2017 Tennessee Vols: 3 Reasons to Be Optimistic
The Tennessee Vols are set to kick off the 2017 football season on Monday, September 4th. The opponent? The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets inside the brand new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia at 7PM CST. The Vols are showing up in the top 30 on many analysts’ early rankings, and there are three major reasons for optimism.
We are absolutely loaded with talent and experience on the offensive line. Chance Hall will redshirt this season, but there should be no problem filling in his spot. Drew Richmond really started to come along at the end of the year. The coaches finally seemed to accept that the line plays better when Jack Jones is plugged in.
Trey Smith seems to be playing up to his recruitment rating in camp, a rarity for Butch Jones I might add. We also bring back fifth year senior, Brett Kendrick, who has quietly played pretty well during his career at UT. While we don’t have any superstars, this is a solid unit. This line has a combined 100 starts (after the loss of Chance Hall), only second to LSU in the SEC. I think this could be the best unit since 2013.
John freaking Kelly
John Kelly is fast, and I mean lightning fast. Don’t believe me? He was clocked running a top speed of 22 MPH last year, making him the fastest guy on the entire roster. Kelly runs with a lot of anger. I don’t mean just kind of angry either, but someone stole his lunch money, and called his momma fat kind of angry. Averaging 6.4 yards a carry last year, we should be excited to see what he does this year.
New Offensive Coordinator, Quarterbacks, Defensive Line and Strength coach
I’ll be the first to say that the stats say Mike Debord did a pretty good job while at UT. Our offense set record numbers during his tenure. However, it was what you don’t see on paper is what makes me glad he left. I felt like his play calling was extremely predictable and unexciting. When we were down in games, he often made questionable play calling and I was left scratching my head at the end.
I’m excited about Larry Scott, and believe he could take our offense to the next level. During Josh Dobb’s entire tenure, we didn’t have a dedicated quarterbacks coach. Now we have Mike Canales, who has previously worked with Larry Scott at USF. I believe this will help tremendously in the development of Jarrett Guarantano and Quinten Dormady. Butch Jones also brought in Brady Hoke to coach the defensive line. Hoke has been a defensive line coach for a good chunk of his career, and there is no reason to believe that he won’t do a great job here. The thing that sticks out to me about Scott, Canales, and Hoke is that they have all been a head coach or interim head coach at some point. This should give everyone a reason to look forward to seeing what these guys can do to improve play on the field.
Last, but certainly not least, UT brings in Rock Gullickson who was the L.A. Rams former strength and conditioning coach. Considering we haven’t filled this sport since Dave Lawson left in 2016, this should be an improvement. We got absolutely destroyed with injuries last year, especially on defense, and I believe Gullickson’s strength and conditioning program will keep our roster in better shape.
Smokey covers the Tennessee Volunteers for the SoBros Network. He loves a good backpacking trip, but hates taking a shit in the woods. Follow on Twitter: @SoBroSmokey