| FTBL Team Capsule; Tennessee

  • Thread starter imported_porkchop
  • Start date
I

imported_porkchop

Thread Starter
71.gif
University of Tennessee

Nickname: Volunteers
2006 Record: 9-4 (5-3 in the Southeastern Conference)
Coach: Phillip Fulmer (137-41 at Tennessee)
Key Additions/Subtractions: (S) Jayson Swain WR, (S) Robert Meachem WR, (S) Brett Smith WR, (S) Arron Sears OL, (S) Jonathon Wade DB



Overview


Is Phillip Fulmer finally off the hot seat? It's hard to say really. The Vols staff did a nice job last year of making the team respectable again after a very sub-par 2005 campaign that saw the team lose 6 games and bow to the likes of South Carolina and Vandy in the process. While going 9-4 in 2006 is an improvement, it's certainly not what Vols fans have become accustomed to in recent years. Or is it? In all fairness, Tennessee has not done all that much in their post-Manning/Tee Martin years. That's not to say that they've done nothing, but they just haven't been that dominant like many Vols fans feel like they have. Since 2002 the team has made the league championship game one time and lost then. In the same span they have won 10 games twice, but have also fallen to the sub-500 winning percentage depths as well. The bowl game record sits at 1-3 with the lone win coming over a Texas A&M team went 7-5 and had little business actually being there in the first place. But such is life in the BCS these days.

So is Phillip Fulmer off the proverbial hot seat these days? I doubt it. Even though this year's team is in a bit of a rebuilding mode I doubt anything short of 10 wins (that's including a bowl game win) will satisfy the hill folks around Rocky Top.

Tennessee has a shot at the SEC Championship Game this year but to get there they will have to find a way to replace almost all of their receiving corps as well as formulating a more productive rushing attack. If Tennessee can't do both they'll likely be on the outside looking in when championship time rolls around.


Offense


07-ainge-erik.jpg

Eric Ainge/UTsports.com

The system that the Vols run has always been heavily dependant on the quarterback position and this year will be no different. For good or ill the Volunteer offense will continue to revolve around quarterback Eric Ainge assuming he can make it back from injury in time to start the season. While Ainge is no slouch he's had a very up and down career in Knoxville. The talent is there, but consistency has always been the issue. Ainge may have started to find it though, based on what he did last season. As bizarre as it seems Ainge actually set the school record last season for accuracy, surpassing both Peyton Manning and Daryl Dickey with a 67-percent completion rate. In fact, at times last year the junior signal caller was almost unstoppable. In games versus Air Force and Vanderbilt Ainge completed 15 and 11 passes in a row. With his 41 career touchdown passes Ainge now ranks third on the UT career list behind Manning and Casey Clausen.

If Ainge cannot make it back from his medial collateral knee tear in time to open the season expect sophomore Jonathon Crompton to fill in. In limited action last season Crompton passed for 4 touchdowns and just over 400 yards. His 47.0 completion percentage will need to be improved however.

Speaking of the running game; it will fall on runningbacks Arian Foster, LaMarcus Coker and Montario Hardesty to produce and relieve some of the pressure on Ainge and the offense. Last year these three teamed up in a bit of a runningback by committee for the Vols offense. Only problem was, it just wasn't a very good committee.

While the overall rushing numbers were not terrible, they just were not that good either. Certainly not the numbers that Tennessee has become accustomed to anyway. To give you an idea of just how average the running attack was last year you need look no further than the official stats. In 2006 Tennessee finished the season with 1404 yards and 17 scores. Those numbers were just good enough to ensure the Vols a national ranking of 96th in the country out of 119 teams. The only team in the conference with a a worse rushing attack was Mississippi State.

Of the runningbacks Coker might be the one that defensive coordinators need to look out for. He led the Volunteers in rushing last season with almost 700 yards, sported a 6.4 yards per carry average and even reached the end zone on a long of 89 yards. His five scores tied for the team lead. Given that 2006 was Coker's freshman campaign one can only expect him to improve on those numbers in 2007.

Montario Hardesty was another freshman thrown into the SEC fire last season, but didn't perform as well. Even though he finished the season with only 1 less rushing attempt than Coker he managed just more than half the yards (384).

Rounding out the trio is the old man of the group. While Arian Foster is the upperclassmen of the group (a junior) he's not the "go to" workhorse. Though he finished the 2006 season tied for the team lead in rushing scores he was third in number of carries and sported only a 3.5 yards per carry average.

The team's leading returning receiver is tight end Chris Brown. The senior finished the 2006 campaign with 31 receptions and a score and he will likely be counted on even more this year with the team lacking experienced wide outs. The Vols will look to chizle out a receiving corps from returning players like Lucas Taylor, Austin Rogers and Josh Briscoe. Taylor and Briscoe are the most experienced of the group, having played a combined 26 games last season for Tennessee. Unfortunately they combined for only 19 receptions.

The offensive line looks like a patchwork operation at this point. Volunteer coaches will have to find capable bodies to try and fill the holes left by the departures of Arron Sears and David Ligon.


Defense

It truly is going to be a rebuilding year of sorts for the Volunteers. It might be one thing to have to replace entire units on one side of the ball, but it becomes dicey when having to do it on both sides. The achilles heel of the defense last year was their inability to stop the run. Tennessee finished the season ranked 72nd in the country giving up an average of 146 yards per game. Against Air Force the defense gave up a whopping 281 yards on the ground. Arkansas tacked on an additional 259, while Penn State ran for almost 200 against the Volunteers on New years Day.

The defensive line will build around senior ends Xavier Mitchell and Antonio Reynolds. Both are solid players who have experience. Mitchell finished his junior campaign with 25 solo tackles and 4 sacks. His biggest play though might have been against Air Force when his tackle for a loss thwarted a two-point conversion attempt that would have tied the game late. Reynolds also recorded 20 stops and 5 tackles for a loss of yardage.

The tackle spots are up for grabs and the team will sorely miss the play of Turk McBride who finished 2006 as the team's 4th leading tackler. Likely candidates include T.J. Mapu and Walter Fisher. Fisher saw action in nine games last season but finished with only 7 solo tackles. Mapu returned last year to play in 13 games. He had spent the two previous seasons on a church mission.


07-mayo-jerod.jpg

utsports.com

The best player on the defense has to be junior linebacker Jarod Mayo. Mayo was a Rivals.com second team All-America last season and named the SEC player of the week twice (versus Alabama and Cal). He finished the season with 83 total tackles and 5 sacks despite battling a nagging knee injury. He finished with double digit tackles in five games with his career high (12) coming against marshall. Mayo is expected to be a first team All-America in 2007.

While Mayo holds down the weakside, senior Ryan Karl will return on the strongside, giving the Vols a solid duo at the position. Karl tallied over 60 tackles last season.

The returning leader in the secondary is senior Jonathon Hefney. Though he's been the starter at free safety it is possible that Hefney will switch positions and take over one of the corner spots. Regardless of where he lines up he should continue to shine and be a stabilizing force in the Volunteer secondary this season. Hefney finished his junior season racking up almost 100 tackles to go with his 5 interceptions.

While it will be a task to replace the other three backfield starters from last year the Vols do have plenty of bodies to choose from. Of the group Antonio Gaines and Jarod Parrish have the most experience. The only question mark will be where they play, as the staff is liable to make numerous personnel switches early on.


Specialists

The only thing in this world more certain than death and taxes is the fact that Tennessee will have a Colquitt punting for them. Junior Britton Colquitt is the fourth in his family to have kicked at the University of Tennessee. As a sophomore he was more than solid, punting for an average of over 44 yards per kick. He ranked second in the SEC and 7th nationally last year.

While the punting is in solid hands the kicking game may need some help. With James Wilhoit wrapping up his playing career in knoxville the Vols will look for a replacement to last season's conference scoring leader. Redshirt freshman Daniel Lincoln appears to be the heir-apparent.

Punt returns will continue to be handled by Jonathon Hefney. He's done a fantastic job averaging over 12 yards per return and was a semi-finalist for the Randy Moss award (given to the nation's top return man each yar) in 2006. LaMarcus Coker and Lucas Taylor will continue to handle kick returns.
 
Top Bottom