Coach: Butch Jones, fifth season (80-48 overall, 30-21 at Tennessee).
Last year: 9-4 overall, 4-4 in the SEC (T-2nd). Defeated Nebraska 38-24 in the Music City Bowl.
Best case scenario: The Vols came out of the spring with an unsettled situation at quarterback. UT needs to identify its starter early in preseason camp and then make a commitment to him. Despite the loss of so many impact players on both sides of the ball, Jones’ strong and consistent recruiting shows up and the Vols make a serious run at their first division title since 2007.
Worst case scenario: A new and inexperienced quarterback (either junior Quinten Dormady or redshirt freshman Jarrett Guarantano) struggles with consistency, putting too much pressure on a tiring defense, and the Vols stagger too often against a strong schedule that includes games at Florida and Alabama and LSU at home. As a result, UT falls out of the SEC East race in the middle of October.
Quotable: “I’m very proud of the progress we’ve made in our football program in four years. We’re very fortunate to have three straight bowl victories for the first time in 20 years in our great program’s history. But there is so much more out there to be accomplished.” — Jones
SEC MD 1: Scouting Tennessee