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Thursday, May 12, 2011
Tennessee spring wrap

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

2010 overall record: 6-7

2010 conference record: 3-5

Returning starters

Offense: 7, defense: 6, kicker/punter: 0

Top returners

QB Tyler Bray, RB Tauren Poole, WR Justin Hunter, OT Ja’Wuan James, C James Stone, DT Malik Jackson, LB Herman Lathers, CB Prentiss Waggner, S Janzen Jackson

Key losses

WR Denarius Moore, WR Gerald Jones, TE Luke Stocker, DE Chris Walker, LB Nick Reveiz, LB LaMarcus Thompson

2010 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Tauren Poole* (1,034 yards)

Passing: Tyler Bray* (1,849 yards)

Receiving: Denarius Moore (981 yards)

Tackles: Nick Reveiz (108)

Sacks: Malik Jackson* (5)

Interceptions: Prentiss Waggner* and Janzen Jackson* (5)

Spring answers

1. Blossoming offensive line. As scary as it was for Tennessee to go into last season with so many true freshman starters in the offensive line, the future couldn’t be brighter now for the Vols up front. Tackle Ja’Wuan James, guard Zach Fulton and center James Stone are all back after starting as true freshmen a year ago. What’s more, highly touted freshman Marcus Jackson came in early this spring and immediately laid claim to a starting guard spot. The Vols also recently received word that Notre Dame transfer Alex Bullard would be eligible next season without having to sit out a year.

2. Rogers takes flight. It was a highlight show for Da’Rick Rogers this spring, as he made one acrobatic catch after another and served notice that he’s primed for a breakout sophomore season. There were flashes from Rogers as a freshman. But he improved immensely as a receiver this spring, particularly in terms of running routes and doing the little things. He joins fellow sophomore Justin Hunter to give the Vols what should be one dandy receiving tandem.

3. Promising young talent. Time will be the ultimate judge, but Dooley doesn’t think there are very many misses in the past two recruiting classes. From quarterback Tyler Bray to an offensive line that’s stacked with talented first- and second-year players to sophomore defensive end Jacques Smith, the Vols have upgraded their talent level the past two years to move a lot closer in that department to the powers in this league.

Fall questions

1. Is Tyler Bray ready to lead this team? There aren’t any questions about Bray’s ability to throw the ball. The same goes for his fearlessness in the pocket. But coming off that horrific showing in the spring game, Dooley wants to see Bray bring his focus to the playing field every game and every practice and make it abundantly clear to everyone that this is his team.

2. Can the Vols hold up in the front seven? Senior defensive tackle Malik Jackson is a big-time player, and Smith has All-SEC potential. But Tennessee desperately needs junior college tackle Maurice Couch to come in and be an impact player, and the Vols will also be looking for help at linebacker from the incoming true freshmen. It’s never ideal in this league to count on junior college newcomers and true freshmen.

3. Will Janzen Jackson be back? Dooley remains hopeful that Jackson will return for the fall and said the junior safety is on track after withdrawing from school this past semester. If Jackson does return, the Vols immediately get a lot better in the secondary, especially with Brent Brewer coming off a big spring at the other safety spot. Either way, junior college defensive backs Byron Moore and Izauea Lanier are being counted on to come in and play immediately next season in a secondary that lacks depth.