Sure, it’s just July. But it’s never too early to talk college football. Here’s your daily fix — our eighth annual countdown of the preseason Top 25, as selected by the American-Statesman sports staff. Last season’s four College Football Playoff semifinalists were rated Nos. 3, 6, 13 and 24 on our 2015 list.
Today’s team: No. 9 Tennessee (Related coverage: Tennessee football building for the long term)
The Volunteers will contend if … their experienced backfield continues to show promise. The top five rushers from 2015, led by RB Jalen Hurd, return this fall. Hurd was the SEC’s fourth leading rusher last season.
INSIDE THE VOLUNTEERS
Coach: Butch Jones (fourth year, 21-18; 71-44 overall at Central Michigan, Cincinnati and Tennessee)
2015: 9-4, 5-3 in the SEC; beat Northwestern in the Outback Bowl, 45-6
Returning starters: 9 offense, 8 defense
The key game: Oct. 15, vs. Alabama
Hello: DE Jonathan Kongbo, one of the nation’s top juco transfer prospects — he also considered Alabama, Florida State, Ole Miss and USC. And QB Jarrett Guarantano was the nation’s top-rated dual-threat QB prospect.
Goodbye: WR Von Pearson, DT Owen Williams
Spring cleaning: For the second straight year, Tennessee didn’t have a player taken in the NFL draft, though Williams did take part in an Atlanta Falcons mini-camp. … The university announced it will cancel classes on Sept. 1 — a Thursday — to make way for the season opener against Appalachian State. The game would have created logistical and traffic problems, officials said. … One notable hire was defensive coordinator Bob Shoop, who spent the last two years as Penn State’s defensive coordinator.
Passing: Joshua Dobbs, 205-344-2,291 yards, 15/5 (1st)
Rushing: Jalen Hurd, 277-1,288-12 (1st); Alvin Kamara, 107-698-7 (2nd); Joshua Dobbs, 146-671-11 (3rd)
Receiving: RB Alvin Kamara, 34-291-3 (2nd); WR Josh Malone, 31-405-2 (3rd)
Tackles: LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin, 105 (1st)
Sacks: DE Derek Barnett, 10 (1st)
RETURNING ALL CONFERENCE (5)
Offense: OL Dylan Wiesman (2nd team), RB Jalen Hurd (2nd), DB Evan Berry (2nd, all-purpose)
Defense: DE Derek Barnett (2nd), LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin (2nd)
- The Vols expect a big season from cornerback/special teams ace Cameron Sutton, who decided to forgo entering the NFL draft to return for his senior season. He had 27 tackles last season and returned 28 punts, including two for touchdowns.
- Tennessee finished last season winning six games in a row, its longest streak since 2003. Defensive back Evan Berry and Sutton were named All-Americans, Tennessee’s first first-team All-Americans since 2009 (DB Eric Berry).
- For the first time since 2011, Tennessee will have team captains. Dobbs, running back Alvin Kamara, linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin and Sutton were voted captains by their teammates.
Tennessee's 2016 schedule
|Date||Opponent||Last yr's result (if played)|
|Sept. 1||Appalachian State|
|Sept. 10||Virginia Tech|
|Sept. 24||Florida*||L, 28-27|
|Oct. 1||at Georgia*||W, 38-31|
|Oct. 8||at Texas A&M*|
|Oct. 15||Alabama*||L, 19-14|
|Oct. 29||at South Carolina||W, 27-24|
|Nov. 5||Tennessee Tech|
|Nov. 12||Kentucky*||W, 52-21|
|Nov. 19||Missouri*||W, 19-8|
|Nov. 26||at Vanderbilt*||W, 53-28|
|* SEC game|
Tennessee: The last 5 years
|2015||9-4 / 5-3||25th / 22nd||Outback Bowl, W|
|2014||7-6 / 3-5||— / —||TaxSlayer Bowl, W|
|2013||5-7 / 2-6||— / —||No bowl|
|2012||5-7 / 1-7||— / —||No bowl|
|2011||5-7 / 1-7||— / —||No bowl|
|Total||31-31, 12-28||2 bowl games (2-0)|
2015 NATIONAL RANKS
Scoring: 29th (35.2 ppg)
Scoring defense: 16th (20.0 ppg)
Passing yards: 92nd (198.6 ypg)
Rushing yards: 20th (223.7 ypg)
TOP 25 SO FAR …
No. 9: Tennessee
No. 8 Coming Saturday. Want a hint? This school has produced the most number of quarterbacks taken with the No. 1 overall pick of NFL drafts since 1950 — four.
4 schools: Pac-12 (14-USC, 17-Washington, 21-Oregon, 25-Washington State)
3 schools: Big 12 (13-TCU, 19-Baylor, 22-Oklahoma State); SEC (9-Tennessee, 12-Ole Miss, 16-Georgia)
2 schools: ACC (20-North Carolina, 23-Louisville); Big Ten (15-Michigan State, 18-Iowa)
1 school: AAC (11-Houston); Mountain West (24-Boise State); Independents (10-Notre Dame)