Tennessee's Joshua Dobbs is lifted by Volunteers is lifted by offensive lineman Coleman Thomas in celebration after the win over Northwestern in the Outback Bowl. (Mike Carlson/Getty Images)

Football

The American-Statesman’s Top 25: No. 9 Tennessee

Posted July 22nd, 2016

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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.

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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.

Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs, shown diving for a touchdown last season against Northwestern in the Outback Bowl, produced nearly 3,000 yards of total offense along with 26 touchdowns. (Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs, shown diving for a touchdown last season against Northwestern in the Outback Bowl, produced nearly 3,000 yards of total offense along with 26 touchdowns. (Mike Carlson/Getty Images)

 

RETURNING LEADERS

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)

FYI …

  • 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

DateOpponentLast yr's result (if played)
Sept. 1Appalachian State
Sept. 10Virginia Tech
Sept. 17Ohio
Sept. 24Florida*L, 28-27
Oct. 1at Georgia*W, 38-31
Oct. 8at Texas A&M*
Oct. 15Alabama*L, 19-14
Oct. 29at South CarolinaW, 27-24
Nov. 5Tennessee Tech
Nov. 12Kentucky*W, 52-21
Nov. 19Missouri*W, 19-8
Nov. 26at Vanderbilt*W, 53-28
* SEC game

Tennessee: The last 5 years

YearW-L/Conf.RankBowl
20159-4 / 5-325th / 22ndOutback Bowl, W
20147-6 / 3-5— / —TaxSlayer Bowl, W
20135-7 / 2-6— / —No bowl
20125-7 / 1-7— / —No bowl
20115-7 / 1-7— / —No bowl
Total31-31, 12-282 bowl games (2-0)
Note: Ranks are that year’s preseason/final ranking.

 

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. 25: Washington State

No. 24: Boise State

No. 23: Louisville

No. 22: Oklahoma State

No. 21: Oregon

No. 20: North Carolina

No. 19: Baylor

No. 18: Iowa

No. 17: Washington

No. 16: Georgia

No. 15: Michigan State

No. 14: USC

No. 13: TCU

No. 12: Ole Miss

No. 11: Houston

No. 10: Notre Dame

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.

BY CONFERENCE

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)

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