Vol slate, part 1

Operating on the premise that it's never too soon to start looking ahead to football season, here's an early preview of the first four games of Tennessee's newly released 2011 schedule:

Sept 3 - Montana (home): The Grizzlies are coached by Robin Pflugrad, who went 7-4 as the first-year head man in 2010. They scored 31.7 points per game and allowed 22.1 last fall. They rushed for an average of 139.9 yards per game and passed for an average of 233.5 yards per game. Montana started 2010 with a bang, hammering Western State 73-2 in its opener. The Grizzlies' top returnee is cornerback Trumaine Johnson, tabbed All-America by the Associated Press, American Football Coaches Association and the Walter Camp Foundation after recording 44 tackles, 7 pass breakups and 4 interceptions (2 of them pick sixes) last season. Another key returnee is linebacker Caleb McSurdy, who posted a team-high 112 stops last fall. Key losses include quarterback Justin Roper (61.5 percent completion percentage, 1,885 yards, 19 touchdowns, 11 interceptions) and safety Erik Stoll, a first-team All-Big Sky selection after recording 82 stops and five interceptions in 2010.

Sept. 10 - Cincinnati (home): A year after going 12-0 under Brian Kelly before losing to Florida in the Sugar Bowl, the Bearcats limped home 4-8 under rookie head man Butch Jones. The worst losses were 31-7 to Syracuse, 37-10 to West Virginia, 38-17 to UConn and 28-10 to Pitt. Cincinnati peaked with a 69-38 beat-down of Rutgers but dropped five of its last six games. The Bearcats averaged 27.1 points per outing but allowed 28.0. All 11 starters will be back from a 2010 defense that allowed 156.7 rushing yards and 260.7 passing yards per outing. The key returnees are first-team All-Big East quarterback Zach Callaros (58.7 completion percentage, 2,902 yards, 26 TDs, 14 interceptions) and running back Isaiah Pead (1,029 yards, 6.6 per carry). The key losses include first-team All-Big East wideout Armon Binns (75 catches, 1,101 yards) and second-team All-Big East center Jason Kelce.

Sept. 17 - Florida (away): Former Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp assumes a team that went 8-5 in 2010, including a 37-24 defeat of Penn State in the Outback Bowl. The Gators' new offensive coordinator is former Notre Dame head man Charlie Weis and the new defensive coordinator is Dan Quinn, fresh from a stint with the Seattle Seahawks. Florida's offense averaged 29.8 points per game last season but mustered just 6 points vs. Alabama, 7 vs. Mississippi State and 14 vs. South Carolina. The Gators allowed 21.3 points per game. Florida averaged 166.5 rushing yards and 184.3 passing yards per game. Quarterback John Brantley was wildly erratic, completing 60.8 percent of his passes for 2,061 yards but throwing more interceptions (10) than touchdowns (9). He could blossom in 2011 under Weis. Another key returnee is Jeff Demps, who averaged 6.0 yards per carry en route to 551 rushing yards. The key loss on offense is center Mike Pouncey. The top returnees on defense are linebacker Jonathan Bostic (57 stops, 3 interceptions), linebacker Jelani Jenkins (76 stops) and cornerback Janoris Jenkins (44 stops, 3 interceptions, 8 pass breakups). The key departures include end Justin Trattou (57 stops, 12 tackles for loss) and safety Ahmad Black (108 stops, 5 interceptions).

Oct. 1 - Buffalo (home): First-year head coach Jeff Quinn will be back for another go-around in 2011, despite losing his last seven games of 2010 to finish 2-10. The Bulls scored just 14.2 points per game and allowed 27.8 last fall. Their most lopsided losses came against Northern Illinois (42-0), Baylor (34-6) and UConn (45-21). Buffalo averaged 113.4 rushing yards and 184.2 passing yards per contest. Jerry Davis returns at quarterback after completing 47.7 percent of his passes for 1,753 yards with 16 TDs and 16 interceptions last fall. Also back is Brandon Oliver, who was voted the team's Offensive MVP after rushing for 298 yards (2.9 per carry) as a freshman. The key losses were safeties Davonte Shannon and Domonic Cook. Shannon was a four-time All-MAC selection who led the 2010 Bulls with 120 tackles. Cook registered six interceptions last fall and was voted the team's Defensive MVP.

COMING SOON: A look at Games 5-8 on Saturday and Games 9-12 on Sunday.


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