ESPN NFL Draft guru Mel Kiper Jr., arguably the most well-known analyst in the nation in terms of evaluating talent on college rosters, joined the Paul Finebaum show, and had some great things to say about Tennessee’s outlook.
This was his response when asked to compare Tennessee and Arkansas as two of the teams to watch emerging in the SEC next year:
“I would just favor Tennessee a little bit. When you have (Joshua) Dobbs at quarterback, you know you’ve got a guy that can get it done at a high level. They had 25-plus freshmen that got on the field. The guys that are coming back, you’ve got star power with some of those kids. You’ve got the receivers, you’ve got the backs, I mean Hurd, you have so much talent, the recruiting class.
“I know they’re going to be young, but I like young teams. I don’t buy into this ‘this team’s built for next year.’ No. You know what happens when you get all those draft-eligible players? They’re all trying to get their resume, they worry about who their agents are going to be, where they’re going in the draft, let’s see what Kiper and McShay have. I like guys that don’t have to worry about the NFL Draft – they’re not draft eligible. So I like those kind of young teams, especially when you’ve got a guy at quarterback who can get the job done at a high level. I would think Tennessee has a great opportunity to have one heck of a year.”
Add Kiper’s praise to the fact that ESPN preseason FPI ranked Tennessee as the 14th best team in the nation heading into 2015 and analyst Mark Schlabach put the Vols at No. 20 in his “Way-too-early Top 25” recently, and it appears that the Worldwide Leader is liking Tennessee’s chance to take a big step in 2015.
Too much praise? Maybe. The Vols will still have to prove it on the field after failing to win more than six regular season games every season since 2009. But the expectations are clearly rising and maybe next year is the season the Vols take that huge jump.