Receiving Corps Can Be Special
One of the things UT coach Butch Jones sounded most excited about is the makeup of his wide receiver corps.
After a difficult 2013 season, the Vols' stable of pass-catchers could be special; so much so, that Jones told the SEC world he has high expectations.
"Tennessee is the original 'Wide Receiver U,'" Jones said, according to UTSports.com. "That's one of the biggest changes in our football team, is the wide receiver position."
Given the news Jones shared on Tuesday that Alton "Pig" Howard, UT receptions leader from 2013, is back on the team after a hiatus, the Vols have everybody back. That includes physical freaks Marquez North and Jason Croom.
Add in Josh Malone and Von Pearson, and UT could shine.
Freshman Family Ties are Crucial
It's no secret that plenty of UT's 32 signees are going to play significant roles this year, but Jones said the group has changed the mentality on Rocky Top.
The number of youngsters who will play in 2014 is yet to be determined, but defensive end/linebacker Curt Maggitt said it'll be "more than 10."
Also, having six legacy players whose fathers or family members were Vols elevates the team's desire to get the program heading back in the right direction.
I think the thing where we've been aided and benefited from is we have six legacy players whose fathers played at the University of Tennessee and were great players. We want individuals that have grown up understanding the rivalry with Alabama, with Florida, understanding the traditions that we have at the University of Tennessee. So the legacy players have helped.
But this is a class that wanted to be at the University of Tennessee, and they take great pride and onus in having that upon their shoulders of getting Tennessee football back to its rightful place among the elite of college football.
There is always excitement surrounding recruiting classes, but because of the six players with family ties and nine instate commits from the incoming freshmen class, there are personal ties to the program that Jones believes are important.
Keeping Bama Rivalry Critical
Jones didn't shy away when asked about UT's stance on keeping the 6-1-1 format in the league that protects the Tennessee-Alabama and Auburn-Georgia rivalries, two of the most storied games in all of college football.
"It's in our DNA at the University of Tennessee and the University of Alabama," he said. "They're very special to us. I think that's what kind of makes up the pageantry of college football."
Though, Jones did note that UT has a burden to make the rivalry "relevant" again.
The Vols aren't on a competitive plane with Alabama currently, but Jones doesn't think his program is too far away. Given the team's recent scheduling of Oregon and Oklahoma, the Vols aren't afraid to play anybody.
They want the opportunity to return Bama's current run of dominance when the time comes.