2012 Record: 5-7 (1-7 in SEC)
Head Coach: Butch Jones (first year at Tennessee, 50-27 All-Time)
Last Bowl Game: 2010 Music City Bowl: lost to UNC 30-27
Stadium: Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, TN (capacity = 102,455)
Home Field Advantage: ranked 33rd out of 69 BCS teams
2013 Schedule Link
Out of Conference: 8/31 vs Austin Peay, 9/7 vs WKU, 9/14 at Oregon, 9/28 vs South Alabama
Toughest Home Games: 10/5 vs Georgia, 10/19 vs South Carolina
Toughest Road Games: 9/21 at Florida, 10/26 at Alabama
2012 Statistics Link
Stat to Fear: had just 17 sacks in 2012 (last in SEC), allowed 74 plays of 20 yards or more in 2012 (last in SEC)
Stats to Cheer: had 161 passing plays of 10 or more yards in 2012 (1st in SEC), allowed just 8 sacks in 2012
Advanced Stats (Football Outsiders 2012 FEI Ranking): 61st out of 124 teams
Phil Steele's Returning Starters: Offense: 5, Defense: 8, Special Teams: 2
Key Defensive Returnees: LB AJ Johnson (138 tackles), S Byron Moore (86 tackles, 5 INT)
Key Offensive Returnees: RB Rajion Neal (708 yds rush, 4.5 ypc, 5 TD), RB Marlin Lane Jr (658 yds rush, 5.4 ypc, 29 rec), OT Antonio Richardson, OT Ja'Wuan James
The Derek Dooley era came to an end with a 15-21 record and just 4 wins in 23 conference games. Over the last two years, the Vols have won just one conference game as they went 1-14. The Vols have brought in Butch Jones, 27-13 at CMU and 23-14 at Cincy, and so far he's had a positive impact but that's before the team has hit the field. Butch has brought with him his OC (Mike Bajakian who also coached with Jones at CMU) and DC from Cincy (John Jancek).
Offensively, the Vols will have their work cut out for them. They must replace their QB, Tyler Bray, and their top four receivers (Justin Hunter, Cordarrelle Patterson, Mychal Rivera and Zach Rogers). On a positive note, the Vols do have a strong OL and they have a couple of capable RBs in Rajion Neal and Marlin Lane Jr. At QB, there are four candidates that are vying for the job but they combined to throw just 23 passes for the Vols last season. I expect Justin Worley to open the season at QB but he will probably give way to true freshman Joshua Dobbs as the season progresses.
The defense has talent but they were awful last season. They placed dead last in the SEC giving up 35.7 ppg (40 ppg in conference play) and they gave up a startling 471.3 ypg. They also surrendered 4.75 ypc on the ground and 25 rushing TDs. Can John Jancek and Willie Martinez (yes, THAT Willie Martinez) turn this defense around in one year? I have my doubts. The DL returns just about everybody from last year but they have to be able to get to the QB this year (just 17 sacks in 2012). The LB corps, led by AJ Johnson and Curt Maggitt, has a chance to be really good and should be the strength of the unit. The secondary also has talent as they return three of their top four players. How well can these players forget the last several years and get back to the basic fundamentals? That will go a long way to how good Tennessee can be this season.
The schedule is pretty rough. The good news is that three of the first five games are against Austin Peay, WKU and South Alabama. The bad news? They get Oregon (on the road) on Sept 14th and then they run a SEC gauntlet that no team would want (at Florida, vs Georgia, vs South Carolina and at Alabama). Yep, that's four straight SEC games against Top 10 teams. Tennessee does have a chance to finish strong as they have one of the weakest November schedules in the league (at Missouri, vs Auburn, vs Vandy, at Kentucky). The offense will take a step back from last year but the defense should improve because quite frankly it has to. If this team can get to a bowl it should be considered a wild success story.
Previous 2013 Pre-Season Previews:
ACC- Boston College, Duke, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Miami, NC State, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, UNC, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest
C-USA- ECU, FAU, FIU, Louisiana Tech, Marshall, Middle Tennessee, North Texas, Rice, Southern Miss, Tulsa, Tulane, UAB, UTEP, UTSA
MAC- Akron, Ball State, Bowling Green, Buffalo, EMU, Kent State, Miami (OH), Ohio, Toledo, UMass, WMU
MWC- Air Force, Boise St, Colorado St, Fresno St, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, SDSU, SJSU, UNLV, Utah St, Wyoming