What Athlon says about UT

The 2015 season opener is still more than three months away, but the preseason college football magazines have started to hit the shelves. As I find them throughout the summer (which will not be on any regular schedule) I’ll relay some of their thoughts and predictions to you. We start with Athlon’s SEC preview, which I found at a Walgreen’s news stand last night. Their predictions for the Vols follow.

Preseason Rank: No. 22

Predicted SEC finish: Second in the SEC East

Predicted Record: 8-4 overall, 5-3 in the SEC:

Predicted Bowl Destination: Citrus Bowl vs. Wisconsin

Individual National Honors: Derek Barnett, second team All-American defensive end

Individual SEC Honors: First Team: Barnett, defensive end. Second Team: Jalen Hurd, all-purpose. Curt Magitt, linebacker. Cam Sutton, cornerbaack. Third Team: Josh Dobbs, quarterback. Marquez North, wide receiver.

Unit Conference Rankings:

Quarterback: No. 3.

Running Back: No. 5

Wide Receivers: No. 3

Offensive Line: No 10

Defensive LIne: No. 5

Linebackers: No. 6

Defensive Backs: No. 6

Their Bottom Line Explanation: “The Volunteers are headed in the right direction under coach Butch Jones. With 17 starters back, along with the addition of a top-10 recruiting class, finishing second in the East is a realistic outcome for Tennessee in 2015. Quarterback Josh Dobbs gave the offense a spark last season, and he is surrounded by a talented group of skill players and four returning starters on the line. Eight starters are back from a defense that limited SEC opponents to just 5.4 yards per play last year. Tennessee will no doubt be improved in 2015, but with a depth chart full of underclassmen and a tough road schedule, this team might be a year away from a trip to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game.”

Opposing Coaches’ Thoughts, as quoted by Athlon: “I think Butch Jones and those guys have done a great job with the young talent, putting them in some positions to succeed but not overloading them. They stayed really, really simple. … Even though Mike Bajakian left right when they were starting to figure things out offensively, I know they feel really good about Josh Dobbs and the direction they’re going to go. Stylistically, I think they’ll probably be a lot like Auburn with Nick Marshall, a guy who can put pressure on the defense with the way he runs it. … Their wide receivers are big time. They can run and they’re long.  … Jalen Hurd, that dude is going to be a stud. They have a ton of skill coming back. … My question is, can they run the football well enough outside of the quarterback? They had to overhaul the offensive line last year, and they need some more consistency there to take the next step. … A.J. Johnson was their best defensive player in my opinion. He was really good, and I don’t know if they can replace everything he did. … Cam Sutton is an excellent cornerback. He finds ways to make plays on the ball. …  They’ve upgraded their talent level overall, but I just don’t know if they have a bunch of difference-makers on defense. … The next couple years, I think if they can keep some guys healthy and win a close game or two, it wouldn’t surprise me to see them at nine wins.”