2011 Tennessee Volunteers Football Predictions and SEC Futures Odds
by Aaron Smith - 7/6/2011
The Tennessee football program has taken an absolute nosedive in the last three years. Between 1989 and 2007 Tennessee won at least eight games in 18 out of 19 years. In the three years since, the team has gone a combined 18-20. Everyone knew Derek Dooley was in for a long season in his first year at Tennessee in 2010. The Volunteers were actually a little more competitive than most thought, and the team definitely played hard for their first-year coach. While Dooley was given a pass by most in his first year at Tennessee, fans in Knoxville aren’t very patient, and they are certainly expecting much better things in the near future.
One of the main reasons to believe that Tennessee might be able to improve on last year’s results is the manner in which they finished 2010. The Volunteers won four of their last five games. Tennessee, however, fell in overtime to North Carolina in the Music City Bowl. The Volunteers just don’t have much in the way of depth at most positions, but they do have some quality talent.
Dooley wasn’t a particularly popular hire among Tennessee faithful after Lane Kiffin bolted from the program after just one season. The rumblings around town were that Dooley might be in over his head and that the program should have gotten a much higher-profile candidate. Dooley still has a lot of work to do to win over the entire fan base, but he has at least proven he is committed to the team.
Dooley’s primary job now is to rebuild the proud program by recruiting top-notch talent and keeping them around for the long run. The Tennessee program has suffered greatly because of the constant changes at the top, and numerous high-level recruits have transferred away from Tennessee. Expect Dooley to look to search for personnel to help make this offense more powerful on the ground.
Tyler Bray progressed nicely as the season went along in 2010, and he seems to be ready to lead this Volunteers offense. While I’m confident that Bray will continue to improve, it has to worry Tennessee fans that the wide receiver position appears very thin. It will be up to Justin Hunter to step up on the outside. It also doesn’t help that Tennessee has a glaring weakness along the offensive line. Tennessee allowed 41 sacks last season, which was 115th in the nation.
Tauren Poole has all the tools to be a successful running back in the SEC, but running behind this offensive line has made him fight hard for every yard. Poole racked up six 100-yard rushing games in 2010. Look for Tennessee to do its best to establish the running game more frequently in 2011.
The secondary has the potential to be very good, but they need Janzen Jackson to come back into the fold. Jackson left the program in February, and he continues to deal with some off-the- field issues. Jackson has the ability to be an NFL star if he continues to progress, but his future with the team is unclear. Even without Jackson, the secondary is still the strength of the defense. Brent Brewer, Prentis Waggner, and Marsalis Teague should be able to help this team be much improved against the pass.
The front seven are full of quite a few question marks. The linebackers weren’t good in 2010, and there is a serious lack of depth at that position on this year’s roster as well. The defensive front is anchored by Malik Jackson, but they will likely be beaten up front by the best in the SEC.
2011 Tennessee Volunteers SEC and National Championship Futures Odds
The Tennessee Volunteers are listed at +6,500 to win the BCS Championship at BetOnline. That isn’t going to happen, but what do the books say about the Volunteers chances in the SEC? JustBet has Tennessee at +650 to win the SEC East Division and +1,200 to win the SEC Conference Championship Game.
2011 Tennessee Volunteers Football Schedule
The nonconference schedule couldn’t be much easier. The Volunteers will be at home in five of their first six games overall, but the one road game during that span will be at Florida. Tennessee’s schedule will be the toughest in late October, when they face LSU, Alabama, and South Carolina in consecutive weeks. The Volunteers have two winnable games to finish off the regular season against Vanderbilt and Kentucky.
2011 Tennessee Volunteers Football Predictions
The SEC East is far weaker than normal, which leaves some room for Tennessee to surprise to the upside a little bit. Even though the schedule is much easier than normal, this is a team that is severely lacking in depth at many key positions. I think the Volunteers will be a little better than 2010, but the progress will be marginal. Look for a 7-5 record from the Volunteers in 2011.
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