Tennessee Football: 5 Reasons to Hope for a Vols Turnaround This Season
Five games into the college football season, the Tennessee Volunteers are sitting at a respectable 3-2 record. Most fans, however, had much higher expectations.
You can discern this from their comments and the disappointment in their voices when they call in to local radio shows.
That disappointment is understandable, as the team had the same high expectations for themselves.
Up and down has been the name of the game for the Vols this season. There have been some devastating lows and exceptional highs.
Looking at it from an outside perspective, you can see that this team has the ability to turn around the season. Hope is not lost. Instead, it is set to spring forward.
Tennessee Fought the Entire 60 Minutes Against Georgia
For the first time under head coach Derek Dooley, Tennessee appeared to fight for the entirety of the game.
They actually showed grit and fire in going toe-to-toe with the fifth-ranked team in the country. The Vols had the desire to come back from large deficits twice in the game, almost pulling off a major upset.
Prior to this, every time they got down, they folded like a cheap suit. They showed no fire, heart or desire to win. They may have, but it was not evident in their appearance.
This is something that, generally, most teams don't have a problem with. Though for some reason, Tennessee has had this exact problem over the last couple of seasons.
If the Vols are able to keep up this level of fight, then the sky's the limit on how the rest of the season will go.
The Vol Defense Will Get Better
To say the Volunteer defense has been bad this season would be putting it on the extreme end of lightly. They have been gashed for numerous big plays in every game this season.
Generally, this is the way things go when teams implement a new defensive scheme, especially when converting to the 3-4.
There have been flashes of how good the Vol defense has the ability to be. This can be witnessed by looking at the first third of the Florida game and the second and fourth quarters against Georgia.
Holding the Bulldog offense down in those two quarters is a big reason that Tennessee had the opportunity to almost pull off that upset.
They were also the reason the game was as out of hand as it was.
As the season continues, if Tennessee should get the proper personnel in the right place, this defense should start to click.
In addition to this, defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri should get better at calling plays, as this is his first season doing so.
The Running Game Is Much Better Than Expected
Coming into this season, one of the major questions for the Volunteers was the running game. Early on in the season, the running game appeared to remain just that.
Looking deeper into the numbers tells a different story about the Vols' running game. That story is, it's pretty good.
It appears the decision to have Rajion Neal be the feature back in the offense is playing dividends. He is currently leading the SEC in rushing attempts with 103 and ranks second in the league in rushing yards with 460.
For the record, that's 20 more yards than Marcus Lattimore.
Continuing to go to the run will do nothing but help the offense. Looking at the last game, it kept the Bulldog defense off balance.
Another reason they were close to pulling off the upset.
Tyler Bray's Attitude and Decision-Making Has Taken a Turn for the Better
Tyler Bray has come a long way since the jet-skiing and bottle-throwing adventures of this summer, and he's on his way to becoming an elite-level quarterback in the SEC.
He has also come a long way since the end of the game against Florida.
Bray is beginning to show more poise in the pocket and when the team gets down. The last three drives against Georgia were an aberration, as he was trying too hard to make the big play to win the game.
His ability to lead the team from behind twice in that game was something we hadn't seen out of Bray before.
Bray is also getting more experience in these high-profile games, which he hasn't had to do before due to not starting and injury.
It's taken a while, but he is beginning to learn how to win and understand that he doesn't have to win every game by himself.
If this ability continues to grow over the next several weeks, there is no telling how much more dynamic this offense will become.
There is also no telling who Vols may be able to beat.
Anything Can Happen
In the college football world there is an axiom that says, "any given Saturday." This is phrased for when a team pulls a major upset.
With the quick-strike ability Tennessee has on offense, they have the ability to do just that.
Over their next three games, they will have several opportunities to do this, as they face three teams currently ranked in the top 25.
The Vols have games at Mississippi State and South Carolina, with a game against Alabama sandwiched in between.
If everything clicks right for Tennessee, they have the potential to get a win in one of these games, if not two.
The Vols have the ability to score points in bunches. If any of the next three opponents come in sleeping, there is a great chance that Tennessee can pull an upset.
Hope always springs eternal when anything can happen on a Saturday in the fall.