March 2, 2024

Is Tennessee football a real contender in 2016?

Tennessee has high expectations heading into the 2016 season. Will the Vols live up to the hype?

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 01, 2016 running back Jalen Hurd #1 of the Tennessee Volunteers during the Outback Bowl between the Tennessee Volunteers and the Northwestern Wildcats at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, FL. Photo By Hayley Pennesi/Tennessee Athletics

There has been a lot of discussion on whether or not Tennessee is a legitimate contender this upcoming fall. The short answer is yes.

This year’s edition of the Volunteers will feature a pair of preseason Heisman contenders and a slew of talented players in important positions.

There is a consensus opinion among major media outlets that the Vols are a top 10 football team on paper. A quick glance of the weapons that Tennessee brings to the table explains just why the Vols appear to be a force to be reckoned with.

According to most Vegas books, senior quarterback Josh Dobbs and junior running back Jalen Hurd are among the top contenders for college football’s most prestigious award.

The belief is that Dobbs will develop as a passer, but if he doesn’t, the team will be able to run the ball effectively behind the legs of Dobbs, Hurd and his fellow junior running back, Alvin Kamara.

While Dobbs and Hurd have been getting a majority of the attention from the national media, it is the other side of the ball that can make this team great. The biggest off-season acquisition for the Vols may not have been a star recruit, but defensive coordinator Bob Shoop from Penn State.

Shoop will have plenty of talent to work with, especially after corner Cam Sutton and linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin decided to forgo the NFL draft to stay for their senior seasons. They will serve as a veteran presence for a defense stacked with young talent across the board. Sophomores Darren Kirkland Jr. and Khalil McKenzie look to be two of the defense’s brightest young stars.

Despite all of the firepower the Vols have, there are plenty of well-documented questions that surround this team.

Last season in close games, Tennessee lost double-digit leads to good football teams in the fourth quarter. In addition to the late-game struggles, the passing offense was not a weapon that the team could consistently rely on, and the results showed as much.

Regarding the blown leads, it is important to remember this was a young team and a young coaching staff. They got better by the end of the season and showed against Northwestern that they would no longer take their foot off of the gas pedal.

If the Vols’ passing game develops this spring, as it should with another season with offensive coordinator Mike DeBord in Butch Jones’ system, Tennessee is going to be a scary contender in the fall.

Featured image by Hayley Pennesi, courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

Edited by Cody McClure and David Bradford

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Freshman studying Journalism and Electronic Media at UTK. Has appeared on several radio broadcasts, and even put out a podcast episode of his own once upon a time. Somehow is not clinically depressed, despite being a lifelong die hard Clippers and Volunteers fan.