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Tennessee Vols

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Tennessee was the talk of the town early last season en route to a 5-0 record and top-10 ranking in the AP Polls, but that quickly faded as the luck ran out. The Volunteers finished 4-4 in conference play and 9-4 overall. With a new quarterback and equally difficult schedule, it’s going to take a huge effort from Butch Jones’s team to reach double-digit wins this season.

The battle at quarterback will likely be the talking point around this team from spring until fall between junior Quinten Dormady and redshirt freshman Jarrett Guarantano. Dormady looked better in the spring game, which was to be expected given his experience, but the battle is by no means settled. Losing Joshua Dobbs won’t be easy and this group could have some growing pains early in the season. The skill players are in a similar spot with John Kelly (630 yards, 5 TDs) the expected starting running back and Jauan Jennings (40 receptions, 580 yards, 7 TDs) the top returning wide receiver along with Ethan Wolf (239 yards, 2 TDs). The offensive line remains a work in progress, but if they figure things out, could be an elite unit, filled with talent.

Defensively, the Vols lose their top guys, namely Derek Barnett, but this will still be a decently experienced group. They dealt with a ton of injuries last season and that in turn got younger players more playing time, even if they struggled (allowed 49 points to Alabama, 36 to Kentucky, 37 to Missouri, 45 to Vandy). While they kept a lot of guys out in the spring game due to injury, players like Darrell Taylor on the line and Justin Martin at corner stepped up. Like last season, the defense is going to need some work, especially up the middle, but if Martin and safety Nigel Warrior can be playmakers in the secondary, that would give them a boost.

Getting off to a good start won’t be easy with Georgia Tech in the opener and then a trip to Florida in the SEC opener. There’s a chance the Vols lose two of their first three games making home tilts against Georgia and South Carolina close to must-wins if they want to compete in the SEC East. The further problem is that trips to Kentucky and Missouri won’t be easy, which adds on to their two games against two of the best teams from the West (Alabama, LSU).

The Volunteers have the third-best odds to win the East and it’s going to take a lot for them to do that with a new quarterback. In the spring, they were listed at +1400 to win the conference (at 5Dimes Sportsbook, which seems generous given the obstacles this team faces in the schedule and on both sides of the ball.

2017 Tennessee Volunteers Football Schedule

Sept. 4 at Georgia Tech (Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta)
Sept. 9 vs. Indiana State
Sept. 16 at Florida
Sept. 23 vs. UMass

Sept. 30 vs. Georgia
Oct. 14 vs. South Carolina
Oct. 21 at Alabama
Oct. 28 at Kentucky
Nov. 4 vs. Southern Miss
Nov. 11 at Missouri
Nov. 18 vs. LSU
Nov. 25 vs. Vanderbilt

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