Sunday, July 15, 2012

University of Tennessee football has three things going for it heading into the season

Tennessee Volunteers' fans have experienced a tidal wave of mediocrity during the last four seasons. During this time, the team has a total record of only 23-27 and has not experienced a 10-win season since 2007. The Vols are also coming off back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since the early twentieth century. On top of that, last season ended with a thud as the Vols delivered their worst performance in recent memory as they lost to Kentucky.
There has not been a lot to cheer about. However, things are looking up. Within every dark cloud, there are silver linings, and there are at least three of them heading into the 2012 season.
The first cause for optimism is experience. Because of the massive transition the team has gone through in the last three years, many young players have gotten a ton of playing time early in their careers. Tennessee has 10 starters returning on offense and nine returning on defense. No other team in the Southeastern Conference has this much returning experience.  Couple this with the steady increase in the talent level on the team and there are plenty of quality young players competing with the starters.
The second cause is a more serviceable schedule this season. Last year, Tennessee played LSU and Alabama in back-to-back games. In November, the team played at Arkansas.  All three teams were ranked in the top ten, and the young Vols were overmatched by the Tigers, Tide and Razorbacks. This year, LSU and Arkansas are not on the schedule and have been replaced by Missouri and Mississippi State. Both are good teams, but clearly are not in the same class as last season's foes.
The third cause for optimism is because Tennessee plays in the Eastern Division. Let’s face it; the East is a much easier division than the West. I am not suggesting the team is poised to make a run at the Eastern Division title, but when playing in a meat grinder like the SEC, any scheduling break is welcomed. For a program looking to re-establish itself, conference wins are necessary when it comes to turning the corner.
Tennessee has a chance to be significantly improved this year. This will be discussed more in the coming weeks, but the darkest of the Volunteers’ rebuilding days are behind them.

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