2003 SEC Football Preview- Tennessee

The Tennessee Volunteers went 8-5 in 2002, a disappointing year which saw blowout losses at the hands of Miami and Maryland. Phillip Fulmer hopes to reload in 2003 after a season in which the injury bug bit frequently. Are Vol fans growing impatient? Today's edition of our 2003 SEC Football preview takes a look at Tennessee.

COACHING

Head Coach: Phillip Fulmer (Career Rec: 103-25)
Offensive Coordinator: Randy Sanders
Defensive Coordinator: John Chavis

2002 Record: 8-5 overall (5-3 SEC)

2002 NCAA STATS RANKINGS

Total Offense: 85th (353.23)
Rushing Offense: 55th (150.54)
Passing Offense: 67th (202.69)
Scoring Offense: 86th (22.77)
Total Defense:5th (284.85)
Rushing Defense: 33rd (128.62)
Pass Efficiency Defense: 11th (99.22)
Scoring Defense: 11th (17.46)

Tennessee quarterback Casey Clausen completed 194 of 310 attempts for 2,297 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2002. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

STARTERS RETURNING

Offense (8):

LT Michael Munoz (6-6, 305, Jr.)
LG Jason Respert (6-3, 305, Jr.)
RG Anthony Herrera (6-4, 305, Sr.)
C Scott Wells (6-2, 300, Sr.)
WR Tony Brown (6-2, 200, Jr.)
QB Casey Clausen (6-4, 225, Sr.)
TB Cedric Houston (6-0, 215, Jr.)
FB Troy Fleming (6-2, 230, Sr.)

Defense (4):

LB Robert Peace (6-3, 235, Sr.)
RCB Jabari Greer (5-10, 175, Sr.)
SS Gibril Wilson (6-1, 190, Sr.)
FS Rashad Baker (5-11, 185, Sr.)

* All-Star Candidates

Roster

TEAM STRENGTHS

Offensive line, quarterback.

TEAM QUESTION MARKS

Defensive line, linebackers.

KEY GAME

September 20, at Florida. The Gators ambushed UT in Knoxville last season. A win over Florida in Gainesville would have the Vols on a roll for '03.

HEAD COACHES COMMENTS

"In 2001 we were a quarter away from playing for national championship. Injuries played a big factor in inadequacies last year, also lost a lot of leadership, a black hole we never recovered from." "As injuries mounted up complications developed, a bit of unselfishness and for a period of time there our discipline wasn't what it needed to be. Ended up a respectable 8-4, had we ended 9-4 with all adversity, people would feel a lot better. Went down to play Maryland with lackadaisical attitude and got spanked."

"Our guys got together, seniors, especially. Have worked extremely hard, have had a good history of when had tough times of bouncing back and expect that our team will bounce back. We have a senior quarterback, excellent leader, can make all the throws, sees the field well. Our OL looks like it will be healthy, guys who missed quite a bit of the season last year, look like they have the potential to be good. Hopefully a RB will emerge." "Defense should be solid, concern at DT, lost six in 2 years, rebuilding to do there, and concern at cornerback opposite Jabari Greer. Our punter will be Dustin Colquitt, and kicker will be James Willhoyt. (check name). A really good young prospect with a bright future."

"Biggest concern on defense. Dickerson needs to come through, Harrell can be a star one day. Has to get over a stress fracture he had in HS basketball. Has had a second surgery, if can get past that is very capable. Matt McLaughlin is walk-on for us, a buzz saw, has everybody's attention over there."

"Jason Allen, really really pleased. We played him last year in special teams, got him lot of practice reps, know have opportunity to compete for starting position this year. Jason's a big kid, strong, very athletic, has become a good tackler. Can cover you deep, has the hips to do that. Was a guy in spring that got 75 percent of practice reps because Boulware and Greer were in track. When the first team went out, he'd go in with the second team because he wanted to get the reps."

"We had more injuries last year than had previous 11 total. Have things happen along the way but last year was absurd. Unfortunate because several of them were non-contact drills, it was a freakish thing, wouldn't expect that to happen again."

"Had very little patience with kids not part of what trying to get done in off-season. The selfishness issue can be outward, a little bit of that, or inward, kids not taking care of business, not going to class, making workouts. Our 2001 football team had great leadership, really quality young men, held everybody else accountable. When they left, ended up with black hole, some people had selves or pro football on minds more than had Tennessee football team. Injuries, might have been fine had everything gone smoothly, but with injuries, all grew and complicated self."

VandyMania Projection

Tennessee has some holes to fill on defense but expect the Vols to be back to old form in 2002. 10-2 overall. 7-1 SEC.

2003 SCHEDULE AND PREDICTIONS


Aug. 30 Fresno State, W 35-28
Sept. 6 Marshall, W 31-17
Sept. 20 at Florida, W 27-24
Sept. 27 South Carolina, W 24-21
Oct. 4 at Auburn, L 21-17
Oct. 11 Georgia, W 24-17
Oct. 25 at Alabama, W 28-20
Nov. 1 Duke, W 21-14
Nov. 8 at Miami (Fla.), L 31-21
Nov. 15 Mississippi State, W 31-7
Nov. 22 Vanderbilt, W 28-24
Nov. 29 at Kentucky, W 28-19


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