The Tennessee Vols’ 2016 football season ended on a high note with a 38-24 victory over the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the Music City Bowl at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, the home of the Tennessee Titans. Quarterback Josh Dobbs was named the game’s MVP as he led the way for the Vols, passing for 291 yards and 1 TD and rushing for 118 yards with 3 TDs. Defensive end Derek Barnett broke a school record held by Reggie White and became the all-time leader in sacks at Tennessee by recording his 33rd career sack.
The Vols’ season started off strong with a 5-0 record including wins over SEC East Division rivals the Florida Gators and Georgia Bulldogs. With these two wins, the Vols seemed to have the inside track to represent the SEC East in the conference championship game. However, losses to Texas A&M, Alabama, South Carolina, and Vanderbilt derailed those plans. The Vols had many bright spots this year including the play of Josh Dobbs (QB), Derek Barnett (DE), Alvin Kamara (RB), Josh Malone (WR), Jauan Jennings (WR), and Trevor Daniel (P) to name a few.
Injuries to Jalen Reeves-Maybin (LB), Cam Sutton (DB), Darin Kirkland Jr. (LB), and Shy Tuttle (DT) caused the defense to underperform by most accounts. Defensive Coordinator Bob Shoop will be under the microscope in 2017 as fans wonder if he can live up to the lofty expectations set when he arrived. The season also saw two talented players Jalen Hurd (RB) and Preston Williams (WR) leave the team during the season. Hurd was the 6th all-time leading rusher in school history. Heading into the 2017 season, the Vols will be replacing players at many important positions including quarterback, running back, and wide receiver. The 2017 season will open with a September 4th game against Georgia Tech in Atlanta and will include away games against Alabama and Florida. LSU returns to the schedule with a November 18th date in Knoxville. South Carolina and Vanderbilt travel to Knoxville in 2017 and the Vols will certainly be more focused for both of these games.
All in all, the Vols had a good year with some quality wins. However, it could have been better without the letdowns at South Carolina and Vanderbilt. 2017 should be an exciting season as redshirt freshman Jarrett Guarantano seems poised to challenge junior Quinten Dormady for the starting quarterback position. John Kelly, who showed flashes of quality SEC back play is the top returning running back and depth will be needed at this position to get the Vols where they want to go. Heading into the 2017 season, all eyes will be on Coach Butch Jones as he heads into his 5th season on the Hill. Coaching changes will occur as Offensive Coordinator Mike DeBord has departed the program to take a position at Indiana. It will be interesting to see who gets the Offensive Coordinator job. Other coaches could also land elsewhere. Here’s hoping Coach Jones can lead the Vols back to their glory days.