Where Will the Tennessee Volunteers Land in 2009?

JESSI SHARPECorrespondent IJanuary 31, 2009

Well there is a ton of excitement in Big Orange Country, that is for sure.  All the Fulmer bashers are happy the fat man is off the sidelines, and most of the old Fulmer supporters seem to have jumped on board.

Can Lane Kiffin salvage what once was a great recruiting class?  It's a good possibility.  Especially with all the visits he has gotten from previously committed players to other schools recently.  So either they will sign or just wanted to go for the experience. 

There has been some questions to his recruiting tactics, however.  Tennessee had one of the most touted QB recruits in Tajh Boyd coming in until Kiffin informed him that he did not really fit his system.  After that, Boyd opened his recruiting back up and recently committed to Clemson. 

He let another decent QB prospect go in Bryce Petty a few days after Boyd, which left Vol fans baffled once again.  After all, quarterback play was not the Vols strong point in 2008. 

It seems with all the players Kiffin is recruiting that linebackers and wide receivers (athletes) are his main point of emphasis.  Receiver makes sense, but linebackers? Tennessee had a top 5 defense last year in large part due to their linebacker corps, which mostly is coming back next year. 

Maybe he thinks he can coach Jonathan Crompton up to the his potential.  Crompton did show some signs of hope when he replaced an injured Erik Ainge in 2006.  Although the Vols did go 1-2 in that span, it was no fault of Crompton's.  The defense was terrible in giving up heartbreaking plays to JeMarcus Russell and LSU in a last-second loss. 

Then they couldn't seem to find an answer to Darrin McFadden and Arkansas.  However, last year it was hard to imagine that the quarterback we saw two years ago was the one playing like a guy who just got off the couch. 

I personally believe the kid never got over his surgery and was thrown in there and expected to produce.  Have fun convincing a lot of UT fans of that, though. 

Everyone expects B.J. Coleman or Nick Stephens to start, considering some of the promise they showed last year, but mark my words, it will be Crompton that gets the nod, unless Kiffin has a 5 star freshman coming in that no one knows about.

Speaking of Vol shortcomings in 2008, what ever happened to that running game that allowed the quarterback to open things up? 

Blame the new offense and switching positions of lineman all you want, but its hard to believe that such a successful running attack in 2007 would so terrible a year later. 

It was heart-breaking to see Arian Foster go out with such a lackluster season his senior year.  This was a guy that would have entered the draft after his junior season and could have been at least a third-rounder. 

Hopefully this James Cregg guy knows what he is doing and gets the lineman on the same page, because if Lennon Creer or Montario Hardesty get the blocks they can cause some damage. 

Also, the possible freshmen coming in look to be Reggie Bush types:$  David Oku, Damian Thigpen (might go elsewhere according to new reports), and Nyshier Oliver.  Also, LenDale White lookalike Toney Williams seems to be very promising.

The Vols seem to have all the ingredients to turn it around in 2009.  Great coaching staff, (at least it better be great, considering their payroll is over $5 millon), promising recruiting class, top 5 defense, and running backs galore.  The big question mark is quarterback. 

The receivers that they have seem to be good enough to make some plays, but you gotta have someone that get the ball in their hands.  People will be surprised to see how much talent is actually at Tennessee if this promising coaching staff can put everyone in the right place. 

I hope I never see another G-Gun formation again.  Don't get me wrong Gerald Jones is a beast, but everyone knew what was coming when he was behind center.  Let the man do what he does best, which is catch the ball and make plays.  The same thing goes for Eric Berry.  I'm surprised they didn't get him hurt last year.

Like most Vol fans, I can't wait to see what happens this fall.  I will be up at 3 a.m. in Iraq to try and catch a glimpse of the new and improved Vols.  That is when most ball games seem to come on over there. 

Yeah many times I went to work on about two hours of sleep back in 04-05.  Hopefully this time it will be worth it as Tennessee didn't make a bowl that year after losing to Jay Cutler and the mighty Vanderbilt Commodores.  I am expecting this season to be a bright spot in another long deployment.