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Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Hope and concern: Tennessee

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Biggest reason for hope: Playmakers on defense

With the way All-America safety Eric Berry finds the end zone every time he intercepts a pass, who could blame the Vols if they gave him a few more chances on offense this season? He's the ultimate ball hawk in the secondary and should be a perfect fit in Monte Kiffin's defense. Berry can hit, cover and force turnovers with the best of them. He's not the only one, either. Linebacker Rico McCoy is one of the more underrated players in the league and provides Kiffin with the kind of versatile linebacker who can move around and fill different roles. Defensive end Chris Walker also showed in the spring that he's poised to be the kind of finisher off the edge that all the great defenses possess. The guy can really get to the quarterback.

Biggest reason for concern: Scoring points

It would be short-sighted to pick quarterback play or offensive line muscle or the lack of big-play receivers and say one of those areas was where the Vols were most vulnerable on offense. The truth is that they enter this season very much an unproven quantity across the board when it comes to moving the ball and scoring points. Jonathan Crompton and Nick Stephens both struggled at quarterback last season. Will either one be markedly better this coming season? There's no depth in the offensive line, and protecting the passer figures to be a problem. The passing game was abysmal a year ago, and part of the problem falls on a group of receivers that didn't make many plays. Most of those guys are back, but it's difficult to point to anybody returning and label him as a game-breaker. It could be that true freshman running back Bryce Brown will be the most dynamic offensive threat the Vols have in 2009.