[Editor's Note: This is the first article from new MSF writer Mike Dooley (aka J-Dools), a student at the University of Tennessee, originally from Dearborn, MI, who will be covering the Vols and the Detroit Tigers. We're happy to have Mike aboard and hope you enjoy his first effort below, a preview and prediction for Lane Kiffin's first season at Tennessee.]
As college football begins once again, fans can rejoice that ESPN will have more to cover than the Little League World Series. My apologies to Chula Vista, California.
For students at the University of Tennessee, such as myself, the start of the season means gratuitous amounts of orange and a sharp increase in whiskey sales.
Putting the Lane Kiffin offseason media circus behind us, it is now time to start playing football, and probably the start of the in-season Lane Kiffin media circus.
The Vols kick off the season against Western Kentucky this Saturday and barring a repeat of last year’s debacle against Wyoming, UT will start off the season with a “W”.
[Editor's Note: Follow these links to StubHub for great deals on Tennessee football tickets, and all NCAA college football tickets. Plus, get ready for Saturday with the Week 1 college football TV schedule from MSF.]
The season will really start for UT in week two versus UCLA. The down-to-the-wire loss to the Bruins in Pasedena last year still lingers in the minds of the Vols. This year the Bruins travel to Knoxville and Kiffin will be under extreme pressure to win the rematch.
But will Kiffin be able to quickly turn this program around? That is the question everyone is asking about the Vols’ young new head coach.
Coming into this season Tennessee is unranked for the first time in 19 years. However, Kiffin seems poised to revive this program. Kiffin has brought in an elite coaching staff with NFL credentials and outstanding recruiting skills.
Lane’s father, Monte Kiffin, left the NFL and followed his son to Tennessee as the defensive coordinator. Coming to UT, Monte was effectively handed a top level defense and was told “Here you go, have fun.”
Monte will help bring out the full potential of three-time All-American safety Eric Berry. (A scary thought for all opponents.)
The offense is completely revamped with Kiffin’s pro style playbook and zone blocking system. This is a much needed change after the abysmal offensive performance last season.
The Vols have the electric Gerald Jones returning at receiver, who will be a year older and should be a major offensive weapon. Jones is currently injured, but should be able to return in time for the rematch against UCLA.
The added youth to this team will have an immediate impact as Kiffin assembled a great recruiting class. Top-ranked running back Bryce Brown will play a major role in the offense, likely splitting carries with senior Montario Hardesty.
His fellow freshman back David Oku will also see time, likely as a third down back.
Speedy freshman receivers Nu’Keese Richardson and Marsalis Teague will provide big play potential to the passing game. Also, freshman cornerback Janzen Jackson may battle his way into a starting role on the defense.
The most important factor in the ’09 Volunteers season, of course, will likely be the play of senior quarterback Jonathon Crompton.
Last year Crompton threw for a meager 889 yards, with only five touchdowns and four interceptions. The Vols need Crompton to emerge as a solid starter in Kiffin’s offensive system.
My prediction for the 2009 Tennessee Volunteers season: 8-4 (4-4)
* – Eric Berry photo credit: TNJN/Hall, Adrian via Tennessee Journalist