Athlon Sports has already listed their All-SEC teams and released their top 25 predictions, but now they’ve released their predictions for the upcoming 2017 SEC football season for all 14 teams. And the Vols weren’t an easy team for Athlon to nail down.
The Vols were voted the “hardest team to evaluate” according to two of the three analysts who helped predict the 2017 SEC season for Athlon. Both Mitch Light, the managing editor for Athlon, and Mark Ross, another editor for Athlon, dubbed Tennessee as the hardest team to evaluate in the SEC for the upcoming 2017 season. Only Steven Lassan, the college football editor for Athlon, voted differently, selecting Ole Miss as his team that was the most difficult to evaluate.
In addition to being pegged as the toughest team to analyze, the Vols were picked to finish third in the SEC East behind Georgia and Florida in that order. Tennessee was predicted by Athlon to finish the regular season with an 8-4 record for the third consecutive year, finishing in a three-way tie with South Carolina and Kentucky for third place in the East with a 4-4 conference record.
It’s no surprise Athlon picked Alabama to win the SEC West and to defeat Georgia in the SEC Championship Game.
Two of the three editors selected Vols as potential top freshmen in the conference for the season, however. Lassan picked offensive tackle Trey Smith to be the top freshman in the SEC in 2017 while Light chose running back Ty Chandler to take that title. Ross selected wide receiver Jerry Jeudy of Alabama to be the top freshmen in the conference this upcoming season.
Tennessee has many question marks and several new projected starters with little to no collegiate experience heading into the 2017 season. Not only that, but the Vols’ coaching staff was overhauled this offseason as well. All that uncertainty and change has made the Vols a very difficult team to assess this offseason for many analysts. And Athlon’s editors seem to believe that as well.