Side by side

It's game week at the University of Tennessee. For the second straight season, the Vols will take the football field with a new head coach. With a new staff comes new starters. We at decided to take a look at Saturday's starting offensive and defensive lineups and compare them to the guys who started in 2009.

Saturday will mark the second straight year a new head coach is making his debut for Tennessee at Neyland Stadium.

No one would have ever dreamed that Lane Kiffin would stay just one year at UT before bolting back west to USC. Now, Derek Dooley gets the honor of making his debut this weekend against UT Martin.

While the media and fan base have made a big deal out of having two new head coaches in two years, it's the players that wear the orange and white that have to adjust the most to the change.

Dooley released a new two-deep depth chart on Monday that featured 18 freshmen, and thought we would take a closer look at Saturday's starting lineups, offensively and defensively, and compare them to last year's starters.

We will start this two-part series on the offensive side of the ball.


2010: Will be Matt Simms, a junior college transfer that began his college career at the University of Louisville. While Simms has a lot of talent and has established himself as the No. 1 guy this fall, he has yet to start a D1 football game. This will also be his first time to don the orange and white. He comes from a family of great quarterbacks in dad Phil Simms and brother Chris Simms and is expected to have a solid career at Rocky Top.

2009: Jonathan Crompton. He entered last fall as the Vols signal caller after beating out junior Nick Stephens during fall camp. The senior QB definitely had the experience factor on his side. After a good first game against Western Kentucky, he struggled against UCLA. While many thought Stephens might give the Vols a brighter future, Lane Kiffin stuck with Crompton, which ended up paying off in the end.

Comparison Advantage: You will have to give the nod to Crompton on the experience factor alone. Although Crompton had an up-and-down career, he had least been tested under fire, and that can't be really said about Simms.

Running back

2010: Tauren Poole. Many thought Poole was the second-best back coming out of fall camp last year, and many were surprised, including Poole, when he didn't get any touches in the backfield against Western Kentucky. Poole kept his mouth shut and bided his time; it ended up paying off for him once the coaching change took place.

Now, Poole has a new lease on life and is expected to have a breakout season his junior campaign.

2009: Montario Hardesty. Hardesty had dealt with a lot of injuries during his career. The arrival of two freshman running backs in Bryce Brown and David Oku appeared to supply the needed motivation for Hardesty to take his game to the next level and what a year Hardesty ended up having.

Comparison Advantage: Again experience is the key factor here. While Poole may have all the potential in the world and may end up having a better season than Hardesty had last year, he still hasn't done it. Poole will get his first official start Saturday. Hardesty gets the nod here.


2010: Kevin Cooper. A bigger stronger Cooper is better than last year's Cooper. He gives the Vols a returning starter at the position and expect Cooper, who is a senior, to have his best season yet depending on how much the fullback is used in this new offensive system.

2009: Kevin Cooper was used a lot out of the backfield as a receiver. He caught a touchdown against South Carolina and ended the season with 12 receptions for 110 yards and a score.

Comparison Advantage: While this would seem to be an easy one, it's not that simple. Dooley likes using a two tight end set more than using the fullback. Expect Dooley to adjust his schemes some to take advantage of Cooper's talents. This should be an interesting development to watch.

Wide Receiver 1

2010: Gerald Jones. Jones would have been the starter last fall if he hadn't been injured in the preseason camp. Expect Jones to have a big year, as this is his senior season. Competition makes everyone better, and Jones isn't the exception. The addition of Justin Hunter, Da'Rick Rogers and Matt Milton has definitely helped Jones turn up his game.

Wide Receiver 1 2009: Quintin Hancock. Hancock might not have started if it wasn't for the injury bug. He ended up being signed by the Seattle Seahawks.

Comparison Advantage: This is an easy one, as the advantage is 2010's Gerald Jones.

Wide Receiver 2

2010: Denarius Moore. Moore would also have been the starter in last year's season opener if it hadn't been for injury. Moore is now healthy and looking to have a breakout senior season.

2009: Marsalis Teague. Teague was one of the true freshmen that got the nod as the starter in the season opener against Western Kentucky. Teague has now been moved to the defensive side of the ball, where he probably is the most comfortable.

Comparison Advantage: Another easy one, as Moore would have started if healthy. Nod goes to him.

Tight End

2010: Luke Stocker. Thank goodness Stocker returned for another year. This year's version of Stocker is bigger, stronger and faster and that is great for the Vols.

2009: Luke Stocker. Stocker had a great junior season, and now can he repeat that performance? That should happen, especially with Dooley loving the tight end position.

Comparison Advantage: I'm going with 2010 Stocker.


2010: Cody Pope. A lack of experience is the key here, but don't fool yourself, as Pope is the type of athlete and student of the game that is capable of playing any position on the offensive line. He has become one of the key leaders on the line, both vocally and from an off-the-field standpoint as well.

2009: Cody Sullins. Sullins, a fifth year walk-on senior, won the starting job after the new coaching staff change. A smaller but very smart guy that used his intelligence to his utmost advantage.

Comparison Advantage: Despite his lack of experience, Pope is bigger, stronger and more athletic than his 2009 counterpart.

Left Tackle

2010: Dallas Thomas. Thomas has big shoes to fill at the left tackle position. Taking Chris Scott's position isn't going to be easy, but Thomas' work ethic makes a lot of the UT faithful happy with his progress. Scott was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the fifth round.

2009: Chris Scott. Scott was a definite bright spot on last year's offensive line. He made his 26th start for the Vols. A big strength and major asset.

Comparison Advantage: While Thomas is very young and has a lot of potential, you have to give the nod to Scott.

Left Guard

2010: JerQuari Schofield, a redshirt freshman that has a huge amount of talent. Bigger, stronger and faster is the key here.

2009: Vladimir Richard. Richard had a good year, a solid performer at the left guard position.

Comparison Advantage: This is almost a tossup and is a tough call. I'm going to go with Schofield based on overall potential and a bigger up side.

Right Guard

2010: Jarrod Shaw. Shaw got three starts at right tackle last year before being replaced by a redshirt freshman. He is definitely the veteran on this offensive line. Great things are expected from him this fall.

2009: Jacques McClendon. McClendon had a great season and ended up being drafted in the fourth round by the Indianapolis Colts.

Comparison Advantage: You have to go with McClendon on this one.

Right Tackle

2010: Ja'Wuan James, a true freshman starting for the Vols. This doesn't happen very often. How talented is James? That's still to be determined. The big question is can James overcome his early freshman jitters? Let's hope so.

2009: Jarrod Shaw, opened the 2009 season as the starter at right tackle before being replaced by Aaron Douglas.

Comparison Advantage: This is also a tough one. Of course Shaw has the experience factor, but from an overall talent standpoint you have to go with James. When is the last time a true freshman has started on the line for the Vols? Enough said.

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