Baselining the 2012 Tennessee Volunteers

Normally in this space and time, we'll do a statsy preview of the upcoming game. We don't do them in the preseason because all zeroes equal zero times zero minus zero, and the spreadsheet just goes, "Huh?" We also don't do them too early in the season because a world overrun with caveats and disclaimers has had the ironic effect of causing all of them to be instantly identified and consequently ignored. So, no. We'll start too early, of course, but not just yet.

So I figured we'd take a quick moment to establish a baseline for the 2012 Vols. If you've read RTT the past year or two, you'll recognize this as the #opportunityisnowhere series, but rather than rehash everything to puree, we're just going to look at where the 2011 Vols ended the season, which of course is where 2012 begins.

Here are the things UT did well (as defined as those things in which it ranked as one of the nation's 30 best teams) last season.

Categories In Which Tennessee
Was In The Top Quartile Last Season
Category

2011

NCS GS FL AK GA MSB AL SC TR MO VAN KY
Fumbles Lost 6
Kickoff Return Yardage Defense 7
Pass Defense 12
First Downs Allowed 18
Turnovers Lost 20
Total Defense 28

Yeah, not so impressive. Defense and ball security, which, if you're like me, is a bit startling. We weren't good on offense last year? Not even in the passing game? Yeah, I know Hunter was out and Bray was injured and SEC defenses and all, but nothing? Okay.

And now for the Tennessee players in the top 30. Heads up, and don't blink.

Player Stat 2011 NCS GS FL AK GA MSB AL SC TR MO VAN KY
Austin Johnson Interceptions 23

Yep, Austin Johnson was the only player last year to finish the season ranked in the top 30 in any category on the official NCAA stats page. Da'Rick Rogers was mostly in the 30s.

#OPPORTUNITYISNOWHERE

And here is where the team's opportunity for improvement is greatest. Drumroll, please, for the stuff we need to change, beginning Friday:

Categories In Which Tennessee
Was In The Bottom Quartile Last Season
Category

2011

NCS GS FL AK GA MSB AL SC TR MO VAN KY
Rushing Offense 116
Scoring Offense 106
Total Offense 104
Net Punting 104
Pass Sacks 100
First Downs 98
Offense Fourth-down Efficiency 91
Turnovers Gained 91

Um, offense again, mostly. How did I completely erase all of this from my mind? I was well aware of the problems with the running game because it was an issue all season, but it's frightening to discover (remember?) how far the passing game fell by the end of the season. Oh, well, that just means it will look all that more impressive when we crank it up this season, right?

THE BIG FAT MIDDLE

And here's the rest, just for tracking purposes.

Categories In Which Tennessee
Was Somewhere in the Middle Last Season
Category

2011

NCS GS FL AK GA MSB AL SC TR MO VAN KY
Scoring Defense 36
Time of Possession 37
Tackles for Loss Allowed 38
Pass Sacks Allowed 40
Kickoff Returns 41
Red Zone Efficiency - Defense 47
Pass Efficiency Defense 48
Defense Fourth-down Efficiency 48
Passing Offense 50
Fewest Yards Penalized Per Game 51
Offense Third-down Efficiency 56
Fewest Penalties Per Game 56
Defense Third-down Efficiency 57
Red Zone Efficiency 58
Turnover Margin 59
Punt Returns 61
Passes Had Intercepted 63
Tackles for Loss 67
Passing Efficiency 69
Rush Defense 69
Fumbles Recovered 71
Punt Return Yardage Defense 85
Passes Intercepted 86

So there it is. What do y'all think we have the best chance of improving quickly this season, based on our 2012 personnel and other changes?

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