As the Tennessee Volunteers enter the 2015 football season, the whole team faces the pressure of trying to once again compete in the SEC. Head coach Butch Jones, his staff, and all the players will be facing more pressure than they've experienced so far in their respective careers during this season.
While the whole team is facing the pressure of raised expectations, there are a few players on Tennessee's roster who have more pressure than the rest. Whether it's because of failure to reach their potential so far in their careers or because of their increased responsibilities in 2015, there are three Vols who face the greatest amount of pressure heading into this next season.
Here are the three Vols under the greatest pressure for the 2015 season:
3. Marquez North, Wide Receiver
As a freshman, Marquez North impressed fans and analysts alike with his stellar play down the stretch for the Vols. He made one of the greatest catches of the 2013 season for his lone score in a game against Georgia, and he became a more consistent target as the season rolled on and he adjusted to the game.
His sophomore season, however, didn't go as planned. Part of that was due to nagging injuries holding him back for a good portion of the season, but that isn't the whole reason.
After catching 38 passes for 496 yards as a freshman, North only caught 30 balls for 320 yards as a sophomore. He did up his touchdown total to 4 scores in just 10 games, but he also dropped more balls than he should have and just overall didn't play with as much physicality as he did as a freshman.
The whole wide receiving corps has taken a ton of criticism this offseason, and Marquez North needs to step up and become the consistent option the Vols need in the redzone and as a deep threat. He flashed potential to be both of those as a freshman, but he struggled to follow through for the most part as a sophomore.
If Tennessee's wide receivers are going to take a step forward in 2015, North needs to be one of, if not the biggest, catalyst to cause that movement.
2. Dontavius Blair, Offensive Tackle
One of the most talked about players in the spring was a player who never even saw the field in 2014. Dontavius Blair came in as a junior college transfer in 2014 and was expected to come in and immediately start at left tackle for the Vols.
The reality, however, was that Blair wasn't nearly as ready for the college game as the coaching staff thought. Blair came in out of shape and not mentally prepared for the grind of playing offensive line in the SEC.
All that led to a redshirt season in 2014 for Blair. While many fans have already given up on Blair as a starter, there is still a large contingent of fans who expect him to play a vital role on the offensive line this season. And if the Vols want improved play from the offensive line in 2015, Blair needs to be able to contribute.
The woes of the 2014 offensive line don't need to be repeated at this point; all Tennessee fans know how historically inept the line was last season. In order for the line to improve and help the offense reach its potential, the Vols need to develop quality depth and improve its overall play. Dontavius Blair would be a huge addition to the offensive line if he were actually able to produce this season.
Blair's opportunity will never be better to nab a starting role at Tennessee. It was ripe for the taking last season, but this season is still fairly wide open at the position. Drew Richmond comes in during the fall, and he looks to be the long term answer at the position. Blair needs to step up this season, or his time at Tennessee could be over.
1. Joshua Dobbs, Quarterback
The raised expectations on quarterback Joshua Dobbs have nothing to do with disappointment in his performance in 2014. In fact, it's just the opposite.
Dobbs had a breakout sophomore campaign in 2014, bursting onto the scene in his first start of the season against South Carolina halfway through the year. Dobbs set a school record by throwing for over 300 yards and running for over 100 yards in a single game, and just like that he was being lobbied as a dark horse Heisman candidate in 2015.
Dobbs finished the season with 1,206 passing yards, 9 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions, adding another 469 yards on the ground and 8 rushing scores in just 6 games. Dobbs opened up the offense in ways former starter Justin Worley couldn't thanks to his athleticism.
Now, Dobbs must take over as Tennessee's unquestioned leader on offense in 2015. If the Vols are to be successful not only as an offense, but as a team in 2015, then Dobbs will have to live up to expectations.
All of this wouldn't seem like too much to ask of a junior quarterback who has played his previous 2 seasons for a team. But Dobbs isn't a typical junior. Dobbs has yet to play even half of a season, and his starts from his first two seasons combined don't even equal a full season of starting experience.
Dobbs certainly has the potential and talent to be one of the SEC's best quarterbacks in 2015, but he's never had to deal with this kind of pressure. The offense's success rests squarely on his shoulder's, and his play will likely be the biggest key to Tennessee's overall success this upcoming season.