Tennessee natives know that when someone says Tennessee football they don’t mean the Titans. University of Tennessee football has claimed six national titles and 16 SEC titles over the years, but now they’re better known as an underdog team who can beat the best or the SEC’s biggest pushover on any given day.
Right now most major fans are clinging to tradition and of course, Peyton Manning and their post-Manning championship season. With Lane Kiffins’s terrible contribution to the Vols in his less than one year coaching, it’s hard to imagine them being restored to their former glory.
The University of Tennessee has placed a two-year probation on both its football and basketball programs in an attempt to offset any advantages the programs may have gained through their illegal actions, and punish the coaches without hurting players. Half of new head coach Derek Cooley’s coaching staff will not be allowed to make recruiting phone calls during the 2011 recruitment season, and their 2011 spring recruiting says have been reduced from 168 to 162. Despite everything that the program will be going through, things are looking up.
Sophomore quarterback Tyler Bray stepped up at the end of his freshman season and was an instant success in Tennessee’s lackluster passing game. While there’s no one in the game now who could fill Peyton Manning’s shoes, Tyler Bray is a vast improvement over what Tennessee has endured since Manning’s departure and the fall of Coach Phillip Fulmer. Finishing his rookie season with a quarterback rating of 142.73 and a great performance against North Carolina in the Music City Bowl, Tyler Bray has a lot of momentum and backing from fans going into his sophomore year; he should prove to be one of the best players Tennessee has seen in a long time.
The real key to Tennessee’s success will be its offensive line. Though lackluster last season, they were young. In 2011, Tennessee will be going into the season without a single freshman starting on the offensive line, giving talented running back Tauren Poole and Bray a chance to shine.
The real question when it comes to Tennessee’s offense is their wide receivers. The Vols graduated three of their top wide receivers last season, leaving only Justin Hunter as a returning receiver. However, the Vols managed to pick up two top wide receiver recruits out of high school in DeAnthony Arnett and Da’Rick Rogers, and they could help the Vols keep up the pace on offence, or just drop the ball completely, you never know with freshmen. But that’s Volunteer football: completely unpredictable.