The Biggest Reasons Why the Vols Could Surprise in 2017

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    Big Improvements on Defense

    Photo Credit: Mason Burgin/RTI

    If Tennessee is to have any sort of success at all this season, their defense can’t play anywhere close to the way it did down the stretch last year. Of course, a large part of the reason why they played so poorly at the last half of last season was due to injuries piling up, but the fact still remains that Tennessee’s defense was downright abysmal at times in the last half of the season.

    Another way the Vols can surprise fans and media this season is by not only having improvement with their defensive play this season, but by taking significant steps on defense.

    There’s not much to suggest that the Vols have a top-3 or even top-5 caliber defense right now. But even getting into just the top-7, the top half of the conference, would be a major improvement over last season. The Vols finished with the 11th-ranked defense in the SEC in terms of total yards allowed per game last season. Based on last year’s stats, the Vols would have to give up nearly 40 yards less per game in order to move up to the 7th spot in the conference.

    Tennessee has had that kind of improvement once before under Butch Jones. The Vols gave up 418.4 yards per game in 2013 and cut it down to 364.6 yards per game in 2014. That was enough to move up from the 11th-ranked defense to the No. 8 defense in the conference in one year.

    The Vols don’t necessarily need to have a massive improvement on defense this year to have a surprisingly good season. But a strong improvement in their second year under Bob Shoop would help the team exceed expectations.

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    Nathanael Rutherford
    Nathanael Rutherford is the managing editor and social media manager for Rocky Top Insider. Nathanael graduated from the University of Tennessee and cultivated a passion for the Vols while growing up in Knoxville a mere 10 minutes from Neyland Stadium. He's been a part of the RTI team since November of 2015 and has been the editor of RTI since June of 2017. If he's not talking or writing about Tennessee athletics, he's probably talking about Star Wars.