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Tennessee Football: Five Things To Watch For During Fall Camp

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The Vols Have Plenty Of Questions Heading Into This Season

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As the band Europe so famously once stated - it's the final countdown.

It is upon us. The official start to the football season for our Tennessee Volunteers.

The dusky skies are orange. Our President is orange. I ate an orange for breakfast. Everything is orange, and I love every damn minute of it.

The Vols report to camp today, July 28th. Practice officially begins tomorrow and I'm betting the over at 2.5 on tears of joy shed for myself.

So here are the top five things to look forward to in fall camp this season. We all know the quarterback "battle" is the most important topic, so let's put that one aside and take a look at some other positions or dynamics that need to be figured out before opening day.

Will The Offensive Line Finally Come Together?

Tennessee had one of the best offensive seasons in school history last season with a very underwhelming offensive line. It is safe to say they did not live up to preseason expectations.

The Vols find themselves in a similar position this season, poised to be one of the stronger units on the team - but this time people are more cautious than optimistic.

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However, with Outland Trophy prospect Jashon Robertson anchoring the unit, along with an ever-improving Drew Richmond and fellow five-star recruit Trey Smith - the Vols have plenty of experience, talent, and depth up front.

The offensive line has a new position coach after Don Mahoney was let go, but there will be familiarity with his replacement due to the promotion of Walt Wells. Look for Wells and new strength coach Rock Gullison to add even more tenacity to the group.

If the Vols can perform upfront, then the offense should be a very solid unit this season.

Who Will Step Up Behind Jauan Jennings?

Jennings is the clear number one receiver due to his ability to make catches all over the field. But who will step up behind him?

Jauan Jennings Has An Incredible Ability To Box DBs Out

Josh Malone left for the NFL. If he would have stayed for his senior season, then the Vols would have had one of their best wide receiver combos in history, along with very good depth and range behind them.

But you know the saying about wishing in one hand and conducting another behavior in the other, so we will just leave it at that.

If you look at the receiver depth, you will quickly realize that if Jennings suffers a serious injury, then the Vols are in serious trouble.

There is plenty of talent in Tyler Byrd, Marquez Callaway and a healthy Josh Smith, but none of them have shown the ability to be a true number one receiver. Tennessee has to find another option opposite of Jennings for their young quarterback(s) during camp.

Kongbo. Jonathon Kongbo.

The Vols seriously need someone to make up for the departure of Derek Barnett and Kongbo is the best candidate by far.

He was forced to move to defensive tackle towards the end of the season, but he eventually began to find his footing.

Defensive Coordinator Bob Shoop stated how Kongbo played his best football toward the end of 2016. Hopefully that momentum will continue into this season, especially now that he is back at defensive end.

Tennessee will have a fully healthy defensive line since the first game of last season and it's exciting to see what the unit is capable of sans Barnett.

Kongbo should be the driving force behind the line. With his frame and athleticism, the sky is the limit.

If all goes to plan, the Vols have the talent to have a solid defensive line. In the SEC, that is arguably the most important asset to possess.

Butch Jones's New Look.

One of the more surprising developments of the offseason was the fact that Jones let go of many of his former coworkers/comrades in order to improve certain aspects of his team.

Gone are Willie Martinez, Mike DeBord, and the aforementioned Mahoney. Steve Stripling is no longer the defensive line coach, but he still is with the team in a certain capacity.

The new hires included Charlton Warren, Rock Gullison, Brady Hoke, and Mike Canales. Jones has never worked with them in the past, a nod to the change in his hiring process.

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The thought here is that the unfamiliarity will actually bring improvement. Coaches are more likely to create competitive dialogue and ideas when the warm, fuzzy feeling of friendship isn't overlooking the room.

And one could argue that the changes are already paying off.

One of the immediate effects is the recruiting prowess of Hoke and Warren. The Vols currently sit in the top 5 of the 2018 class thanks in large part to them.

We won't know the full verdict until the season plays out, but there is a strong sentiment these changes will pay off in a good way.

Can Ty Chandler Establish Himself As The No. 2 Back?

Chandler enters the season as one of four options behind the incumbent John Kelly.

That may seem like a crowded backfield, but the other three backs have 14 total combined carries for their careers. And one of them is a fumble.

Kelly only had six total receptions on the season last year and Chandler has exceptional hands for a running back. That should be the x-factor that separates him from the pack, not to mention that he is a tough, downhill runner who clocked a 10.83 second 100-meter dash.

Chandler played mostly out of the I-formation in high school, but so did Jalen Hurd - and before he quit the team he was on pace to be UT's all-time leading rusher.

Look for Chandler to be used in an Alvin Kamara-type role this year.

And as always, a dominant ground game is a wonderful tool to have for two young quarterback(s) who may be sharing time on the field this season.

What do you think the Vols need to improve upon most in camp? Vote below!

Poll

What Do The Vols Need To Improve Most In Camp?

This poll is closed

  • 33%
    The Defensive Line
    (83 votes)
  • 15%
    Wide Receiver Depth
    (38 votes)
  • 17%
    Offensive Line Play
    (43 votes)
  • 33%
    The Defensive Backfield
    (81 votes)
245 votes total Vote Now