Tennessee Football: 2008 Season Brings Key Changes for Vols

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Tennessee Football: 2008 Season Brings Key Changes for Vols
Phillip Fulmer
Phillip Fulmer led Tennessee to a 10-win season in 2007, but will face a host of changes in 2008. 

"Change"—it's a word that football fans on Rocky Top will be hearing a lot in the coming months regarding their Tennessee Vols.

After stumbling out of the gates to a 1-2 start in 2007, Tennessee found a way to pull out a 10-4 finish, complete with an SEC East crown and a 21-17 Outback Bowl victory over Wisconsin.

But everything is now back at square one for 2008.

Many key players from the successful 2007 campaign will not be back.  Seniors Erik Ainge (QB), Jonathan Hefney (S), Antonio Reynolds (DE), Xavier Mitchell (DE), and Chris Brown (TE) will leave big voids at their positions. 

Also, junior linebacker Jerod Mayo will be forgoing his senior season to enter the NFL Draft.

Key returners for Tennessee will be Eric Berry, Ramon Foster, Anthony Parker, Rico McCoy, and running back Arian Foster.

Foster's decision to come back to Rocky Top for his final season has made Vol fans quite happy.  Foster has the opportunity to break the all-time Tennessee rushing record, as he sits just 685 yards shy.

Fans wearing Orange and White may be pleased by Foster's decision, but they've come back to earth when looking at the recruiting news thus far.  Normally, Phillip Fulmer has the Vols landing securely in the Top 25 recruiting classes, but this year is different. 

Tennessee currently owns the No. 40 recruiting class by Rivals.com's measurements.

While reevaluating player talent is an annual process, most programs don't usually find themselves looking at empty coaching depth charts.  Unfortunately for Tennessee, that is the case on the offensive side of the ball. 

Only offensive line coach Greg Adkins returns for the 2008 season.

Offensive coordinator and quarterback guru David Cutcliffe has moved from Knoxville to Durham, NC to take on Duke's head coaching duties.  Vol assistant coaches Kurt Roper and Matt Luke will also find their new homes in Durham.

"...most programs don't usually find themselves looking at empty coaching depth charts."

Trooper Taylor, Tennessee's energetic wide receivers coach has moved on to Oklahoma State as their co-offensive coordinator.  

Needless to say, the departure of these coaches will pave the way for several fresh faces on the Tennessee sidelines, most notably new offensive coordinator Dave Clawson. 

Clawson joins Tennessee's staff from Richmond, where he was previously the Spiders' head coach.

Joining Clawson on the offensive staff will be Jason Michael, Stan Drayton, and Latrell Scott.

With all of the new players and coaches, the Vols will look forward to dealing with a somewhat manageable schedule by SEC standards.  Tennessee will open with UAB, but their first test will be in Pasadena, CA against UCLA. 

The Vols must also travel to Auburn, Georgia, South Carolina, and Vanderbilt.

Position battles and offensive schemes for the 2008 season will be under way when spring drills begin on March 11th.

 

Robert H. Spain is an Alabama-based columnist for BleacherReport.com.  His entire archive can be found here.

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