It’s no secret that Tennessee dealt with an extreme rash of injuries last season. But what may surprise you is just how many injuries the Vols had compared to every other FBS program in 2016.
According to data compiled by statistician Phil Steele, the Vols lost the most total starts due to injury in 2016. Tennessee lost 52 total starts off their roster in 2016 thanks to various injuries during the season. No team in the FBS had more, and only Syracuse had a higher percentage of starts lost (18.9 percent compared to the Vols’ 18.2 percent).
For comparison, only four other SEC teams lost more than 30 starts last season. Those teams were Florida (38), Ole Miss (35), Missouri (34), and LSU (32). Georgia lost the fewest in the SEC with only 10 starts lost during the 2016 season.
But according to Steele’s analysis, Tennessee’s injury-plagued 2016 season could actually prove beneficial to the Vols in 2017.
Steele has compiled data over the last decade when it comes to how teams fare the following season when losing a significant amount of starts due to injury the previous season. And according to his data, teams that lost 34 or more starts and had nine or fewer wins in the same season went on to have better seasons 57.9 percent of the time.
Over the last 10 years, 145 teams have lost 34 or more starts and had nine or fewer wins in the same season. Of those 145 teams, 84 improved the following year and 16 had the same record the next season. So all in all, 100 of the 145 teams (69 percent) had a better or same record the following season after a year that had a rash of injuries.
And the Vols fit that description perfectly with 52 lost starts and a 9-4 overall record last season.
Tennessee is listed as one of the 15 teams that fits that description for the 2017 season. Unfortunately for the Vols, SEC East rival Florida is also one of those 15 teams. The Gators lost 38 starts last year and went 9-4 overall. Of course, Florida likely would’ve gone 10-4 last season if not for a canceled game to make up for the rescheduling of the LSU game, but the Gators still fit into that category regardless.
The Vols got a lot of younger players experience last season because of all the injuries they suffered. And if Steele’s data is correct, that could pay off for them in a big way in 2017.