Is it a rebuilding year in Knoxville? That might not be the best word for it. Maybe retooling works better for you. Either way, there’s no doubt that Tennessee faces some challenges as Butch Jones and company attempt to replace players that were true pillars of the program. Derek Barnett, Joshua Dobbs, Alvin Kamara, Jalen Reeves-Maybin and Cameron Sutton have all moved on to the NFL. We’ve talked at length all summer long about how Tennessee is going to replace them.
The feeling around the program both nationally and locally is a little dimmer than it was at this time last year. The Volunteers were hyped and heralded as the next SEC East champions. We all know how that ended.
Now all those faces are gone. That talent and leadership is out the door. Did Tennessee miss their window? It’s possible, but according to 247 Sports the Tennessee Volunteers are actually more talented this year than they were last year.
Tennessee's window isn't closed. Per talent composite, this roster is actually more talented than last yr's roster https://t.co/k9aORS9esH— Barton Simmons (@bartonsimmons) August 31, 2017
Take a look at this. 247’s “Team talent composite” ranks the teams using recruiting rankings of the past. In 2016, Tennessee scored an 813, which ranked them 14th. This year they scored an 817, ranking them 12th.
Recruiting rankings are hardly the end all in terms of evaluating talent, but it’s a good baseline to go off of. I’m not saying that Tennessee will be better this year because of this metric either, but it is possible that we’ve all overreacted to the lost pieces on the roster.
Tennessee of course will have to answer questions at the biggest position of all — quarterback. That will likely be the tell-tale sign of the season, but the talent around that position is hardly lacking.
If there’s one thing that Butch Jones and his staff have excelled at during his time here, it’s been recruiting. The names may be new and unknown, but that doesn’t mean they can’t get it done in 2017.