Times have been tough for the Tennessee Volunteers. The team has just one winning season since 2008 and will be looking to improve upon 2012's disappointing 5-7 season.
That won't be easy, as the team is losing several key contributors from a year ago, including quarterback Tyler Bray, and wide receivers Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter. But the team will be hoping that new head coach Butch Jones can re-inject some life into a proud program that has fallen on bad years.
The SEC will be full of talented teams as usual, so Tennessee's rebuilding process won't be easy. But at this year's spring game, fans will get a chance to see where the Vols stand heading into the 2013 season.
When: Saturday, April 20, at 2 p.m. ET
Where: Neyland Stadium, Knoxville, Tennessee
TV: Game will be tape delayed and shown on Sunday, April 21, at 5 a.m. ET on ESPNU
Jones will look to change a losing culture that has seen four different head coaches and the team play in just two bowl games since 2008.
The Vols will return 17 starters from a year ago, so this will certainly be an experienced squad. The offensive line will be a strength, as a unit that allowed just eight sacks a year ago will return starters Antonio Richardson, James Stone, Zach Fulton and Ja'Wuan James.
It remains to be seen who will win the quarterback battle, however, or whether Patterson and Hunter can be replaced in the passing game.
Last year's top rusher, Rajion Neal, will return. On the other hand, the status of second-leading rusher Marlin Lane remains up in the air after he was suspended during spring ball. He will have to earn his way back onto the team.
Defensively, the team will be switching back to a 4-3 after installing a 3-4 last season. But there is talent on the defensive side of the ball despite last year's struggles, and eight players will return to a unit that should be experienced if nothing else.
Offensive Players to Watch: Justin Worley and Nathan Peterman, QB
It's time for the Justin Worley era to begin.
The junior-to-be has watched the talented but inconsistent Bray for the past two years, and now he'll be thrust into the starting role and forced to learn a new system under Jones' new scheme. Well, if he beats out Nathan Peterman for the job, that is.
Where Worley has the advantage in experience, Peterman holds a slight edge athletically. And while Worley has been getting more reps with the first team, Peterman has kept this race close.
Worley is probably the incumbent at this point but Peterman is going to make things interesting. Keep a very close eye on this position battle on Saturday.
Defensive Player to Watch: A.J. Johnson
Tennessee's defense wasn't very good last season—understatement alert!—but A.J. Johnson remained a bright spot on the unit.
He finished with 138 tackles (tops in the SEC), a sack and recovered a fumble for the Vols in 2012, and was named to the 2012 Coaches All-SEC Second Team.
A two-year starter, Johnson even helped on offense, rushing 12 times for 21 yards and six rushing touchdowns out of the team's Wildcat formation. It remains to be seen if he'll be a short-yardage option on the offensive side of the ball, but he'll be expected to be a leader defensively and the lynchpin of that unit in 2013.