Josh Woodward's Take
The likely hood of Tennessee finishing this season with a warm weather bowl is very good. Derek Dooley has done a good job of getting the roster back in shape. The off season saw lots of staff turnover and turnover that I believe was good for Tennessee. Jay Graham has really elevated the intensity at running back and Sam Pittman is a much better communicator to the offensive line. Sal Sunseri brings a fire that we didn't see on Dooley's previous staff, the players really respect Sunseri and I believe it will show on game days. I expect Tennessee to score plenty of points on offense and be a better run stopper on defense.
So here's my 10 takes for the season,
1. A SEC team will win the National Championship
2. Florida will lose 6 games.
4. Tyler Bray will throw for 34 touchdowns.
5. Alabama will lose 2 games.
6. LSU will not lose a game.
7. Justin Hunter will lead the SEC in receiving.
8. The Tennessee defense will have 15 sacks and 12 interceptions.
9. Tennessee will utilize the screen pass to Devrin Young this season.
10. Tennessee will finish the regular season 9-3.
Danny Parker's Take
The yearly cycle of August expectation has arrived and is near completion as college football fans find out what the five fingers said to the face in the coming weeks.
Only two teams play in the Southeastern Conference's championship game. Only two play for the national championship. However, that doesn't mean the rest of the country can't enjoy a quality year of football.
More specifically, with the Volunteers, I can't recall having this much intrigue around a team (probably say that every year) with the JUCO players added that should all start Game 1, which is exactly why they were recruited and signed. On top of that is the addition of the seven new assistant coaches that Derek Dooley assured me were better fits for what he and Tennessee need to compete on a higher level.
To be honest, regardless of any allegiances I have to any school or team, I cover Tennessee and have in some capacity since 2004. Even though I worked the Vols in a pair of SECCGs, the losses piled up are sickening. It's just not fun flying to Berkeley, Columbia, Gainesville or Los Angeles to cover one loss after another. Covering the beat eats up a huge chunk of your life, which is why it's a young man's gig. The clock is ticking and I'm ready to take pictures of and write about head-turning victories instead of having to pull out the Sherlock Holmes travel kit to locate silver linings.
Here's my 10 takes:
1. This may cause me some flack, but….Tennessee will win more games in 2012 than Ole Miss and Vanderbilt combined.
2. Any and all games the Volunteers run for 160-plus yards this season will result in a victory.
3. A true freshman will emerge as Tennessee's No. 3 wide receiver before Halloween.
4. Freshman wide receiver Amari Cooper will draw comparisons to some of the elite wideouts to ever go through Alabama.
5. Given how network media can take complete control over public perception of an athlete's skill level, regardless of how guys like E.J. Manuel, Landry Jones, Denard Robinson and Geno Smith play. For my money, the top candidates to take home the Heisman Trophy should be Matt Barkley, De'Anthony Thomas and Marcus Lattimore.
6. Zach Metttenberger will follow in the footsteps of Cameron Newton as a quarterback who spent at least one season at an SEC school, transferred to a junior college then returned to the league for a different SEC team and lit it up. Given the running game, O-line and skill players he has to work with, the former Georgia Bulldog has an opportunity to guide a highly talented LSU squad back to Atlanta and a BCS contest.
7. No matter the wins and losses or national exposure, Vol sophomore A.J. Johnson will emerge as the premier linebacker in the Southeastern Conference. That will be thanks in part to the interior occupation of Daniel McCullers.
8. Speaking of Tennessee's new starting nose guard, I'll go ahead and predict that a sasquatch will post images and video of McCullers online in disbelief.
10. Corey Lemonier will establish himself as one of the country's top defensive ends and will leave early for the NFL Draft after this season.
Chris Price's Take
The departure of Da' Rick Rogers, for me personally, was a meltdown moment. I can't say that I didn't know it was a possibility, but my colleague Danny Parker knew, for some reason, that Rogers, Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter just wouldn't make it onto the field together, but as a beat reporter I desperately wanted to see it for the entertainment value. However, just short of a week removed from the incident, I am reenergized to watch this football team. Tennessee is deeper and more talented than they have ever been during the Derek Dooley era and even still they likely have the best receiver duo in the conference. Sal Sunseri's defense is going to be entertaining as well. I mean heck, who doesn't want to see a 6-foot-6, 260-pound nose guard line up in the orange and white.
All that being said here are my 10 takes for 2012:
1. The Vols will open the season with a win in the Georgia Dome over N.C. State and catapult them into a 4-0 September with a much-needed win, both for the team and the fans, over the Florida Gators.
2. Wide receiver Justin Hunter will eclipse the 1,000-yard receiving mark and finally the world will know who this fun-loving, class-act receiver is, like they should have in 2011.
3. It is a long way away, but I truly believe Tennessee will cram their foot to the floorboard and destroy the Vanderbilt Commodores by no less than four touchdowns in Nashville spawning tears from the ducts of Rich Franklin and a smile on the face of Dooley.
4. Tiny Richardson will be the spark plug this offensive line has been looking for and will emerge as an All-SEC pick heading into the 2013 season.
5. Curt Maggitt will lead the Vols in sacks this season. With his hand in the dirt early and often, the sophomore can't stop smiling about increased opportunities to rush the passer.
6. Prentiss Waggner will lead the SEC East in interceptions. Waggner, who is finally back at corner, has a nose for the football and couldn't be more excited to be at his natural position.
7. Nathan Peterman redshirts in 2012. This will be the absolute best thing for the Vols. Peterman showed extreme promise during spring drills, but the ideal situation has him not touching the field in 2012.
8. The Alabama Crimson Tide wins the Southeastern Conference and a spot in the BCS National Title game. Yes, the "Honey Badger" matters that much.
9. Da'Rick Rogers racks up another 1,000-yard season and is drafted in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft.
Randy Moore's Take
Tennessee's roster in 2009 was the weakest I've seen in nearly 50 years following the Vols. It was only slightly better in 2010. To his credit, Derek Dooley has upgraded the talent level to the point that it now is on par with everyone in the SEC East. The depth level is on par with everyone in the division except Georgia and South Carolina. Now that he has a more level playing field, Dooley should be able to contend for the East title, especially since he doesn't have to face the top three teams from the West (Bama, LSU, Arkansas) the way he did last fall. Dropping LSU and Arkansas, while adding Mississippi State and Missouri is a huge plus.
Here are my 10 takes on the season:
1. If Tennessee beats N.C. State and Florida in September, the Vols will go 9-3, earning Dooley a raise and an extension.
2. If Tennessee loses to N.C. State and Florida, the season will unravel and Kirby Smart will be Tennessee's head coach in 2013.
3. Tyler Bray will pass for 3,000 yards but backup Justin Worley will be the winning edge in at least one game.
4. Rajion Neal will rush for 1,000 yards but Devrin Young will post the season's longest run.
5. Tennessee will hammer Kentucky in the regular-season finale, ending Joker Phillips' tenure in Lexington.
6. Vanderbilt will upset either South Carolina, Florida, Auburn or Tennessee in Nashville.
7. After facing the rugged defenses of Georgia, LSU and Florida in Games 6, 7 and 8, South Carolina will be lucky to win Game 9 versus Tennessee ... even playing in Columbia.
8. Arkansas will start 7-2 only to drop its final three games -- at South Carolina, at Mississippi State and versus LSU in Fayetteville.
9. LSU will give the SEC a seventh consecutive BCS national title.
10. Texas A&M and Missouri will each finish 2-6 as first-year members of the SEC.