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Predicting the 2017 SEC Football Season: Tennessee Volunteers

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Butch Jones has yet another chance to win the SEC East.

Alabama v Tennessee
Josh Frazier is ready for the Vols.
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Installment number four takes us to the Champions of Life.

Coach: Lyle Allen “Butch” Jones (30–21 in four seasons at Tenn, 14-18 in SEC)

2016 record: 9-4 (4-4 in SEC, T-2nd in East Division)

CB969 2016 Prediction: 10-2 "...After looking at the schedule, I guess I can see why some observers are so high on this team. The beginning and ending are about as weak as one could hope for. It is that four week SEC gauntlet in the middle they have to get through...” (Spoiler: They didn’t.)

Looking back: The Vols started out strong going 5-0 beating the likes of Va Tech, Florida and Georgia. However, that last win was that ridiculous no-way-they-shoulda-won Hail Mary game. Methinks they celebrated that win a little too much and figured they were heading to the playoffs because they followed that up with three straight losses (TAMU, Bama, SC) and later a loss to Vandy.

Returning starters: 6 on offense, 6 on defense, kicker & punter.

Key losses: DE Derek Barnett (Round 1, Eagles), RB Alvin Kamara (Round 3, Saints), CB Cameron Sutton (Round 3, Steelers), LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin (Round 4, Lions), WR Josh Malone (Round 4, Bengals), QB Joshua Dobbs (Round 4, Steelers), TE Jason Croom, DL Corey Vereen, OC Mike DeBord.

Top returnees: WR Jauan Jennings (40-580, 7 TD), RB John Kelly (98-630, 5 TD), TE Ethan Wolf (21-239, 2 TD), LB Darrin Kirkland, DE Jonathan Kongbo, LT Drew Richmond, OL Jashon Robertson, P Trevor Daniel, DT Kendal Vickers, SS Todd Kelly (leading tackler, 2 INT).

Top newcomers: Projected starter at RG Trey Smith (Jackson, TN), CB Shaq Wiggins (grad-transfer Louisville, UGA), RB Ty Chandler (Nashville, TN), DB Maleik Gray (La Vergne, TN), LB Will Ignont (New Market, AL), WR Jordan Murphy (Hattiesburg, MS), DE LaTrell Bumphus (Savannah, TN), AHC/DL Coach Brady Hoke.

Names you need to know: Due to Jalen Hurd’s little hissy-fit and injuries to Kamara, John Kelly found more playing time than expected and responded well. He will be the feature back this year. DL Jonathan Kongbo was born in the Congo, raised in Canada and did not start playing football until his senior year. Still raw, he is coming into form.

Strengths: Offensive line returns 4 starters... Both kickers are back... Running game might be okay... Vols do not have two really hard games in back-to-back weeks this season...

Weaknesses: The surprising departure of OC Mike DeBord to be closer to home (Indiana) and the lazy promotion of special teams coach Larry Scott to OC, plus the departures of Dobbs, Kamara and others might stagnate all that was built under DeBoard the last two seasons... Defense lost a lot of cornerstones to the NFL... QBs Quinten Dormady and Jarrett Guarantano are a step back from Dobbs... Butch’s silly slogans and motivation techniques may be wearing thin...

Outlook: Although the Vols have changed OCs, they should not be changing the schemes too much. However, they lost a good bit of talent at the skill positions. The 2016 defense was probably one of the best ones they have had in a decade, but here again, many key components have moved on. There may be some growing pains this year for the Vols.

2017 SCHEDULE:

Sept 04 vs Georgia Tech (the other Atlanta game) 7pm CT ESPN - W - Could go either way.
Sept 09 vs Indiana St. 3pm CT SECN - W - The Fightin’ Larry Birds!
Sept 16 @ Florida 2:30pm CT CBS - L - Gators D is too much.
Sept 23 vs UMass - W - The Fightin’ Julius Ervings!
Sept 30 vs Georgia - L - UGA won’t forget last year’s debacle anytime soon.
Oct 7 bye week
Oct 14 vs South Carolina - W - This could be a tough one, especially a week before impending doom.
Oct 21 @ Alabama - L
Oct 28 @ Kentucky - W - They could very easily lose this one.
Nov 04 vs Southern Miss - W
Nov 11 @ Missouri - W
Nov 18 vs LSU Noon CT - L
Nov 25 vs Vanderbilt - W

Let's go Bowling! Yes, I see a Liberty Bowl in their future.

It is hard to know what kind of team UT will have this year but 8-4 sounds about right.

#RollTide

Poll

How many Vols regular season wins?

This poll is closed

  • 12%
    10 or 11
    (155 votes)
  • 22%
    9
    (284 votes)
  • 18%
    8
    (227 votes)
  • 28%
    7
    (349 votes)
  • 7%
    6
    (95 votes)
  • 10%
    5 wheels fall off.
    (132 votes)
1242 votes total Vote Now

Previous Predictions:

Arky

Bayou

OM