Monday, August 1, 2011

Tennessee Vols Ready for Dooley’s Second Season

Our countdown heads to Rocky Top, where Tennessee will begin the second season of the Derek Dooley era. The Vols won their last four regular-season games after a slow start. Can they build on that in 2011?

2010 Record: 6-7

2010 Skinny: The Vols started the season at 2-6, including a non-conference loss to Oregon and their first six SEC games. They also narrowly avoided a 1-7 start by beating UAB in double overtime. But November was a different story for Tennessee, which won all four of its games in the regular season’s final month. Yes, it beat up on lowly in-state rivals Memphis and Vanderbilt, as well as struggling Ole Miss and Kentucky, but the Vols were sparked by a quarterback change. Matt Simms was replaced by Tyler Bray, and the improvement was noticeable. The season ended with a crushing double-overtime loss to North Carolina in the Music City Bowl.

Returning Starters: 13

Coach: Derek Dooley (second season, 6-7)

Key Players: DT Malik Jackson, CB Prentiss Waggner, RB Tauren Poole

2011 Schedule:

Sept. 3 vs. Montana
Sept. 10 vs. Cincinnati
Sept. 17 @ Florida
Oct. 1 vs. Buffalo
Oct. 8 vs. Georgia
Oct. 15 vs. LSU
Oct. 22 @ Alabama
Oct. 29 vs. South Carolina
Nov. 5 vs. Middle Tennessee
Nov. 12 @ Arkansas
Nov. 19 vs. Vanderbilt
Nov. 26 @ Kentucky

Anthony’s Take: Bray returns for his sophomore season, which should see some fine development after he took over for Simms as a freshman. The Vols also return Poole, a 1,000-yard rusher. The offense will be fine. LB Nick Reivez, a team leader, is gone, and the team already finished 10th in SEC in total defense. As always, the Vols’ SEC slate will be tough. And this year, they will make trips to Florida, Alabama and Arkansas. Oof. I know that logic dictates this team’s bump up to eight wins in Dooley’s second year, but something tells me it’s going to be the status quo in Knoxville.

Jim’s Take: The offense returns a lot of talent at the skill positions and getting safety Janzen Jackson back after he left school for awhile is huge. This is a talented team. You can’t really blame Tennessee for that cakewalk nonconference schedule when you have a Murderer’s Row of an SEC slate. The Vols will likely be underdogs in all but two SEC contests. But with four easy nonconference games and contests against Kentucky and Vanderbilt to end the season, UT only needs one upset to reach seven regular season wins. I see them doing that and winning a bowl game to show progress in year two.

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Getting to the Game

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