2009 Tennessee Volunteers Football Preview
2008 Record: (5-7, 3-5)
2008 Bowl: none
Coach: Lane Kiffin (First year at Tennessee, 0-0 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Jim Chaney
Defensive Coordinator: Monte Kiffin
Other Key Returnees: DE Wes Brown, K Daniel Lincoln, C Josh McNeil, CB Dennis Rogan, OT Chris Scott, QB Nick Stephens, TE Luke Stocker, DT Dan Williams
Key Losses: DE Robert Ayers, DT Demonte Bolden, RB Lennon Creer, RB Arian Foster, OT Ramon Foster, LB Nevin McKenzie, S Demetrice Morley, WR Lucas Taylor, CB DeAngelo Willingham, LB Ellix Wilson
After 17 years at Tennessee, the Volunteers let go of Phillip Fullmer. Following an extremely disappointing 5-7 campaign it was certainly time for a change. Coach Lane Kiffin is the new head man and he created a buzz when he headed into Knoxville. However, all the words and recruiting successes will not immediately turn this team around.
But at least Tennessee has some quality players to build around. The defensive back seven is in good shape with strong safety Eric Berry. Berry is arguably the best player in the entire conference and that is saying something. Berry tallied 72 tackles, 8.5 tackles-for-loss, three sacks and seven interceptions. Linebacker Rico McCoy is the other staple on this team. He tallied 87 tackles last year and will be the leader of the entire defense. Without Nevin McKenzie and Ellix Wilson by his side, McCoy will have a lot of work to do. The other big advantage for the Volunteers is their depth at running back. Arian Foster and Lennon Creer are gone, but Tennessee still has Montario Hardesty and some promising youngsters like Tauren Poole and Toney Williams who can tally quite a few carries.
And Coach Kiffin will need his running game to be impressive since the quarterback situation is such a mess. Jonathan Crompton and Nick Stephens split starts last year and neither had any success getting the anemic offense moving. Crompton is the more experienced option, but sophomore B.J. Coleman was turning some heads. Coleman had a good spring, culminating with a two touchdown performance during the spring game. Then he left the team. It looks like Crompton will likely get the nod on opening day, but he will be on a short leash. The offensive line did not help out the offense too much, but at least center Josh McNeil and tackle Chris Scott are back.
The Bottom Line for the Volunteers:
The offensive line will have some trouble and so will the defensive line. Replacing Robert Ayers, a first round draft pick, will not be easy and Demonte Bolden was an underappreciated defensive tackle. That means the defense should take a small step back this year, but the offense cannot get any worse so with any luck Tennessee will at least be as good as they were last season. The difference will be the new super staff that Coach Kiffin has assembled. If they can work their magic quickly, Tennessee can have a decent year, but at the minimum this is a group that should go to a bowl game.
By Joel Welser
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