Vols No. 8 in Athlon Early 2016 Poll

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    (Photo via the Outback Bowl)

    (Photo via the Outback Bowl)

    Tennessee fans are certainly expecting the Vols to be in the preseason Top 25 next year, possibly even the Top 15 or higher.

    Athlon Sports thinks Tennessee could be even better than that. The publication placed Tennessee at No. 8 in the nation in its early 2016 rankings, putting a lot of faith in a Tennessee team that went 9-4 with an Outback Bowl win in 2015 and returns a lot of talent in 2016.

    Here’s an excerpt of what Athlon had to say about the No. 8 Volunteers, who are the second-highest ranked SEC team as well, behind only Alabama:

    “The Volunteers will open 2016 as the clear favorite in the SEC East. Coach Butch Jones has brought steady improvement over the last three years, increasing the team’s win total by two in each of the last two seasons after a 5-7 debut in 2013. Quarterback Joshua Dobbs and running back Jalen Hurd headline an offense that averaged 31.3 points per game in SEC contests in 2015. An area of focus and development for coordinator Mike DeBord this offseason is generating more big plays in the passing game after recording only five of 40 yards or more in 2015. The Volunteers return their deepest and most talented defense under Jones in 2016..”

    Read more and see the entire Top 25 here.