1. Better quarterback play
Tennessee had the worst passing efficiency in the SEC last season thanks to a low completion percentage (.555) and high interception rate (16) while throwing for less than 2,000 yards in a season for the first time since 2008. Coach Butch Jones defended his quarterbacks by saying they had to “play perfect” with an inexperienced group of receivers. The skill talent appears to be upgraded, and it’s up to the quarterbacks to make use of it.
2. Immediate-impact newcomers
It’s a product of flipping the roster so quickly. Many of Tennessee’s touted 2014 recruits will have to play early, and while some are sure to thrive from the start, there will good days and bad, both in practice and when Saturdays (and one Sunday) roll around. Jones and his staff seem excited about many of them.
In 2013, the Vols had to endure blowout losses to Oregon, Alabama, Auburn and Missouri, and there may be some similar routs coming in 2014. Tennessee faded at the end of last season after a two-game peak against Georgia and South Carolina. Can this young team finish stronger with an even more challenging schedule?
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...