Good news, college football fans. We’re officially less than 100 days away from the first Saturday of the season.
To mark the occasion, we on the SEC blog will take a look at where all the conference teams stand right now.
Up next is Tennessee.
What we learned on offense: Injuries along the offensive line weren't great for the a Tennessee team that just couldn't stay healthy this spring, but the Vols actually got some things accomplished on offense. We learned that Joshua Dobbs wants to throw often this fall. His passing ability has been called into question, and it rubbed Dobbs the wrong way. So he and offensive coordinator Mike DeBord had him throw and throw and throw this spring. The better he gets, the scarier he is. Jalen Hurd showed out on the treadmill multiple times and is primed for a Heisman-worthy campaign. His backup Alvin Kamara isn't so bad, either. Redshirt freshman Drew Richmond made strides at left tackle. With a relatively new receiving corps, chemistry with Dobbs and his wideouts was important. That seemed to happen with a few guys, and the staff was very impressed with sophomore Preston Williams, who could have a breakout year, and converted tight end Jason Croom. Juco transfer Jeff George and stud Josh Malone, who missed spring, should be solid deep threats for Dobbs.
What we learned on defense: Injuries hurt this side of the ball as well, especially along the line, but this will certainly be a more aggressive unit with the hiring of Bob Shoop. Shoop's defenses love to blitz and throw some exotic formations out there to try and confuse and frustrate offenses. With the speed along the line, especially star end Derek Barnett, linebacker, and in the secondary, this new style should really make this defense formidable, if guys buy in and catch on once the games are actually played. Injuries ate into that some this spring, but it also gave some of the younger guys a chance to get their feet wet early in Shoop's system.
Breakout player: Williams and Croom tie here. Williams is an athletic freak who can stretch the field for the Vols on the outside but could line up inside if needed, which would make him an immediate mismatch for linebackers and safeties with his size and speed. Williams, a former top recruit, didn't make the immediate splash many thought he would as a freshman while recovering from a high school knee injury, but got his coaches very excited about his explosive ability this spring. He made play after play and really caught onto the offense a couple weeks into practice. Croom becomes an instant middle-of-the-field mismatch for the Vols' offense. He really caught on to the tight end position this spring, and while he's certainly unproven here, Croom could be a nice safety net weapon for Dobbs this fall.
Key storyline: The pressure is on over at Rocky Top. If not now, then when for the Vols? This is the season most are circling as Tennessee's time to win the SEC East again. That hasn't happened since 2007, which was also the last time the Vols won at least 10 games. Coach Butch Jones has seen his win total increase by two games in each of the last two seasons, and he has 18 starters coming back. There's depth and there's talent on both sides of the ball. The rest of the East has so many more questions than Tennessee, but the hype train hasn't exactly been nice to Tennessee over the years. The Vols have to take their lofty expectations in stride and can't let the hype get to their heads ... again.