7. No More “Youth and Inexperience”
One of the biggest issues facing the Vols since Butch Jones took over in 2013 has been quality depth at a number of positions. In 2013, the Vols had little depth anywhere on the field. In 2014, the depth was better, but it was extremely young. In 2015, there was even more, but it was still relatively young.
In 2016, however, the Vols will finally have the most depth they’ve had in many years. And it won’t all be from freshmen like it has been.
Tennessee’s secondary will be loaded with proven players, and even the unproven ones have had a year or two to sit back and learn the system and bulk up. Same goes for the linebackers and defensive line. And what once was Tennessee’s biggest weakness, the offensive line, now has a great deal more depth than it’s had at any point in Butch Jones’s time in Knoxville.
The Vols will still have young players in their two-deep depth chart and will have to play some freshmen at times, but it’s looking like the Vols won’t have to start a true freshman (barring injury) on defense for the first time since Butch Jones has been head coach. Redshirt freshmen along the defensive line will be the only true freshmen threats to nab a lot of playing time. Otherwise, sophomores Kyle Phillps, Shy Tuttle, Kahlil McKenzie and Darrin Kirkland Jr. will likely be the youngest players consistently playing on defense.
On offense, it’s more of the same. Quarterback Josh Dobbs will be a senior, both Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara will be juniors at running back, and the receiving corps will be filled with seniors, juniors and experienced sophomores ready to roll. The offensive line will likely be the youngest of the group, but even it won’t be having to play true freshmen like they have the past couple seasons.
The Vols return eight starters on defense and nine starters on offense heading into 2016. That will likely make them one of the most experienced teams not only in the SEC, but also in the nation. That’s never a bad thing for any team.