Greg McElroy named Tennessee, Nebraska and Louisville as 3 potential teams on the rise for the 2022 season.

The Vols are looking for their first back-to-back winning seasons since 2015 and 2016 after going 7-6 last year in Josh Heupel’s first campaign as the team’s head coach.

So, what do the Vols need to do to take the next step? On his “Always College Football” show, McElroy named 3 big questions facing the Vols in 2022:

“The first question for Tennessee is can you get off the field on third down?” McElroy said. “Tennessee was the second-worst third-down defense in the SEC in 2021. They allowed over 42% conversions. That, in case you’re wondering outside the SEC, is good for 101st out of 130. That’s not what you want. …

“Question number 2: can you solidify the middle of the defense and the secondary? One of the biggest concerns I have about this defense this year is actually the fact that Matthew Butler was maybe their best defensive player. He’s no longer there. The other 2 defensive players who I think are significant losses? You obviously lose Alontae Taylor and you also lose Theo Jackson. …

“And then, finally, here’s the third thing Tennessee absolutely has to do when trying to make a surge in the SEC East. You have to be able to run the football when everybody knows you’re going to run it. More specifically, in obvious run-down situations — third and short, along the goal line. You’ve got to be able to run the football. Couple that with the fact that they were a great run team last year, it’s almost mind-blowing how much they struggled in short yardage and goal line. … In 26 rushing attempts on third and short or fourth and short in the final 4 games of the season, the Vols failed to gain a first down on 10 of those 26 rushing attempts. That is unbelievable.”

Will the Vols be able to improve in those areas and take a step forward from last year’s 7-6 record? We’ll find out in a few short weeks!

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Sports betting in Tennessee officially launched on November 1, 2020, and many of the largest sportsbooks are live and operating in the volunteer state. Tennessee is only one of a handful of SEC football states with legalized sports betting.