KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (BVM) – The Volunteers had a season to remember last year highlighted by big wins over Florida, Alabama and Clemson in the Orange Bowl. It was Tennessee’s best season since 2001 when Casey Clausen guided his team to a Citrus Bowl victory over Michigan.
So how could it possibly follow up the good vibes from last season? How about a run at a national title?
Tennessee won games last year because of the most explosive offense in the country that averaged an FBS-leading 525.5 yards. It lost Hendon Hooker, two star receivers in Jalin Hyatt and Cedric Tillman, Princeton Fant and two experienced offensive linemen.
But it still has the offense’s most crucial weapon: the mind of Josh Heupel.
Heupel took over the Volunteer program for the 2021 season and the offense instantly improved by 129.1 yards per game. The team continued that improvement in 2022.
Tennessee may have lost a lot of star power this offseason, but the experience on the offensive depth chart is hard to ignore. The Vols have 10 seniors projected to start on that side of the ball.
The biggest question mark with Tennessee is the quarterback position. Any time you lose someone that arguably should have been a Heisman Trophy candidate, it is extremely hard to replace. But it is also extremely hard to convince a physical anomaly like Joe Milton to stick around to be a backup quarterback like the Vols did last year.
They now hope to reap the benefits of that decision.
Milton has shown a lack of accuracy at times, but he is smart with the football, which is a big trait to have in any offense, let alone the one in place at Tennessee. He has thrown zero interceptions on 144 pass attempts during his time in Knoxville.
Another key note to remember is that Tennessee is not the only juggernaut in the SEC East replacing an elite QB. Georgia will likely run out Carson Beck as its starter this season who has 58 career pass attempts.
Beck could very well live up to the five-star hype he received coming out of high school, but that is an unknown until he goes out and proves it.
If Beck does struggle, Tennessee could have an easy road to the top of the division as far as SEC standards go. With the possibilities of a trip to Atlanta in December already laid out, there is no reason why 2023 cannot look similar to when Tee Martin replaced Peyton Manning in 1998 and won a national championship for the Vols.