2015 was a roller coaster of emotions for all of Volunteer nation. Tennessee was able to finish off the year with an impressive five game win streak. They moved into the top 25 and paired up in a great game with the #13 Northwestern Wildcats in the Outback bowl, where the Volunteers rolled to a 45-6 win.
While that all sounds great, Tennessee fans wondered what could have been. Like we’ve all seen in the past, fans everywhere were all pointing fingers at coach Butch Jones and his staff.
It was September 12th, the eventual national championship contenders Oklahoma Sooners came to Knoxville. The crowd was electric. The fans “checkered Neyland”, and honestly it was amazing. Everything looked great, the Vols had a 17-3 lead going into halftime. Soon enough, Tennessee fans everywhere were about to find out the second half was not going to be kind.
The Sooners came back to tie it 17-17 in the fourth quarter and eventually won it in two OT’s.
As the season continued, the second half woes kept showing up. A converted 4th and 18 late in the game vaulted the Florida Gators over the Vols 28-27.
An absolute defensive breakdown allowed Arkansas to come out victorious in Neyland 24-20.
The worst of all to Vols fans everywhere was the loss to Alabama. With the lead with five minutes and some change left in the fourth Alabama wide receivers’ ArDarius Stewart and Calvin Ridley made two unbelievable catches that kept the drive alive. Just a play later Derrick Henry was able to score the go ahead touchdown and the Vols fell late in the fourth once again 19-14.
In 2016 the Vols hope to leave the perception of coming up just short behind them. New additions to the Vols coaching staff include Defensive coordinator Bob Shoop from Penn State, and tight ends coach Larry Scott from Miami (FL). Scott served as the Hurricanes interim head coach for the last half of 2015.
Joshua Dobbs in his senior season will be looking to continue to lead his offense. Dobbs has had eight games in his career with over 300 yards total and his legs are widely known as a threat around the SEC.
The D-line has the potential of being one of the scariest in the SEC. The former five star recruit Shy Tuttle will be coming back from a leg injury suffered in the Georgia game that ended his freshman season. First team All-SEC defensive end Derek Barnett will look to continue to get his reps this year. Not to mention Kahlil McKenzie who finished the year with 26 tackles through limited playing time and Jonathan kongbo, the #1 JUCO defensive end for the 2016 class to round out what is most likely the starting front four.
Jalen Reeves-Maybin, and Cameron Sutton anchor the rest of Tennessee’s defense. Maybin Finished the year as Tennessee’s leading tackler with 105 tackles. Sutton is Tennessee’s most important corner back. He is a lock-down corner and will serve alongside Reeves-Maybin as captains in 2016.
Every team Tennessee lost to in 2015 remains on the schedule except for the Sooners. Virginia Tech replaced the Sooners and play Tennessee in 2016 for the Battle at Bristol. The game between the Vols and Hokies is set to hold the greatest attendence record for any football game ever played; the teams expect 150,000 fans to attend.
Tennessee is no longer a “young” team due to the fact they will return 18 starters on both sides of the ball. No excuses for Coach Butch Jones and his team in 2016. The Vols are coming off of three impressive recruiting classes under Jones, and with high-ranking expectations and five Volunteers recently named in Athlon Sports All American Poll. Tennessee fans, coaches, and players expect a huge year in 2016.
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