Between now and the September 2nd season kick-off, Danny Hobrock will be previewing all the major college football teams with new teams being released daily.
2009 Season Breakdown
2009 final record (overall, conference): 7-6, 4-4
Bowl Game:Chick-fil-A Bowl (L 37-14 vs. Virginia Tech)
Final Ranking (AP, Coaches'):NR, NR
Conference finish:3rd SEC East
Offensive rank: 60
Defensive rank: 22
2009 Individual Statistical Leaders
Rushing:Montario Hardesty, 1,345 yards, 13 TD
Passing: Jonathan Crompton, 2,800 yards, 27 TD, 13 INT
Receiving:Gerald Jones, 680 yards, 4 TD; Denarius Moore, 540 yards, 7 TD
Tackles:Rico McCoy, 119 total tackles
Sacks:Chris Walker, 6 sacks (5 solo, 2 assisted)
Interceptions:Eric Berry, Chris Walker and Wes Brown, 2 interceptions (Walker, Brown: 1 touchdown)
2010 Season Outlook
(* denotes conference game)
September 11 vs. Oregon: What a win this would be for new head coach Derek Dooley in only his second game at Tennessee. The first week should be a gimme, but the Oregon matchup starts a stretch of games that includes Florida, at LSU, at Georgia and Alabama.
October 30 @ South Carolina: If the Volunteers come into this one with more than two wins, then they'll have an upset to build on. In all likelihood, though, this will be a 2-5 team (0-4 in SEC) unless Tennessee can in fact pull off an upset somewhere. If they can't take this one, they could be looking at 0-5 in the SEC with just three more contests to go.
November 27 vs. Kentucky: A win here would be a nice way to end the season. In fact, this could be a much needed win to stay out of the SEC East basement depending on how the Volunteers handle the second half of their schedule against South Carolina, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt.
JJonathan Crompton, QB; Montario Hardesty, RB; Chris Scott, OT; Aaron Douglas, OT; Dan Williams, DT; Rico McCoy, LB; Dennis Rogan, CB; Eric Berry, S
Key Returning Players
Gerald Jones, WR; Denarius Moore, WR; Luke Stocker, TE; Chris Walker, DE; Montori Hughes, DT; Nick Reveiz, LB; Janzen Jackson, S
There was quite the turnover on offense from 2009 to 2010. We'll see a new quarterback and a new featured running back, and all five starting linemen need to be replaced. With no Jonathan Crompton, the job under center is up for grabs with junior Matt Simms and freshman Tyler Bray currently battling it out. Simms is the frontrunner, but any struggles could put Bray right into the mix. With no Montario Hardesty and Bryce Brown, the running back job falls to Tauren Poole, who's pretty good himself. He was impressive in the offseason and looks ready to carry the load with sophomore David Oku and freshman Rajion Neal also in the mix. Fullback Kevin Cooper will serve as a formidable blocker and pass catcher out of the backfield.
Fortunately, the pass catchers are back with tight end Luke Stocker and wide receivers Gerald Jones and Denarius Moore leading the way. Stocker has All-American kind of talent and was named to the Mackey Watch List. He should find himself as a big part of the passing attack, and is a pretty good blocker, too. Jones has performed well as the Volunteers' number one target and can be dangerous when he gets into the open field. Moore led the team in touchdown receptions with seven and will likely benefit with the attention given to Jones on the other side. Marsalis Teague should also see time as a number three receiver in his second year.
So the quarterback is gone, the two leading rushers are gone and, oh, the entire offensive line needs to be replaced. There's talent there and senior guard Jarrod Shaw has some experience, but with such a young and inexperienced line, things are unlikely to gel right away, which could lead to some early struggles in both aspects of the offense. Ju'Wuan James has looked good thus far as a true freshman and will get the start at right tackle, while sophomore Dallas Thomas will take over for Chris Scott on the left side. Redshirt freshman JerQuari Schofield is talented, but inexperienced, and takes over at the other guard spot with junior Chris Pope expected to be the center.
Boy, the Volunteers have caught some bad breaks in what was already a rebuilding year. Defensive end Ben Martin is likely done for the year, and defensive tackle Marlon Walls suffered an Achilles injury that could keep him out for the year as well. The two were going to be a big part of the defensive front for the Volunteers and their absence pokes some unneeded holes in the defense. Malik Jackson, formerly of the USC Trojans, could take over for Martin, as he is not required to sit out a year because of the sanctions levied against his former program.
The competition to replace Walls has not produced a leader yet, but Montori Hughes has experience after serving as a backup last season, recording 20 tackles, and gives the interior a little experience as they adjust to Walls' absence. Chris Walker might be the best player on the defense, and will start opposite Jackson or whoever emerges as the starter at the other end spot. Gerald Williams and Willie Bohannon will also work into the rotation.
Replacing leading tackler Rico McCoy at weakside linebacker is Herman Lathers, who saw starting action in five games last season. LaMarcus Thompson will return as the starting strongside linebacker, while Nick Reveiz returns to the middle linebacker spot. Reveiz was off to a good start before he tore his ACL early in the season. Austin Johnson could also see time in the middle.
The defensive backfield was also hit by offseason issues. Darren Myles was expected to take over the strong safety, but ran into some off-field issues and was kicked off the team. Janzen Jackson will be around, though, and could turn into the leader of this unit. He started nine times last season, but was suspended for three games. At cornerback, Art Evans returns with Eric Gordon stepping in opposite him. Gordon is a redshirt freshman who should contribute to the defense over the next few seasons, while Evans showed he could hold his own as a good cover corner. Prentiss Wagner could serve as a nickel corner, but could also get the opportunity to start in Myles' place. If this secondary can stay healthy and out of trouble, they could be one of the strengths of this team along with the defensive ends.
Special Teams Overview
A couple of seniors return as the kickers in 2010. At place kicker, Daniel Lincoln returns after hitting 10 of 16 field goals and 33 of his 34 field goal attempts last year, but Michael Palady is coming in as one of the top kickers in the nation and could challenge Lincoln for playing time, especially if he struggles. Palady could also see time as punter, if not this year then in the future. Chad Cunningham averaged 42.1 yards per punt return a season ago and, like Lincoln, will be pushed by Palady.
David Oku averaged 25.2 yards per kick return last season and will assume the kick return duties in 2010 as well. At punt returner, Nu'Keese Richardson is gone, as is Dennis Rogan. Janzen Jackson could take over the punt return duties in the coming season.
Head Coach: Derek Dooley
Boy was the Lane Kiffin era entertaining. Perhaps most amazing is that all of those timeless moments occurred in just one year. (Perhaps even more amazing is that he seems to have already equaled his 2009-self in the eight months since taking the USC job.) He did a fine job of recruiting at Tennessee, though, and while Derek Dooley takes over a team that is rebuilding pretty much its entire starting offense, save for the pass catchers, and a defense with some work to be done as well, the cupboards aren't bare and there is talent to work with. Some of that talent is gone (Bryce Brown, Nu'Keese Richardson), but two top ten recruiting classes in a row bodes well for the future of this program.
As for Dooley, he started off well by keeping Kiffin's recruiting class pretty much intact. Dooley was a wide receiver at Virginia from 1987 to 1990, and served as wide receivers coach at SMU from '97 to '99. He was a positions coach at LSU and for the Miami Dolphins of the NFL before taking over at Louisiana Tech in 2007. He took the Bulldogs to a bowl game in 2008 and finished with an 8-5 record, but failed to make much noise in his three seasons as the head coach. Dooley wasn't exactly the Volunteers' first choice, but he'll be given a little leeway in his first year with big things expected in the next couple.
Top 2011 Draft Prospects
Denarius Moore, WR; Luke Stocker, TE; Chris Walker, DE/LB
5th SEC East
Tennessee loses a lot this season and not just their head coach. Their starting quarterback and their two leading rushers are gone, as are their starting offensive linemen. On defense, they lost several key players to graduation, and have been hit hard by injuries on the defensive line and even saw a projected starting safety dismissed. If there's one thing we know for sure it's that it's time to rebuild in Knoxville, and the fans know it. They won't expect an SEC East title or even to be in contention, which takes a lot of pressure off of Dooley and Co. as they take over one of this game's most productive programs.
It's Tennessee were talking about, though, and programs like this bounce back. They're not a one hit wonder like the 2008 Ball State Cardinals, remember. They've appeared in the third most bowl games, tied with USC, of all-time, and have the fifth most victories, tied with Oklahoma and Texas. Getting back to their familiar level is a question of when, not if. As far as this season goes, with question marks and unproven talent taking over this season, and with a tough schedule, the Volunteers could find themselves in the East basement with the likes of Vanderbilt. - Danny Hobrock
Danny is a sports journalist primarily covering college football and professional baseball. His work for Xtra Point Football has garnered national attention and is critically acclaimed. Danny is the former editor of a political and current events website and the editor of our college football content.
Check out these other stories.....