After what some would say was a dismal 2016 campaign for the Tennessee Vols, it is almost football time in Tennessee. The Vols kick off vs Georgia Tech on September 4, 2017, in Atlanta, in the brand new Mercedes-Benz Dome. It’s Butch Jones’ 5th year on the hill, and some would say it could be his last, depending on how this season goes.
After starting out 5-0, many people thought the Volunteers of 2016 would live up to the hype. But after those five wins, three losses ensued. They lost an overtime thriller to Texas A&M, got ran out of Neyland by Alabama, and then lost to South Carolina (off a bye week, mind you). Throw in the Jalen Hurd saga, and a loss to Vanderbilt to end the season and Tennessee fans had a good reason to not be pleased with Butch Jones, or Team 119.
Had the Vols not slipped up in Columbia and Nashville respectively, they would have seen a 10-2 season, and the pitchforks would still be in the closets. Beat Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl, and many would have considered it a successful season. But, it didn’t go that way, and Butch Jones is left eating a sour harvest going into 2017, that when sowed, looked quite promising. The Vols did end with another beatdown of a B1G team in a bowl game, but even those don’t taste as good after a while.
Questions About The Vols 2017
The main question about the Vols in 2017 is “Who will be the Quarterback?”. Joshua Dobbs is off to the NFL, and someone will have to step up. This sounds like an easy answer, as many would say, Quentin Dormady. But looking and comparing Dormady and Redshirt Freshman Jarrett Guarantano, it might not be as close. Dormady, of course, does have on field experience, being behind Josh Dobbs. Dormady has 357 career passing yards on 39 attempts. Guarantano was redshirted last year in his first season, so he has yet to see live action.
There is a possibility of using a two-quarterback system, but it should come down to one guy. Problem is, Butch Jones isn’t too vocal about what the plans are (if he even has any).
Questions on Defense
The other area of possible worry is the defense. Tennessee lost DE Derek Barnett to the Philadelphia Eagles in the Draft. Defensive Back and Punt Returner Cameron Sutton, as well as linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin, were also lost to the draft. This leaves a few holes on defense. However, Tennessee played multiple games without Sutton and Reeves-Maybin last year. With that being said, the backups that will be forced into starting roles, do have experience, and that is valuable. The loss of Derek Barnett hurts, and there isn’t a defensive lineman on Tennessee’s roster right now that could hold a candle to Barnett. So Butch Jones and Bob Schoop may look to the “Moneyball” approach. That approach being “We no longer have our star guy, but what combination of guys could fill the role, and accomplish close to the same productivity?”
Tennessee still has Jonathan Kongbo, Khalil McKenzie, Shy Tuttle, Kendall Vickers, and Darrell Taylor. All of those guys have game experience, so it’ll be up to them to step up.
A Realistic “What To Expect in 2017”?
Georgia Tech (September 4, 2017 Mercedes-Benz Dome)
This season will go one of two ways, and in my opinion, it all starts with Georgia Tech. If Butch Jones can beat Tech, the Vols might be set. If he loses to Tech, he may be coaching for his job in Gainesville vs Florida, and the chances aren’t too great. However, Butch and company will come out strong in 2017. Butch Jones lives for games like this. This will be his Super Bowl. We’ve seen it in three bowl games, as well as the Battle at Bristol. Tennessee beats Georgia Tech. He shows up for games like this.
Prediction: W 1-0
After the near debacle vs Appalachian State a year ago, I hate to say Indiana State and UMASS are automatic wins, but they SHOULD be.
Prediction: W 2-0
Florida in Gainesville will be tough, especially after Tennessee made Florida look awful in the second half of last years game. That’s a revenge game for the Gators, and it may be the Vols first (or second depending on Georgia Tech) loss for Tennessee in 2017. If they don’t get their first loss Week 1 vs GT, you won’t have to wait long. Florida wins.
Prediction: L 2-1 (0-1 SEC)
The Minutemen come to Knoxville, get a paycheck and a loss, and head back North. Tennessee rebounds with a W, and prepares for UGA.
Prediction: W 3-1 (0-1 SEC)
After UMASS, UGA comes to Knoxville. This will be the revenge game of all revenge games. Georgia was humiliated between the hedges in 2016, and they’ll want to win this game. However, I think Tennessee gets it done, if they have momentum from previous games. Jacob Eason throws a pick to Todd Kelly Jr. late, and the Vols emerge victorious.
Prediction: W 4-1 (1-1 SEC)
The Vols looked awful in Columbia last year, and this year they strike back. It’ll be a close one. Jake Bentley makes some late mistakes, and Tennessee pulls it out.
Prediction: W 5-1 (2-1 SEC)
After last years beatdown in Neyland, look for the Vols to come out hungry. But just because you come out hungry, doesn’t mean you get to eat. The Tide rolls violently in Tuscaloosa. Second loss for Tennessee, and they go to 0-2 in SEC road games.
Prediction: 5-2 (2-2 SEC)
Another consecutive road game for the Vols, and with UK constantly getting better and better, Tennessee may be in trouble. As much as this pains me to say, Kentucky comes ready for this game. And like I said, Tennessee will probably be coming off a loss at Alabama. Even if the Vols did pull off an ungodly miracle in Tuscaloosa, they’ll be ran over, and tired. Tennessee loses in Lexington in a nail-biter. This is a winnable game for Tennessee though, so it might go either way.
Prediction: L 5-3 (2-3 SEC)
Vols take the W against the boys from Hattiesburg, MS, and get back in the win column.
Prediction: W 6-3 (2-3 SEC)
This could be another tough game down the stretch for Tennessee. However, I think the Vols get it done, and they finally get their first SEC road win (if it doesn’t come in Gainesville or Lexington…..).
Prediction: W 7-3 (3-3 SEC)
This game will come down to which LSU team shows up in Knoxville in Mid-November. If they are rolling under Coach O, it could be a rough loss for Tennessee. But LSU is an unknown. I’m gonna be generous and give the Vols the W.
Prediction: W 8-3 (4-3 SEC)
Tennessee wants revenge vs their in-state rivals from Nashville. Ralph Webb will have a good game, but the Vols get it done on Senior Day/Night.
Prediction: W 9-3 (5-3 SEC)
Yes, it’s a stretch, and you never know what injuries to the Vols or other teams will have an impact on how the season plays out. This is a schedule that could see the Vols going 10-2, but if Tennessee has letdowns against Georgia, and a possibly a Mizzou, or Vanderbilt, 7-5 or even 6-6 could be a possibility. Nobody knows. As of today, we’re 24 days away from it being football time in TENNESSEE! Go Vols!