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I Wanna SEC You Up: A Cursory Glance at the Tennessee Volunteers

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The 2005 season is a distant memory for most Vol fans, as UT rebounded from their 5-6 mark to a nine win regular season and invitation to the Outback Bowl vs Penn State. But the work isn't done, as the Vols haven't won a conference title since 1998, and have gone 2-5 in bowl games since then. The Vol faithful are hungry for a return to the elite of college football, and some have gone so far as to suggest that anything less than a conference title will signal the end for Fulmer. While we don't know just how hot the seat Coach Fulmer is sitting on is (we'll leave that to the good folks at Rocky Top Talk when they give us some answers at the end of the preview), we do know that a repeat of the 2005 season, while possible, is highly unlikely. Just as unlikely, though, is an SEC title for Tennessee, as they face a tough schedule in the increasingly competitive from top to bottom SEC East with an offense that lost several key components from last year's unit and a defensive secondary that lost three starters and is manned at the CB position by inexperienced players.

Who's Returning

On Offense

QB Erik Ainge

RB LaMarcus Coker

TE Chris Brown

TE Brad Cottam

RG Anthony Parker

RT Eric Young

C Josh McNeil

On Defense


DE Xavier Mitchell

DE Antonio Reynolds

LB Ryan Karl

LB Jerod Mayo

FS Jonathan Hefney

Though the Vols lose a lot of experience on both sides of the ball, there is more than just hope that UT can match, if not improve on, last season's 9 wins. Ainge has blossomed into the QB his potential told recruiters he would be, and though he won't have Robert Meachem or Jayson Swain to throw to this season, the returning TEs have the ability to play a large role in the passing game (TE Chris Brown is the top returning pass catcher with 31), and WRs Quintin Hancock and Lucas Taylor have both shown enough potential to be big play guys. Further, the depth at RB is enviable with both LaMarcus Coker and (if he can stay healthy) Arian Foster returning to try and improve a ground game that ranked 10th in the SEC and managed only 108 ypg (including a -11 yard performance against Florida). The biggest question mark, like Vandy before them, is the defensive secondary. Though Jonathan Hefney, second on the team with 96 tackles and first with 5 picks, returns at FS, the rest of the DBs will likely be either freshmen or JUCO transfers. Still, the front seven, with returning experience along the line and in the LB corp, should help with an effective pass rush. Tomorrow we'll look at the offense to see what the Vols must do to improve over last year's performance.