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    Nearly three weeks ago, the preseason Amway Coaches Poll was released, and the Vols came in at No. 24 in the rankings. Now, the preseason Coaches All-SEC teams have been announced, and a handful of Vols have made those teams.

    Four Tennessee players will begin the 2017 season as preseason All-SEC selections according to the coaches’ votes. Evan Berry was named the second team return specialist while three other Vols, offensive lineman Jashon Robertson, wide receiver Jauan Jennings, and punter Trevor Daniel, all made the third team.

    No Vols were selected to the First Team All-SEC squad. Alabama had nine players chosen as first team representatives for the SEC, which was by far the most of any one school. They also had the most overall selections with 15 total players on the first, second, and third teams.

    The Vols’ main SEC rivals, Florida and Georgia, were also well represented on the All-SEC teams. Florida had two first team selections and 12 overall players make the three teams. Georgia had three players voted onto the first team, and they ended up with eight overall selections. Eight schools had five or more players on the three combined teams, but the Vols were one of the six schools with four or fewer.

    Kentucky (6) and South Carolina (5) also had more All-SEC selections than the Vols. Only Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, and Mississippi State had fewer players selected to the All-SEC teams than the Vols. Missouri also had four players chosen.

    All four of the Vols’ selections earned All-SEC honors during SEC Media Days back in July as well.

      Photo Credit: Mason Burgin/RTI

      Redshirt senior Josh Smith has unfortunately had an injury almost every year while he’s been at Tennessee. And his final year as a Vol has proved to be no different, as he suffered an injury last week that was expected to sideline him for possibly up to two months.

      But a report from long-time Knoxville reporter Jimmy Hyams offers up a more positive, less severe diagnosis for the Vols’ receiver.

      According to Hyams, Smith didn’t suffer a broken collarbone like originally feared. Instead, Smith reportedly sprained his shoulder and is expected to miss at least the next four weeks.

      As Hyams points out, Smith is hopeful he can return for the Vols’ road trip to the Swamp to take on the Gators on September 16th. But Tennessee’s game against Florida is roughly three and a half weeks away, which means Smith would need to recover quicker than the timetable listed here by Hyams.

      Throughout his career at Tennessee, Josh Smith has missed 12 of a possible 51 games he could’ve played in over the last four years for the Vols. Now it appears he will miss at least another two or three this season.

      Smith enters his final year with the Vols with 58 catches for 721 yards and five touchdowns in 39 career games.

        Photo Credit: Mason Burgin/RTI

        It’s been an offseason full of doom and gloom predictions for the Vols. Everything from losing to Kentucky to firing Butch Jones as head coach before the season is even over has been offered up as a possibility this offseason.

        But even now that the season is almost here, those predictions aren’t going away. In fact, they’ve only gotten even more pessimistic for the Vols.

        The SEC Network made game-by-game predictions for the Vols on air, and the results were more than a little surprising. Especially when they’re compared to another SEC school’s predicted finish.

        Analysts Matt Stinchcomb and Greg McElroy went through Tennessee’s entire 12-game schedule, and they picked the Vols to finish a dismal 6-6 for the 2017 season. Not only did they pick the Vols to lose to Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and LSU, but they also have Tennessee dropping games to Kentucky and Missouri. The Vols have never lost to those two teams in the same season in program history (part of that might be because Missouri only joined the SEC in 2012, but still).

        The predicted 6-6 finish would be enough to rile up Vol fans. But as these screenshots from a Vol fan’s Twitter account show, other SEC Network analysts picked Vanderbilt to finish with a better record than the Vols.

        Not only that, but their predictions give Vanderbilt a better SEC record as well. The Commodores finish with a 3-5 conference record in these predictions while the Vols finish with a 2-6 SEC mark.

        Tennessee hasn’t finished behind Vanderbilt in the SEC East since 2013 when the Commodores finished fourth in the division and the Vols finished sixth. That was back during Butch Jones’ first season as Tennessee’s head coach.

        Oddly enough, the SEC Network analysts still have Vanderbilt losing to the Vols despite them finishing ahead of Tennessee in the division.

        National perception around the Vols has been very split this offseason, but most national analysts have been much more negative on the Vols than positive. And this latest round of prognostications hit a low point in terms of season predictions for Tennessee this year.

          Photo Credit: Anne Newman/RTI

          There is no more perfect of an example about how split perception is around the 2017 Vols than a recent prediction piece that writers from CBS Sports put together about the entire SEC.

          Seven writers for CBS Sports got together to make predictions for the upcoming 2017 SEC football season. The writers chose their predicted order of finish in both divisions, the conference champion, their most overrated team, their most underrated team, and gave some bold predictions for the season.

          And according to the results, the Vols are somehow both the most overrated and most underrated team in the SEC this season.

          Jerry Palm believes the Vols are the most overrated team in the SEC heading into the 2017 season. And here’s why he believes that:

          The thought of Tennessee being overrated could become a trend. Last year, the Vols started the season ninth the the AP Top 25 and were out of the top 25 at the end of the regular season, although a bowl win pushed them to No. 22. This year, the expectations are a little lower, but there are still a lot of questions. Tennessee has to replace quarterback Josh Dobbs and leading receiver Josh Malone; it has already replaced the offensive coordinator. The defense was a huge disappointment a year ago, especially against the run. Not only do the Vols have to fix that, but they have to replace Derek Barnett, their all-time leader in sacks. Throw in a schedule that has Alabama and LSU as cross-division games, and the thought of finishing in the top 25 seems pretty optimistic.

          But just a few more paragraphs down and you can find Tennessee’s name yet again. Only this time it’s in the section talking about the most underrated teams in the conference.

          Tom Fornelli believes the Vols are the most underrated team in the SEC this season. Which is odd considering how much Fornelli has hated on Butch Jones this offseason, listing him as the coach on the hottest seat in America and having him ranked outside the top 50 coaches in the Power Five.

          But despite his dislike of Jones, Fornelli thinks the 2017 Vols are underrated. And here’s why:

          Can somebody explain to me how South Carolina received more first-place votes in the preseason SEC media poll than Tennessee? I understand the Vols didn’t meet the hype last year, but they got off to an excellent start before injuries began piling up. I also understand that there are plenty of questions surrounding this team entering 2017, but which team in the SEC East can we not say that about? The Vols have just as good a shot at winning the East as everyone else, and they have a better shot than South Carolina.

          Texas A&M also got the strange, dual-view treatment. The Aggies were also on both of the lists of most overrated and most underrated teams.

          When it came time to vote for the order of finish for each division, Fornelli’s sentiment about South Carolina being viewed more positively than the Vols proved true. Three of the seven writers voted Tennessee to finish third in the SEC East while four of the seven voted them to finish fourth in the division. Every writer who voted for the Vols to finish fourth put South Carolina ahead of them.

          All seven writers also gave their bold predictions for the season, and Dennis Dodd’s prediction was about the Vols.

          “Butch Jones will make it through the season,” Dodd wrote. “Seriously, that’s bold since almost everyone has him an early casualty.”

          Dodd’s “bold prediction” of Jones surviving the season seems less likely if his predicted order of finish proves true. Dodd was one of the four writers who chose Tennessee to finish fourth in the division.

          The Vols are appearing to be a fairly polarizing team yet again this season much like they were last year. And that fact can be perfectly seen by just how different the writers at CBS Sports view this team.

            Trey Smith has been one of the most talked about and highly-anticipated freshmen the Vols have had in quite some time. But it’s not just fans and local media who are infatuated with the former five-star prospect: The national media loves Trey Smith as well.

            Barton Simmons, a national writer for CBS Sports and the director of scouting for 247Sports, compiled a list of every potential breakout freshman for all 14 SEC schools and ranked them all 1 through 14. And Tennessee’s Trey Smith topped the list.

            “Smith has been a standout on the Tennessee offensive line since the day he stepped on campus,” Simmons wrote of Smith. “While the Volunteers have found some stability and experience on the offensive front, Smith has done enough not just to unseat an experienced starter, but to make that offensive line better in his first year. Smith was a five-star and the No. 4 offensive tackle in the country per the 247Sports Composite rankings, and he’s already living up to that billing.”

            According to head coach Butch Jones, Trey Smith has already solidified himself at the right guard position this fall. And barring some sort of setback or unforeseen movement at another position, Smith will be the only true freshman starting for the Vols on offense when they open up the 2017 season.

            Vol fans have been excited about Trey Smith ever since he committed to Tennessee. Smith was an early enrollee earlier this season, and he used that time in the spring to get acquainted with the Vols’ offensive line schemes and to build upon his already impressive frame in the weight room.

            Trey Smith comes in to his freshman season with an insane amount of hype. But he already appears to be living up to it, and local fans and media aren’t the only ones taking notice.

              Photo Credit: Mason Burgin/RTI

              In a crowded secondary filled with competition for playing time, Justin Martin as emerged as a leader. The outspoken senior has drawn praise from coaches and players, and he says he approaches practice with a simple approach.

              “Control what you can control,” Martin said on Monday after the Vols’ fall camp practice inside Neyland Stadium.  “I like to control how hard I go everyday and my effort, and that’s all I can do.”

              The competition for spots in the Vols’ secondary hasn’t hurt Martin. In his opinion, it’s helped everybody.

              “The best thing that proves that is that you can be starting one day and if you have a bad practice and someone else has a good practice, then they’ll be starting,” Martin stated. “I love the talent level. We’ve got freshmen stepping up. From Cheyenne (Labruzza) and Shawn (Shamburger), they’ve all be playing good football.”

              Sophomore wide receiver Brandon Johnson has seen that competition from the other side of the ball. He had high praise for Martin on Monday, talking about the senior’s transformation from last fall. Johnson said that Martin is a totally different player now than he was last season.

              “I wouldn’t say his approach really changed,” Johnson said. “He has fun out there. His knowledge of the game has upped his game. He did add on to his frame. His knowledge, disguising coverages, knowing what’s coming and route combinations.

              “I feel like he’s really doing a great job.”

              When Jones spoke to the media after practice, he emphasized the ongoing competition in the Vols secondary. In his eyes, Tennessee isn’t starting two corners or two safeties. They need everyone to step up and be ready to play. Jones underlined just how crowded that secondary is on Monday morning.

              “In the secondary there’s a lot of great position battles,” Jones said. “The term ‘starters’ has gone out ten years ago. You need a number of starters. We need three or four starting corners. It’s not about taking the first snap, it’s about repetitions.”

              Martin only started two games in his junior season after starting six games as a freshman in 2015. Last season, Martin only recorded 19 tackles, and most of that production came early in the season. Martin was suspended for a violation of team rules during the season and played sparingly after the South Carolina game.

              He’s ready to bounce back in 2017 by focusing on the details of his game.

              “I just control what I can control. I don’t let one particular play stay over me for the rest of practice of the rest of a game,” Martin said.

              Tennessee will need him to control opposing receivers this season. With Shaq Wiggins temporarily sidelined due to a hip injury, Martin is even more critical to the Vols’ defense. Although Jones doesn’t like the term “starters,” Martin’s experience makes him one of the Vols’ most important players on the first unit on defense.