Tennessee fans can soon close the book on a pretty bad 2011. Tennessee saw transfers, cuts, injuries and a disappointing season all through the year, but one thing that's great about the new year is that it's new.
With a few changes, Tennessee could see a much better year in 2012 than in 2011 (as long as the world doesn't end). Here are some New Year's resolutions that Tennessee should make for the new year.
One of the most common New Year's resolutions that we hear from everyone is that they plan to lose weight. Tennessee, on the other hand, needs to put some on.
The offensive line is fine, but Tyler Bray and Justin Hunter look like scarecrows out there. They both missed time for injuries this season, so bulking up a little more would make them a bit more durable in 2012.
Then there are the running backs. Devrin Young is not going to blow through anyone; he plays with his speed. Still, 165 lbs. is not enough. He needs to bulk up for his own sake.
If he doesn't, all it would take is one big hit while he's returning a kick to seriously injure him.
Marlin Lane and Rajion Neal seem to be the future at the position, and one of them needs to be that guy that can beat a tackle or two. They are listed at 205 and 210 respectively, but all schools list players as taller and heavier than they really are.
One of them adding about 10 more pounds to be a power back wouldn't hurt.
Tennessee had too many stupid mistakes these last two years. Whether it was the famous 13th man, bad snaps or just bizarre play-calling from time to time, Tennessee is a disorganized, undisciplined team.
There was also the position switching. A lot of that was due to a big need with players being injured or cut from the roster, so hopefully it'll be fixed in the upcoming season. However, James Stone was moved back to guard because of too many bad snaps. His replacement, Alex Bullard, continued that trend.
Having a center who can't snap the ball correctly is unacceptable.
Clock management has also been an issue for the Vols, and while it didn't necessarily cost them any games, it could have given Tennessee another shot against South Carolina or made an early difference against Georgia.
Tennessee needs to be more organized and disciplined or they'll never get over the hump.
Some people resolve to travel more in the new year. This would not help Tennessee.
Tennessee wasn't exactly fantastic at home this year, but at least they didn't do things like lose to Kentucky at home.
They also played a very close game against South Carolina at home (Tennessee was in scoring range five times, but that resulted in two turnovers and a missed field goal, which prevented the score from reflecting it).
Tennessee had lots of home games last season, and it may have prevented the season from being even worse. On the other hand, because they played better at home, Tennessee was a couple of bad plays away from 7-5, or at least 6-6.
A favorable home schedule next season could mean the difference for Derek Dooley, who is on a very hot seat.
DeAnthony Arnett is going to transfer. He wasn't going to get much playing time with Justin Hunter and Da'Rick Rogers in the lineup, but it's still a tough blow to Tennessee's depth at the position, as Arnett already showed some signs that he'd be very good very soon.
For the record, I think Tennessee should let him go where he wants. His family is obviously having a very difficult time, and Tennessee should not hinder him from being there for support.
However, Tennessee does need to find a replacement for him. Arnett was ready to step in immediately next season and make a big impact as a sophomore. Finding that in a freshman will be tough, but it would drastically help the offense.
Tennessee was very unlucky this season. Janzen Jackson was cut, Justin Hunter was injured most of the season, Herman Lathers was out all season, Tyler Bray got injured and Tennessee had a very rough schedule.
However, they say you make your own luck. Against Florida, Tennessee might have stood a chance if they'd had a game plan without Hunter, or if the defense was better prepared for Chris Rainey.
Against South Carolina, if they'd had a game plan built around not forcing throws in the red zone, then they might have scored more and potentially won the game.
Against Kentucky, if they'd been prepared for the triple option defense that Kentucky whipped up at the last minute, the defense could've shut them down.
Now, obviously very little of this was foreseeable at the time, but you have to prepare for the worst. Tennessee's coaching staff needs to prepare for every game next season with a backup plan ready just in case.
This is a lesson I wish Tennessee had learned earlier in the season, and it was evident against the first opponent Tennessee played.
Despite having Poole bottled up over and over against Montana, Tennessee continued to run the ball over and over.
However, Bray was able to pass over Montana at will. In my opinion, that means you pass the ball. You don't have to establish the run at the very beginning of the first game. If they can't defend the pass, then just keep passing until they start pulling players from the box. Then you run.
Most teams don't have a balanced defense. They'll be weak against either the run or the pass. When you see that, use what works.
Yes, it would be ideal if Tennessee had a fearsome rushing attack and passing attack, but they didn't. If your run game is weak, then running the ball doesn't help to keep teams honest, it just makes them think they can commit more players to pass coverage and still stop the run.
If you have an unstoppable running back (like Trent Richardson), then there's nothing wrong with giving him 30 touches per game. If you have a fantastic pass attack, there's nothing wrong with running an Air Raid offense.
This one is simple, but huge. There were a lot of mistakes for Tennessee in 2011, and if the team wants to grow, it'll use those to its advantage and learn from them.
Tennessee really does have a shot at being a very tough team next season, but if they don't fix the mistakes of the past year, they'll never be contenders.