| The Razorbacks will be
looking to ride the emotion of the expected capacity crowd and exact a little
payback for the 63-20 shellacking the Vols applied in Knoxville last year. Tennessee
returns 17 starters, evenly split between the offense and defense -- plus the
kicker, Alex Walls. Head coach Phil Fulmer will enjoy a more seasoned team after
the relatively inexperienced squad he fielded in 2000. His team must utilize the
experience of last season and become more physical.
The Vols suffered bitter losses to Florida, LSU and Georgia early in the season, then rallied for six-straight wins to earn a Cotton Bowl match with Kansas State. The Wildcats punished UT on the ground by gaining 297 rushing yards and taking home the Cotton Bowl trophy. Defensive tackle and Outland Trophy winner John Henderson suggested that some of his teammates just "gave up."
Giving up yards on the ground isn't likely this season. The Vols return a defensive line unit that most preseason magazines rank among the nation's best. On the other side, the offensive line suffered through growing pains in 2000 but is poised to create a formidable wall around quarterback Casey Clausen. Several of the linemen helped set 11 team weightlifting records in the offseason. Guard Fred Weary benched 505 pounds and tackle Reggie Coleman squatted 645.
Clausen will appreciate the extra muscle up front. He'll also benefit from his year of experience in SEC competition. The sophomore quarterback helped UT to 32.6 points per game -- good enough for second in the conference for scoring. However, there are question marks in the running game and at the receiver position. TE Jason Witten put up big receiving numbers in spring practice and the Vols will look to make Witten a larger part of the offense this fall.
The defensive secondary is shaky by Vol standards. Opponents completed 53.6 percent of their passes last year for 220.2 yards per game and 17 touchdowns. Only six of 366 passes were intercepted.
The Tennessee Athletic department predicts, "The 2001 season figures to be less of an emotional roller-coaster. Unlike last season, Tennessee heads into spring drills with experienced players at nearly every position. The Vols also return key players who established themselves as leaders a year ago and appear poised to handle that role again." [ Read Article ]
The schedule is brutal, with Florida, Alabama and Notre Dame road trips. However, the first road game of the season to Fayetteville may be the most important for the young Vols. Razorback fans will create a loud and hostile environment for Tennessee. A loss at Reynolds Razorback Stadium coupled with the difficulty of the remaining schedule would make it hard for Fulmer to deliver more than eight wins.
Largest Crowd Ever Expected for Vols
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