several have predicted Tennessee will win the SEC East, and one preseason publication even ranked the Vols preseason No. 1.

Hype continues to build in Knoxville in a tell-tale season for Butch Jones and company, and college football expert Phil Steele thinks the Vols are a legitimate national championship contender, too. He hopped on Sports 180 on Monday to preview the Vols’ season.

“They’re definitely a legitimate national title contender,” Steele said.


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“They [Vols] are the No. 1 most experienced Power 5 team,” he said. “We can’t hear Butch (Jones) say how young they are this year, because they’re not. (…) Tennessee has got good players at every single unit, every single position across the board.”

Steele’s right. It’s put up or shut up time in Knoxville.

Butch Jones’ roster is stacked full of talent, with a veteran quarterback in Joshua Dobbs and a loaded backfield with Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara, not to mention a deep and talented defense under new coordinator Bob Shoop.

Of course, Steele felt the need to add, assuming the Vols can hold on to the leads in 2016.

“You look at the fact that if you win the SEC East, you find yourself in the SEC title game,” Steele said. “And if you win the title game, you’re basically one game away from being right there in the playoffs. I think Tennessee’s got a good shot, provided they don’t let those leads slip away and play up to their talent level.”

We’ll know this year whether Jones can win an SEC Championship at Tennessee.

Check out the full interview with Steele here.