Tennessee Lands in Top 25 of ESPN Football Power Index

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    Tennessee has landed in the Top 25 of ESPN’s Football Power Index heading into the 2022 college football season. However, just barely.

    Josh Heupel and the Tennessee Volunteers are right on the edge at No. 25 in the rankings from ESPN. In comparison, Tennessee ended the 2021 season at No. 26 in ESPN’s final 2021 FPI rankings of the season.

    A slight offseason improvement, but an improvement nonetheless.

    The Vols did make some solid additions this off-season. Tennessee is bringing in a recruiting class that ranked No. 23 in the nation according to 247 and hit big with a couple of transfer players such as wide receiver Bru McCoy. Despite all of that though, a big reason for optimism around the Tennessee program is because of who they are bringing back more so than who they are bringing in.

    No team in football is going to be able to legitimately compete without a legitimate quarterback. Luckily for Tennessee, the Vols have one that they have confidence in. With returning super senior Hendon Hooker heading back to Knoxville for his final collegiate season, Tennessee has the immediate ability to evolve last year’s offensive system due to the familiarity with the guy running it. Hooker’s leading receiver last year, Cedric Tillman, is also poised to have a season that other SEC receivers aspire to have.

    On the defensive side of the ball, Tennessee will have returning playmakers such as Byron Young and Jeremy Banks ready to improve their play from last season. But what’s just as important as anything else is the fact that Tennessee had very minimal turnover from a coaching perspective. Former wide receivers coach Kodi Burns is the only departure after he took a job with the NFL’s Saints but was replaced internally with Kelsey Pope, who was familiar with the job already. Continuity and stability are something that Tennessee has not had a ton of in the last decade but can really benefit from now having this season.

    That all isn’t to say that Tennessee lost nothing this off-season. Considering the majority of Tennessee’s wide receiver room is now in the NFL and the entirety of the defensive line is gone, the Vols have some pieces that are going to need replacements. Still, though, the Vols have quite a few of the same pieces in place from last year’s surprising success.

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    Tennessee Football ranks as the No. 25 overall team in the ESPN FPI rankings and the No. 9 team representing the SEC.

    The SEC rankings in ESPN’s FPI rankings are as follows:

    1. Alabama Crimson Tide

    2. Georgia Bulldogs

    10. LSU Tigers

    11. Auburn Tigers

    12. Texas A&M Aggies

    17. Ole Miss Rebels

    18. Kentucky Wildcats

    24. Mississippi State Bulldogs

    25. Tennessee Volunteers

    26. Arkansas Razorbacks

    29. Florida Gators

    45. South Carolina Gamecocks

    56. Missouri Tigers

    108. Vanderbilt Commodores

    ESPN’s 2022 Football Power Index rankings can be found here.

    Ric Butler is a Knoxville based sports media personality who has covered University of Tennessee athletics since 2017. Most recently, he served as the lead writer for the website of a local radio station. Ric also helped create and host a daily radio show called “The Blitz." Ric’s passion for sports, smooth vocal, and infectious personality have made him popular with both his peers and Vol Nation. Originally from Dallas, Ric didn’t grow up riding horses to school. But he did dream of the big city lights. When not chasing down the latest Tennessee story, Ric can be found watching the WWE, often attempting their moves in an embarrassing fashion.