As a true freshman, Peyton Manning passed for 1,141 yards and 11 touchdowns. The next season, he had 2,954 passing yards and 22 touchdowns.

As a true freshman, Casey Clausen passed for 1,473 yards and 15 touchdowns. The next season, he threw for 2,969 yards and 22 touchdowns.

Each completed 64 percent of his passes his second year at Tennessee.

As a true freshman last season, Erik Ainge had 1,452 yards and 17 touchdowns.

Can he duplicate the sophomore numbers of Manning and Clausen?

Probably not. Ainge faces a brutal schedule that includes two road games against top 10 teams and two against traditional powers. That's not conducive to putting up big numbers.

Plus, Ainge figures to split time with Rick Clausen, who went 3-1 as a starter last season, passing for 949 yards and eight touchdowns.

Still, Ainge should make a big leap this season. He's a year stronger, a year wiser, and he has one of the top receiving corps in the SEC.

Look for Ainge to pass for 2,600 yards and 22 touchdowns. His completion percentage will improve from 55.1 to 58. He doesn't dump the ball off enough to match the 64-percent marks of Manning and Casey Clausen.

Rick Clausen will come off the bench to pass for 700 yards and five touchdowns. He will complete over 60 percent of his throws.

Robert Meachem will lead the Vols with 50 catches for over 800 yards and six touchdowns. He will be one of five receives who catches at least 30 passes, joining C.J. Fayton, Jayson Swain, Chris Hannon and Brett Smith.

Gerald Riggs will set a single-season record with more 1,500 rushing yards and score 12 touchdowns. He will rack up seven 100-yard games. That'll be tough considering the Vols play three of last season's top 15 run defenses and five of the top 45. The Vols also face five teams that allowed more than 140 rushing yards per game.

The Vols will go 7-1 in the SEC, losing only at Florida. That will cost the Vols a chance to play for the SEC Championship. UT will play in only its third BCS bowl game, the first since the 1999 season, traveling to Miami to play Michigan or Ohio State in the Orange Bowl. UT will end up 10-2 and ranked eighth in the nation.

Here are some other predictions about this season:

Parys Haralson will lead the Vols with 11 sacks. Antonio Reynolds will have a breakout season and record seven. Jesse Mahelona will get six as the Vols record 44 – 11 more than last season.

James Wilhoit will rank third in the SEC in scoring with 101 points (he had 74 last year). He'll hit 17 of 24 field-goal attempts.

Kevin Simon will lead Tennessee with 125 tackles. Defensive back Jason Allen's tackle total will decrease from 123 to 80.

Tennessee will play only seven true freshmen: Running backs Montario Hardesty and LaMarcus Coker, receivers Lucas Taylor and Aaron Rogers, defensive tackle Demonte Bolden and defensive backs Demetrius Morley and Antonio Wardlow. The next most likely to play: defensive lineman Vladimir Richard. Center Josh McNeil must improve his strength to get playing time.

Despite facing five of the top 31 scoring defenses from last season, the Vols will score at least 30 points in six games and rank second in the SEC with 33 points per game.

UT will averaged 175 rushing yards per game (down from 186.0) and 230 passing (up from 213.5). The total offense average of 415 yards will rank second in the SEC.

UT's defense will allow 112 rushing yards per game and 205 passing. The total defense of 317 will rank fifth in the SEC.

UT's defense will surrendered just under 20 points per game.

UT will average almost 10 yards per punt return (up from 6.1) and 22 yards on kickoff returns (up from 18.2). Jonathan Hefney will average over 10 yards per punt return, Robert Meachem over 24 yards on kick returns. Last season, UT ranked 102 in punt returns and 98 in kickoff returns.

Freshman Britton Colquitt will average 41 yards per punt (brother Dustin Colquitt averaged 39.6 as a freshman) with a net of 37 yards.

As opponents avoid Jason Allen, Roshaun Fellows will lead the Vols with five interceptions. The team will have make 20.

Linebacker Omar Gaither will join Simon in the 100-tackle club, marking the second straight year the Vols have had two 100-tackle performers.

Arian Foster will be UT's second-leading rusher with 256 yards – matching Riggs' total for his first two years as a Vol. Last year, the No. 2 rusher had 1,005 yards.

Fullback Cory Anderson, who caught 17 passes last season, will catch 25 this season – more if Clausen gets more playing time. He will score six touchdowns.

UT's tight ends will combine for 18 catches. They caught nine last year.

* Each year that the Tennessee baseball team plays in the College World Series, the football team excels.

In 1951, the baseball team went to Omaha, Neb., and the football team won the national championship.

UT didn't make another College World Series appearance until 1995, and the Vols were No. 3 in the final AP poll that year.

In 2001, UT again went to the CWS and the football team finished No. 4.

This past season, the Diamond Vols once again made it to Omaha.

We'll see how the football team responds.

Inside Tennessee Top Stories