2016 Tennessee Volunteers football team

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2016 Tennessee Volunteers football
Tennessee Volunteers logo.svg
Music City Bowl champion
Music City Bowl, W 38–24 vs. Nebraska
Conference Southeastern Conference
Division Eastern Division
Ranking
Coaches No. 24
AP No. 22
2016 record 9–4 (4–4 SEC)
Head coach Butch Jones (4th season)
Offensive coordinator Mike DeBord (2nd season)
Defensive coordinator Bob Shoop (1st season)
Home stadium Neyland Stadium
(Capacity: 102,455)
Seasons
← 2015
2017 →
2016 SEC football standings
Conf     Overall
Team   W   L         W   L  
East Division
No. 14 Florida x   6 2         9 4  
No. 22 Tennessee   4 4         9 4  
Georgia   4 4         8 5  
Kentucky   4 4         7 6  
South Carolina   3 5         6 7  
Vanderbilt   3 5         6 7  
Missouri   2 6         4 8  
West Division
No. 2 Alabama x$^   8 0         14 1  
No. 24 Auburn   5 3         8 5  
No. 13 LSU   5 3         8 4  
Texas A&M   4 4         8 5  
Arkansas   3 5         7 6  
Mississippi State   3 5         6 7  
Ole Miss   2 6         5 7  
Championship: Alabama 54, Florida 16
  • ^ – College Football Playoff participant
  • $ – Conference champion
  • x – Division champion/co-champions
Rankings from AP Poll

The 2016 Tennessee Volunteers football team represented the University of Tennessee in the 2016 NCAA Division I FBS football season. This was the program's 120th overall season, 83rd as a member of the Southeastern Conference (SEC), and 25th within the SEC Eastern Division. The Volunteers played their home games at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee and were led by fourth-year head coach Butch Jones. They finished the season 9–4, 4–4 in SEC play to finish in a three-way tie for second place in the Eastern Division. They were invited to the Music City Bowl where they defeated Nebraska.

Previous season[edit]

The 2015 Tennessee Volunteers football team started off their season with a 59–30 victory over the Bowling Green Falcons. They then took on the 19th-ranked Oklahoma Sooners at Neyland Stadium where they gave up 17 unanswered points and lost in double overtime 31–24. Following a 55–10 win over Western Carolina, Tennessee traveled down to Gainesville, Florida, blew a 13-point lead in the second half, failed to convert a walk-off field goal and lost to the Florida Gators 28–27 for the 11th consecutive season. The following week back home, the Vols fell to the Arkansas Razorbacks 24–20. Despite trailing by 21 points to #19 Georgia in the 2nd quarter, Tennessee rallied back to go ahead of the Bulldogs in the 3rd quarter, score the winning touchdown with less than six minutes in the game and prevented Georgia from reaching the end zone to score their first victory over their SEC East opponent since 2009. After a bye week, Tennessee traveled to Tuscaloosa, Alabama to take on bitter rivals Alabama. In a low scoring defensive battle, the eighth ranked Crimson Tide scored the winning touchdown drive with just over two minutes remaining in the contest and Tennessee fell 19–14. Evan Berry tied a school record for most kickoff return touchdowns in a single season in the Volunteers 52–21 beatdown of the Kentucky Wildcats. After allowing 21 unanswered points in the 3rd quarter against the South Carolina Gamecocks, Tennessee kicked a go-ahead field goal with ten minutes remaining in the contest. With less than a minute left in play, the Gamecocks had driven the ball to Tennessee's 13-yard line when Malik Foreman forced a fumble. It was recovered by Jalen Reeves-Maybin and Tennessee won the game 27–24. Despite a sluggish offensive performance, Tennessee's defense held North Texas to just 199 total yards in a 24–0 victory over the Mean Green and became bowl eligible, it was also their first time shutting out an FCS opponent since 2011. The following week, Tennessee beat eastern division opponent Missouri for the first time in a 19–8 victory in Missouri coach Gary Pinkel's final home game. Tennessee finished the regular season 8–4 with a 53–28 thrashing of in-state rival Vanderbilt. The Vols were invited to play in the 2016 Outback Bowl in Tampa, Florida against the Northwestern Wildcats of the Big Ten. Tennessee defeated the Wildcats 45–6, finishing their 2015 season at 9–4.[1]

Offseason[edit]

Departures[edit]

Departures of scholarship players from the 2015 team.

Name Number Pos. Height Weight Year Hometown Notes Ref
Darrell Miller 15 DB 5'10 178 Sophomore Cedar Hill, TX Left the program [2]
Tommy Townsend 27 P 6'1 195 RS Freshman Orlando, FL Transfer [3]
Joe Stocstill 47 TE 6'2 234 RS Senior Lewisburg, TN Retired [4]
Ray Raulerson 64 OL 6'4 287 RS Freshman Tampa, FL Transfer [5]
Dontavius Blair 74 OL 6'7 294 RS Junior Anniston, AL Transfer [5]
Cody Blanc 83 WR 6'2 206 RS Senior Knoxville, TN Graduated [4]
Neiko Creamer 88 TE 6'3 233 RS Sophomore Wilmington, DE Transfer [6]
Marquez North 8 WR 6'3 229 Junior Charlotte, NC Left for 2016 NFL draft [7]
Ralph David Abernathy IV 5 RB 5'6 185 RS Senior Atlanta, GA Graduate transfer
Von Pearson 9 WR 6'3 183 Senior Newport News, VA Graduated
Ladarrell McNeil 33 DB 6'1 215 Senior Dallas, TX Graduated
Brian Randolph 37 DB 6'0 209 RS Senior Marietta, GA Graduated
Chris Weatherd 42 LB 6'4 225 Senior Carrollton, TX Graduated
Alex Ellis 48 TE 6'5 240 RS Senior Delmar, DE Graduated
Curt Maggitt 56 LB 6'3 246 RS Senior West Palm Beach, FL Graduated
Mack Crowder 57 OL 6'2 295 RS Senior Bristol, TN Graduated
Owen Williams 58 DL 6'2 288 RS Senior Macon, GA Graduated
Marcus Jackson 75 OL 6'2 306 RS Senior Vero Beach, FL Graduated
Kyler Kerbyson 77 OL 6'4 318 RS Senior Knoxville, TN Graduated
Johnathon Johnson 81 WR 5'9 186 Senior Friendswood, TX Graduated
Trevarris Saulsberry 96 DL 6'4 296 RS Senior Gainesville, FL Graduated

Winter months[edit]

During the early part of the offseason, a number of players and coaches left the program. Freshman quarterback Sherion Jones announced he was transferring from Tennessee to Colorado on January 7.[8] He returned to Tennessee on January 27.[9] John Jancek, a member of Butch Jones's coaching staff since his time with Central Michigan and Cincinnati, was relieved of his duties as defensive coordinator on January 6.[10] Jones said that he and Jancek "had a long discussion this morning and we both came to the conclusion that it was best to part ways. I want to thank Coach Jancek for his contributions to the University of Tennessee football program the past three years. His hard work and dedication to this program played a major role in our back-to-back bowl wins. These decisions are never easy especially for someone I have worked with at three different schools."[10] Penn State defensive coordinator Bob Shoop was hired for the same position at Tennessee on January 9.[11] Larry Scott, who served as the interim head coach for the final six games of the Miami Hurricanes's 2015 season, was hired to be Tennessee's new tight ends coach on January 4.[12]

Summer months[edit]

SEC Media Days[edit]

During Tennessee's turn at SEC Media Days in Hoover, Alabama, Coach Jones and the three attending players made it clear that they were there with the mindset of "business as usual" and not to create news or hype despite being the favorites to win the SEC East. Cameron Sutton responded to questions about Tennessee's game against Florida with how the team's season will "open up with Appalachian State, who was an 11-win team last year. We don't consider ourselves worried about games long down the road. It's one week at a time, one game at a time. That's our mindset right now. We're focused on Appalachian State." Hobbs responded to the hype around Tennessee as being "outside. Noise, really. You can't really control hype. You can't really control what other people say. What you can control is how you approach each day, how you focus on the details, how are you getting better as a player and how is the team getting better every single day you step on the field? We're focused on that — what we can control because we can't really do anything (about) what we can't control." Jones responded to questions about Tennessee blowing late leads against Oklahoma, Florida, Arkansas and Alabama by pointing out in "the last 18 games, we're 13-5. And the amazing thing, when you look at it of being 13-5 over the last 18 games, is those five losses have come by a combined total of 25 points. So what are we doing to take the next step as a football program? We talk about learning how to finish games, learning how to close games out. We talked about clutch plays, making critical plays at critical moments of the game."[13]

On the final day of SEC Media Days, Tennessee received 225 of 331 first-place votes and were selected by the media as the favorite to win the SEC Eastern Division for the first time since 2005.[14] However, the Vols were picked to lose to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game receiving 29 votes to the Crimson Tide's 223.[15] "You want those expectations," Coach Jones said. "I think it's a compliment to everyone in our program of how far we've come. It's not where you start, it's where you finish. But I think it is a compliment in how we've grown and developed this football program."[15]

Preseason camp[edit]

The Volunteers opened up preseason camp on August 1, 31 days prior to their kickoff against the Appalachian State Mountaineers.[16] Among the biggest questions going into preseason camp for the Vols included the development of senior quarterback Joshua Dobbs,[17] whom would start at left tackle,[17] maintaining overall health,[18] how new defensive coordinator Bob Shoop would work with a stacked defensive corp and if Tennessee can live up to the expectations surrounding the team.[18]

After the first week of camp, the biggest issue facing the team – according to Coach Jones – was the consistency in the passing game.[19] This was compounded by a young wide receiver group that showed speed, but had many dropped balls.[20] Another issue was that no starters for either left or right tackle had been announced.[19] Coach Jones said he's been pleased with the competition and talent level of those fighting for the positions, but that the roles are anyone's for the taking.[21] Jalen Hurd, who's short of the school rushing record, said he's targeting Travis Henry's career rushing record of 3,078 yards.[19] He believes "it's reachable and, you know, you can see it, I definitely want to do it. That's a goal of mine. But obviously the biggest goal for me is just to help get my team a national championship."[22]

Personnel[edit]

Roster & staff[edit]

2016 Tennessee Volunteers football team roster
Players Coaches
Offense
Pos. # Name Class
QB 2 Jarrett Guarantano Fr
WR 3 Josh Malone Jr
RB 4 John Kelly So
RB 6 Alvin Kamara (C) Redshirt.svg Jr
WR 7 Preston Williams So
WR 8 Latrell Williams Fr
WR 9 Marquez Callaway Fr
WR 10 Tyler Byrd Fr
QB 11 Joshua Dobbs (C) Sr
QB 12 Quinten Dormady So
QB 13 Sheriron Jones So
QB 14 Zac Jancek Redshirt.svg Fr
WR 15 Jauan Jennings So
WR 17 Brandon Johnson Fr
TE 18 Jason Croom Redshirt.svg Sr
WR 19 Jeff George Redshirt.svg Jr
WR 20 Vincent Perry Redshirt.svg Fr
WR 24 Michael Lacey Redshirt.svg Fr
WR 25 Josh Smith Redshirt.svg Jr
WR 26 Ben Powlas Fr
RB 27 Carlin Files-Aime Fr
WR 28 Will Martinez Jr
RB 31 Jeremy Lewis Fr
RB 35 Taeler Dowdy Fr
RB 37 Jayson Sparks Redshirt.svg Jr
WR 38 Jaye Rochell Redshirt.svg Sr
RB 42 Chip Omer Fr
TE 44 Jakob Johnson Jr
OL 50 Venzell Boulware Redshirt.svg Fr
OL 51 Drew Richmond Redshirt.svg Fr
OL 55 Coleman Thomas Jr
OL 57 Nathan Niehaus Fr
OL 60 Austin Sanders Redshirt.svg Jr
OL 63 Brett Kendrick Redshirt.svg Jr
OL 64 Tommy Sprague Fr
OL 66 Jack Jones So
OL 68 Marcus Tatum Fr
OL 69 Brian Garvey Fr
OL 70 Ryan Johnson Fr
OL 71 Dylan Wiesman Injured Sr
OL 75 Jashon Robertson Jr
OL 76 Chance Hall Injured So
OL 78 Charles Mosley Redshirt.svg So
OL 79 Thomas Edwards Redshirt.svg Jr
TE 80 Eli Wolf Redshirt.svg Fr
TE 81 Austin Pope Fr
TE 82 Ethan Wolf Jr
TE 84 Devante Brooks Fr
WR 85 Thomas Orradre Redshirt.svg So
TE 86 Andrew Craig Fr
WR 87 Logan Fetzner Redshirt.svg Jr
Defense
Pos. # Name Class
DL 1 Jonathan Kongbo Redshirt.svg So
DL 2 Shy Tuttle Injured So
DB 3 Marquill Osborne Fr
DL 4 LaTroy Lewis Redshirt.svg Sr
DL 5 Kyle Phillips So
DB 7 RaShaan Gaulden Redshirt.svg So
DB 8 Justin Martin Jr
DE 9 Derek Barnett Jr
DB 10 D.J. Henderson Jr
LB 11 Austin Smith So
DB 12 Emmanuel Moseley Jr
DB 13 Malik Foreman Sr
LB 14 Quart'e Sapp So
LB 17 Dillon Bates Redshirt.svg So
DB 18 Nigel Warrior Fr
DL 19 Darrell Taylor Redshirt.svg Fr
LB 20 Cortez McDowell Jr
LB 21 Jalen Reeves-Maybin (C) Injured Sr
DB 22 Micah Abernathy So
DB 23 Cameron Sutton (C) Sr
DB 24 Todd Kelly Jr. Jr
DB 26 Stephen Griffin So
DB 28 Baylen Buchanan Fr
DB 29 Evan Berry Jr
DB 30 Devin Williams Redshirt.svg Sr
DB 33 MaLeik Gatewood Redshirt.svg Fr
LB 34 Darrin Kirkland Jr So
LB 35 Daniel Bituli Fr
LB 36 Gavin Bryant Redshirt.svg So
DL 39 Kendal Vickers Redshirt.svg Jr
DL 40 Dimarya Mixon Jr
LB 41 Elliott Berry Jr
LB 47 Landon Knoll Redshirt.svg Fr
LB 48 Ja'Quain Blakely Fr
DE 50 Corey Vereen Sr
LB 51 Kenny Bynum Redshirt.svg Sr
DL 52 Andrew Butcher Redshirt.svg Fr
LB 53 Colton Jumper Jr
DL 55 Quay Picou So
DL 90 Charles Folger Redshirt.svg Sr
DL 96 Joey Cave Fr
DL 97 Paul Bain Redshirt.svg So
DL 98 Alexis Johnson Injured Jr
DL 99 Kahlil Mckenzie So
Special teams
Pos. # Name Class
PK 25 Aaron Medley Jr
H 31 Parker Henry Redshirt.svg So
P 36 Grayson Linde Fr
H 39 Alex Jones Redshirt.svg Fr
PK 43 Laszlo Toser Redshirt.svg Fr
LS 46 Riley Lovingood Redshirt.svg Fr
LS 52 Elijah Medford Redshirt.svg So
LS 64 Logan Punch Fr
P 93 Trevor Daniel Redshirt.svg Jr
PK 97 Jackson Morris Fr
Head coach
Coordinators/assistant coaches
  • Mike DeBord (Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach) - 2nd year
  • Bob Shoop (Defensive Coordinator) - 1st year
  • Willie Martinez (Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Backs Coach) - 4th year
  • Steve Stripling (Associate Head Coach/Defensive Line Coach) - 4th year
  • Zach Azzanni (Wide Receivers Coach/Passing Game Coordinator) - 4th year
  • Robert Gillespie (Running Backs Coach/Recruiting Coordinator) - 4th year
  • Don Mahoney (Offensive Line Coach) - 4th year
  • Larry Scott (Tight Ends Coach/Special Teams Coordinator) - 1st year
  • Tommy Thigpen (Linebackers Coach) - 4th year
  • Michael Szerszen (Director of Strength and Conditioning) - 1st year

Legend
  • (C) Team captain
  • (S) Suspended
  • (I) Ineligible
  • Injured Injured
  • Redshirt Redshirt

Roster
Last update: November 12, 2016

2016 recruiting class[edit]

Returning starters[edit]

Nine players return on offense, eight on defense and two out of four on special teams specific positions.

Current depth chart[edit]

Schedule[edit]

Tennessee announced their 2016 football schedule on October 29, 2015. The 2016 schedule consists of 7 home games, 4 away games and 1 neutral site game in the regular season. The Vols will host SEC foes Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, and Missouri, and will travel to Georgia, South Carolina, Texas A&M, and Vanderbilt.[25]

Tennessee opened the season at home for the third time in the last four seasons, when it played host to Appalachian State on September 3 in the first meeting between the two schools. The Volunteers then faced Virginia Tech in the "Battle at Bristol" at Bristol, Tennessee, on September 10 in front of the largest crowd in football history, over 156,000 fans at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Tennessee returns to Neyland Stadium for two home games, Ohio on September 17 and the Florida Gators on September 24. The Volunteers have faced the Gators to start the conference schedule 13 of the last 14 years. The first of two road games occurs at Georgia on October 1. Tennessee holds a 22–21–2 edge in the rivals' series, but is also seeking its first victory in Athens since 2006. On October 8, the Volunteers make their first-ever trip to College Station, Texas, to face Texas A&M. It will also be the first regular-season meeting between the schools. Tennessee is 2–0 all-time against the Aggies in post-season play. The Volunteers will also return to tradition this year with their annual November rivalry game against Kentucky on November 12, after last being played in October 2015.

Date Time Opponent# Rank# Site TV Result Attendance
September 1 7:30 p.m. Appalachian State* No. 9 Neyland StadiumKnoxville, TN SECN W 20–13 OT  100,074
September 10 8:00 p.m. vs. Virginia Tech* No. 17 Bristol Motor SpeedwayBristol, TN (Battle at Bristol) ABC W 45–24   156,990
September 17 Noon Ohio* No. 15 Neyland Stadium • Knoxville, TN SECN W 28–19   101,362
September 24 3:30 p.m. No. 19 Florida No. 14 Neyland Stadium • Knoxville, TN (Rivalry) CBS W 38–28   102,455
October 1 3:30 p.m. at No. 25 Georgia No. 11 Sanford StadiumAthens, GA (Rivalry) CBS W 34–31   92,746
October 8 3:30 p.m. at No. 8 Texas A&M No. 9 Kyle FieldCollege Station, TX CBS L 38–45 2OT  106,248
October 15 3:30 p.m. No. 1 Alabama No. 9 Neyland Stadium • Knoxville, TN (Third Saturday in October) CBS L 10–49   102,455
October 29 7:15 p.m. at South Carolina No. 18 Williams-Brice StadiumColumbia, SC ESPN2 L 21–24   78,696
November 5 4:00 p.m. Tennessee Tech*dagger Neyland Stadium • Knoxville, TN SECN W 55–0   98,343
November 12 Noon Kentucky Neyland Stadium • Knoxville, TN (Rivalry) SECN W 49–36   101,075
November 19 3:30 p.m. Missouri Neyland Stadium • Knoxville, TN CBS W 63–37   101,012
November 26 7:30 p.m. at Vanderbilt No. 24 Vanderbilt StadiumNashville, TN (Rivalry) SECN L 34–45   38,108
December 30 3:30 p.m. vs. No. 24 Nebraska* Nissan StadiumNashville, TN (Music City Bowl) ESPN W 38–24   68,496
*Non-conference game. daggerHomecoming. #Rankings from AP Poll released prior to game. All times are in Eastern Time.
Schedule Source:[25]

‡ – Current NCAA record for largest attendance to a collegiate football game.

Rankings[edit]

Ranking movements
Legend: ██ Increase in ranking. ██ Decrease in ranking.
NR = Not ranked. RV = Received votes. ( ) = First place votes.
Week
Poll Pre 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 Final 
AP 9 17 15 14 11 9 9 18 18 RV RV RV 24 RV RV 22 
Coaches 10 (1) 14 15 12 11 9 11 19 18 RV RV RV 24 RV RV 24 
CFP Not released NR NR 19 17 22 21 Not released

Game summaries[edit]

Appalachian State[edit]

Pregame line: Tennessee –21

1 234OTTotal
Appalachian State 7 6000 13
#9 Tennessee 3 0377 20
  • Location:
    Knoxville, Tennessee
  • Game start: 7:36 p.m.
  • Elapsed time: 3:29
  • Game attendance: 100,074
  • Game weather: Temperature: 76 °F (24 °C) • Wind: 6 mph (9.7 km/h) • Weather: partly cloudy
  • Referee: Marc Curles • Umpire: Brent Sowell • Linesman: Gary Jayroe • Line judge: Chris Conway • Back judge: Scott Vaughan • Field judge: Wes Booker • Side judge: Chuck Russ • Center judge: Wayne Winkler
  • TV announcers (SECN): Brent Musburger (play-by-play), Jesse Palmer (color), Laura Rutledge (sidelines)
Overall record Last meeting Result
First Meeting

The ninth–ranked Tennessee Volunteers overcame a 10–point halftime deficit to escape with a 20–13 victory over the Appalachian State Mountaineers.[27] In overtime, Tennessee faced third-and-goal from the 2, when Joshua Dobbs ran then lost control of the ball as he was hit while extending his arms across the goal line. Jalen Hurd recovered the fumble in the end zone, and Aaron Medley kicked the extra point. In the Mountaineers' ensuing drive, Tennessee's Micah Abernathy ended the game by breaking up an end-zone pass on fourth–and–5 from the 20.[26] Tennessee head coach Butch Jones commented after the game: "The first game of the year is always a game of the unknowns. We're still developing our identity for this football team, but we found a way to win, and at the end of the day, that's what it's about, but we have to get a lot better. Credit App State too. They're a really good football team."[28]

Virginia Tech[edit]

Pregame line: Tennessee –11

Battle at Bristol
1 234Total
Virginia Tech 14 037 24
#17 Tennessee 0 24714 45
  • Location: Bristol, Tennessee
  • Game start: 8:23 p.m.
  • Elapsed time: 3:39
  • Game attendance: 156,990
  • Game weather: Temperature: 84 °F (29 °C) • Wind: 4 mph (6.4 km/h) • Weather: Cloudy
  • Referee: Daniel Capron • Umpire: Steven Woods • Linesman: John Wiercinski • Line judge: Brian Bolinger • Back judge: Kevin Schwarzel • Field judge: Jeffrey Noggle • Side judge: Bobby Sagers • Center judge: Brent Durbin
  • TV announcers (ABC): Rece Davis (play-by-play), Kirk Herbstreit (color), Samantha Ponder (sidelines)
Overall record Last meeting Result
5–3 2009 Virginia Tech, 37–14

Before an NCAA-record attendance of 156,990 in the "Battle at Bristol" against the Virginia Tech Hokies, the seventeenth-ranked Volunteers overcame a 14-point first-quarter deficit to score 24 points in the second quarter to win 45–24.[30] Quarterback Joshua Dobbs threw three touchdown passes and had two rushing scores. Volunteers defensive back Micah Abernathy also set a school single-game record with three fumble recoveries. The Hokies ultimately lost five fumbles, three of which resulted in Tennessee touchdowns.[29] Abernathy's performance earned him SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors.[31]

Following the game, Tennessee head coach Butch Jones called the venue "a spectacle ... I don't think this will be duplicated or replicated." About the game, Jones stated "We didn't start out like we wanted to obviously, down 14-0, but I really liked the way we responded ... We were finally able to run the football and play Tennessee style of football."[32] The Volunteers extend their eight-game winning streak, the longest since their 14 in a row in the 1998 and 1999 seasons, and the third longest active winning streak in the nation.[33]

Ohio[edit]

Pregame line: Tennessee –27

1 234Total
Ohio 6 670 19
#15 Tennessee 7 777 28
  • Location:
    Knoxville, Tennessee
  • Game start: 12:02 p.m.
  • Elapsed time: 3:32
  • Game attendance: 101,362
  • Game weather: Temperature: 83 °F (28 °C) • Wind: 3 mph (4.8 km/h) • Weather: sunny
  • Referee: James Carter • Umpire: Rick Lowe • Linesman: Johnny Crawford • Line judge: Tim Beard • Back judge: Dax Hill • Field judge: J. Taylor • Side judge: A. Jeffries • Center judge: Chris Garner
  • TV announcers (SECN): Tom Hart (play-by-play), Andre Ware (color), Cole Cubelic (sidelines)
Overall record Last meeting Result
1–0 2009 Tennessee, 34–23

Plagued with injuries prior to and during the game against the Ohio Bobcats, the fifteenth-ranked Volunteers struggled in the afternoon heat but maintained their early lead, winning 28–19.[35] Tennessee scored 38 seconds into the game on a 20–yard pass from Joshua Dobbs to Josh Malone. Ohio, a 27–point underdog, remained relatively close throughout the game, until Dobbs and Malone connected again for a 20–yard touchdown, and the game's last scoring drive, with 11:07 remaining in the fourth quarter.[35] Tennessee head coach Butch Jones called it "another gritty win" and spoke on starting conference play next week, "Our goal was to be 3–0 at this point, and we are 3–0, but I think everyone will tell you that we have to get a lot better."[36]

#19 Florida[edit]

Pregame line: Tennessee –9

1 234Total
#19 Florida 7 1407 28
#14 Tennessee 0 31421 38
  • Location:
    Knoxville, Tennessee
  • Game start: 3:39 p.m.
  • Elapsed time: 3:46
  • Game attendance: 102,455
  • Game weather: Temperature: 91 °F (33 °C) • Wind: 5 mph (8.0 km/h) • Weather: sunny
  • Referee: Matt Loeffler • Umpire: Stan Weihe • Linesman: Tim Sistrunk • Line judge: Michael Shirey • Back judge: Tony Josselyn • Field judge: Bobby Ables • Side judge: Jesse Dupuy • Center judge: Chris Snead
  • TV announcers (CBS): Verne Lundquist (play-by-play), Gary Danielson (color), Allie LaForce (sidelines)
Overall record Last meeting Result
19–26 2015 Florida, 28–27

The 14th-ranked Volunteers trailed their rivals, the 19th-ranked Florida Gators, 21–3 at halftime. Tennessee mounted a comeback in the second half, scoring 35 unanswered points and snapping an 11-game losing streak, to win 38–28.[38] Quarterback Joshua Dobbs threw four touchdowns, ran for another, and amassed a career-high 319 passing yards.[39] On the defensive side, Derek Barnett had five tackles (three solo), two sacks for six yards, three tackles for loss for eight yards and one pass breakup. For their performances, Dobbs and Barnett were awarded SEC Players of the Week, with Dobbs as Offensive POW and Barnett as Co-Defensive Lineman POW.[40]

The win gave the Volunteers their 12th double-digit winning streak (10) in program history. The win streak is also the longest of head coach Butch Jones' career.[41] Following the game, Jones spoke on the resiliency of his team, "Must win, all that - that is not the case. We are building something special here with character and competitiveness. It's just one game. We've got to go on the road next week. The resolve of these kids, with all the expectations on this football game and you go down at half time and to have that second half performance. If you don't have character in your football program, that does not happen."[42]

#25 Georgia[edit]

Pregame line: Tennessee –4

1 234Total
#11 Tennessee 0 7720 34
#25 Georgia 7 1077 31
  • Location: Athens, Georgia
  • Game start: 3:39 p.m.
  • Elapsed time: 3:36
  • Game attendance: 92,746
  • Game weather: Temperature: 78 °F (26 °C) • Wind: 3 mph (4.8 km/h) • Weather: sunny
  • Referee: John McDaid • Umpire: Tom Quick • Linesman: Gary Jayroe • Line judge: David Oliver • Back judge: Grantis Bell • Field judge: Phil Davenport • Side judge: Chris Conley • Center judge: Brian Davis
  • TV announcers (CBS): Verne Lundquist (play-by-play), Gary Danielson (color), Allie LaForce (sidelines)
Overall record Last meeting Result
22–21–2 2015 Tennessee, 38–31

The 11th-ranked Tennessee Volunteers rallied from a double-digit deficit, the fourth time in five games, to defeat the 25th-ranked Georgia Bulldogs, 34–31.[44] Georgia led 17-0 in the first half but only had a 24-21 edge when starting deep in its own territory late in the fourth quarter. Georgia quarterback Jacob Eason risked a pass from his own end zone but fumbled the ball after being hit by two defenders, Derek Barnett and Cortez McDowell. Tennessee's Corey Vereen fell on it for a touchdown. Eason seemed to redeem himself within the closing seconds of the game, by driving his offense past midfield. He then found Riley Ridley, streaking down the left sideline, and delivered a 47-yard pass that Ridley took in for the score. However, in the short ensuing kickoff, Tennessee's Evan Berry's 20-yard return put his team at midfield. With four seconds left in the game, quarterback Joshua Dobbs threw a 43-yard Hail Mary pass and connected with Jauan Jennings, who was just inside the end zone and in front of most of his Georgia defenders, for the win.[45]

Barnett's forced fumble, five tackles, two sacks, and 2.5 tackles for loss earned him SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors. Long snapper Riley Lovingood was named SEC Co-Special Teams POW. In the 4th quarter, he snapped the ball to punter Trevor Daniel, who booted the high ball to the UGA 6-yard line. Lovingood raced down the field to make the catch, downing the ball to set the field position for Barnett's strip sack of Eason and Vereen's fumble recovery in the end zone two plays later.[46]

Following the game, coach Butch Jones spoke on what he told his team before that last play, "I told our kids in the huddle that we were going to come down with it—we're going to find a way. And Josh (Dobbs) threw the best ball he's thrown in his career. And what can I say about Jauan Jennings? He wasn't going to be denied." Jones added, "Again, just resiliency ... 11 straight wins ... fifth-longest streak in school history. But really the most important thing is it gets us one step closer. We needed to be 1-0 and we were 1-0. This puts us at 5-0 overall. We're just finding ways to win football games."[47]

#8 Texas A&M[edit]

Pregame line: Texas A&M –6

1 234OT2OTTotal
#9 Tennessee 7 072130 38
#8 Texas A&M 21 07737 45
  • Location:
    College Station, Texas
  • Game start: 3:39 p.m.
  • Elapsed time: 4:43
  • Game attendance: 106,248
  • Game weather: Temperature: 81 °F (27 °C) • Wind: 5 mph (8.0 km/h) • Weather: Clear
  • Referee: David Smith • Umpire: Russ Pulley • Linesman: Jay Vines • Line judge: Chad Lorance • Back judge: Wayne Gautney • Field judge: Andy Britton • Side judge: M. Williams • Center judge: Michael Watson
  • TV announcers (CBS): Verne Lundquist (play-by-play), Gary Danielson (color), Allie LaForce (sidelines)
Overall record Last meeting Result
2–0 2005 Tennessee, 38–7

In only the third meeting between the two teams, the ninth-ranked Tennessee Volunteers visited the eighth-ranked Texas A&M Aggies at College Station, Texas. The game was the first for the teams as SEC opponents since the Aggies joined the conference in 2012. After falling behind through three quarters by a score of 28–14, Tennessee scored three touchdowns in the final seven minutes of the fourth quarter and rallied to force overtime.[49] However, seven turnovers in the game led to the Volunteers' first loss of the season as Texas A&M won, 45-38, in double overtime.[50]

Tennessee head coach Butch Jones spoke on his team's gameplay, "I'm very, very proud of our kids. Just the fight in them, the will to win. But again, you can't have seven turnovers, you can't turn the football over, you can't have the penalties we had. You have almost 700 yards of offense and you can't turn the football over. It's the details. Especially when you go on the road, the small details add up to the big details." Jones continued, speaking on the team's emotions and their next opponent, "That's life in the Southeastern Conference. It's not for everyone. The toughness that's involved day-to-day, week-to-week — the grind — and we have to get better in a hurry because we've got the No. 1 ranked team in the country coming in. So we have to improve on our deficiencies from this week."[51]

#1 Alabama[edit]

Pregame line: Alabama –12

Third Saturday in October
1 234Total
#1 Alabama 14 71414 49
#9 Tennessee 0 730 10
  • Location:
    Knoxville, Tennessee
  • Game start: 3:30 pm
  • Elapsed time: 3:21
  • Game attendance: 102,455
  • Game weather: Temperature: 82 °F (28 °C) • Wind: 8 mph (13 km/h) • Weather: Clear
  • Referee: Ken Williamson • Umpire: Wally Hough • Linesman: Lane Thomas • Line judge: Mickey Bryson • Back judge: Grantis Bell • Field judge: Glen Fucik • Side judge: Rob Skelton • Center judge: Tra Boger
  • TV announcers (CBS): Verne Lundquist (play-by-play), Gary Danielson (color), Allie LaForce (sidelines)
Overall record Last meeting Result
38–52–7 2015 Alabama, 19–14

The ninth-ranked Tennessee Volunteers and the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide met for the 99th time to renew their rivalry on the "Third Saturday in October" for the first time in four seasons. Alabama won their 10th–straight game in the series, 49–10, the worst loss for the Volunteers since losing 59–14 at Oregon in 2013.[53] Tennessee pulled within seven in the second quarter, after forcing a fumble on the Crimson Tide's 11-yard line. Two plays later, Alvin Kamara rushed up the middle to bring the score to 14-7. However, the Volunteers' only other score in the game came in the third quarter when kicker Aaron Medley chipped in a 37-yard field goal to make the score 28-10 at the 4:03 mark.[54]

Following the game, Tennessee head coach Butch Jones spoke on the loss. "It's a line of scrimmage game," he said. "When you give up 438 yards rushing and offensively have 32 yards rushing, you're not even giving yourself an opportunity to be in the game. We had way too many negative yardage football plays. Again, third down conversions [only 3 of 16], getting off the field, big explosive plays." Jones added about now entering a bye week, "I think the bye week is coming at the appropriate time. We have a lot of goals to get better as a football team. Everyone has to be responsible for their own self-determination and accountability to get better during this bye week. A lot of this [week] will be spent in the training room and getting healthy."[55] Seven Volunteers could not play due to injuries, while three others were injured during gameplay.

South Carolina[edit]

Pregame line: Tennessee –13

1 234Total
#18 Tennessee 7 077 21
South Carolina 7 737 24
  • Location:
    Columbia, South Carolina
  • Game start: 7:15 p.m.
  • Elapsed time: 3:40
  • Game attendance: 78,696
  • Game weather: Temperature: 71 °F (22 °C) • Wind: 3 mph (4.8 km/h) • Weather: Clear
  • Referee: James Carter • Umpire: Walt Hill • Linesman: Johnny Crawford • Line judge: Tim Beard • Back judge: Dax Hill • Field judge: J. Taylor • Side judge: A. Jeffries • Center judge: Wayne Winkler
  • TV announcers (ESPN2): Mark Jones (play-by-play), Rod Gilmore (color), Quint Kessenich (sidelines)
Overall record Last meeting Result
25–7–2 2015 Tennessee, 27–24

Entering the 35th meeting between the two teams, the 18th-ranked Volunteers traveled to Columbia, South Carolina, to face the Gamecocks. South Carolina snapped a three-game losing streak and got their first victory over Tennessee in four years, winning 24–21. All four contests, during Coach Butch Jones' tenure, have been decided by three points or less.

The Volunteers committed three costly penalties in the first five minutes, which allowed the Gamecocks to score first. Within the last two minutes of the first quarter, Tennessee tied the game but was never again close in scoring, until Evan Berry returned a late third-quarter kickoff for 100 yards to put the Volunteers within three points at 17–14. Berry's touchdown tied Willie Gault's special-teams school career record of four. The teams swapped touchdowns in the fourth quarter, with South Carolina still leading by three. A last-minute drive advanced the Volunteers to the Carolina 40-yard line, but Aaron Medley's potentially game-tying 58-yard field goal fell short as time expired.[57]

Coach Jones called his team's gameplay "unacceptable", adding "You go on the road, you can't turn the football over. There was a lack of explosive plays, missed tackles, too many penalties on special teams when you do a good job of getting the ball out on some returns. Those are momentum-killers ... We can't let this one loss define who we are. We've got to come back. But obviously, too sloppy. I'm just very, very disappointed in the way we played, particularly coming off a bye week. Give South Carolina credit, but that was unacceptable."[58]

Tennessee Tech[edit]

Pregame line: Tennessee –41

1 234Total
Tennessee Tech 0 000 0
Tennessee 21 17710 55
  • Location:
    Knoxville, Tennessee
  • Game start: 4:02 p.m.
  • Elapsed time: 3:21
  • Game attendance: 98,343
  • Game weather: Temperature: 70 °F (21 °C) • Wind: 4 mph (6.4 km/h) • Weather: Sunny
  • Referee: Marc Curles • Umpire: Rick Lowe • Linesman: John Langlois • Line judge: Chris Conway • Back judge: Scott Vaughan • Field judge: Wes Booker • Side judge: Richard Rooker • Center judge: Wayne Winkler
  • TV announcers (SECN): Taylor Zarzour (play-by-play), Jordan Rodgers (color), Dawn Davenport (sidelines)
Overall record Last meeting Result
5–0 1951 Tennessee, 68–0

Tennessee hosted Tennessee Tech for its 100th homecoming game. The Volunteers snapped a three-game losing streak in a 55-0 blowout of the Golden Eagles.[60] Tennessee also ended a season-long pattern of slow starts by producing six touchdowns and one field goal on its first eight possessions. The Volunteers had been outscored 83-24 in the opening quarter of their first eight games, but they led Tech, 21-0, after the first period and a 73-yard run by John Kelly, replacing Jalen Hurd due to his departure from the team earlier in the week. Kelly's run was Tennessee's longest offensive play this season and its longest run from scrimmage since 2006. With the win, Tennessee became bowl eligible for the third consecutive season.[61]

Tennessee head coach Butch Jones called the victory a "complete team win." He added, "I loved their focus and I loved their mindset. I thought this was our best week of preparation. We practiced with energy, and talked all week long about returning to the standards and expectation with passion and energy and the inspiration that it takes to play this game, so I was really proud of them."[62]

Kentucky[edit]

Pregame line: Tennessee –15

1 234Total
Kentucky 10 3320 36
Tennessee 14 71414 49
  • Location:
    Knoxville, Tennessee
  • Game start: 12:01 p.m.
  • Elapsed time: 3:49
  • Game attendance: 101,075
  • Game weather: Temperature: 56 °F (13 °C) • Wind: NE 8 mph (13 km/h) • Weather: Sunny
  • Referee: David Smith • Umpire: Tom Quick • Linesman: Gary Jayroe • Line judge: Jim Kelley • Back judge: Wayne Gautney • Field judge: Andy Britton • Side judge: Mike Williams • Center judge: Chad Lorance
  • TV announcers (SECN): Tom Hart (play-by-play), Andre Ware (color), Cole Cubelic (sidelines)
Overall record Last meeting Result
78–24–9 2015 Tennessee, 52–21

The Tennessee Volunteers and the Kentucky Wildcats met for the 112th time in their rivalry. The Volunteers have played the Wildcats more than any other team in program history and improved to 79-24-9 all-time in the series with a 49–36 victory. Tennessee has now won five straight against Kentucky and 31 of the last 32 meetings.[64]

Quarterback Joshua Dobbs amassed 370 yards and five total touchdowns (three passing, two rushing). Dobbs, returning running back Alvin Kamara, and John Kelly combined for 369 of the team's 376 total rushing yards.[65] The two teams totaled 1,204 yards, including 789 in rushing, the most combined rushing yards in a Tennessee game this season. The Volunteers finished with 599 total yards while Kentucky gained 635.[66] The game also saw the return of cornerback Cameron Sutton, injured in the September 10 game, with three tackles and two passes broken up.[67]

Head coach Butch Jones called the win a "hard fought, very very good team victory." Regarding the offense, he said, "I believe we only had five third downs the entire game, which means you're winning first downs, mixed downs, first and second down. I thought our offensive line came off the ball really well." Speaking of the defense, he said, "[there's] obviously a lot of stuff to correct and improve upon, but the one thing I thought was glaring in this game was our red zone efficiency defensively. I believe we only gave up two touchdowns in six trips ... I'm just proud of our players with the resolve and the resiliency."[68]

Missouri[edit]

Pregame line: Tennessee –17.5

1 234Total
Missouri 6 14710 37
Tennessee 7 141428 63
  • Location:
    Knoxville, Tennessee
  • Game start: 3:41 p.m.
  • Elapsed time: 3:50
  • Game attendance: 101,012
  • Game weather: Temperature: 51 °F (11 °C) • Wind: W 12 mph (19 km/h) • Weather: Sunny
  • Referee: Hubert Owens • Umpire: Walt Hill • Linesman: Tim Sistrunk • Line judge: Chuck Rice • Back judge: Martin Hankins • Field judge: Greg Thomas • Side judge: Chad Hill • Center judge: Steve Marlowe
  • TV announcers (CBS): Verne Lundquist (play-by-play), Gary Danielson (color), Allie LaForce (sidelines)
Overall record Last meeting Result
1–3 2015 Tennessee, 19–8

In the final home game of the season, senior quarterback Joshua Dobbs accounted for five touchdowns to lead the Tennessee Volunteers to a 63-37 victory over the Missouri Tigers.[70] Dobbs passed for 223 yards, threw three touchdowns, and rushed for two more scores — including a career-long 70-yard breakaway run — to finish with a career-best 413 total yards.[71] Total offense for Tennessee was 609 yards, 223 passing and 386 rushing. The game was relatively close until the fourth quarter, when the Volunteers outscored the Tigers 28-10. It marked the most points Tennessee had scored in a quarter this season and the first time in breaching 60 points in a game since 2009.[72] Just as the game began in Knoxville all eyes were focused on Baton Rouge, LA, where the Florida Gators clinched the SEC East and a trip to the SEC championship game with a win over LSU, thus ending any possibility of a tie-breaker.

Head coach Butch Jones knew the game wasn't "going to be pretty", but he thought his team "really rallied". He added, "We knew it was going to be this type of game. Missouri has a very explosive offense ... It was a very fitting last game in Neyland Stadium. I'm proud of how far we've come with our football program, in the last 17 games, we're 14-3, second in the Southeastern Conference. Over the last three games, I believe we've scored over 40 points per game, and that hasn't been done since 1995 — so, a lot of good things happening. I'm proud of our seniors, and I'm proud of our football team to gut through this win and find a way to win a football game."[73]

Vanderbilt[edit]

Pregame line: Tennessee –8

1 234Total
#24 Tennessee 14 1730 34
Vanderbilt 7 17714 45
  • Location:
    Nashville, Tennessee
  • Game start: 7:39 pm
  • Elapsed time: 3:35
  • Game attendance: 38,108
  • Game weather: Temperature: 46 °F (8 °C) • Wind: Calm • Weather: Clear
  • Referee: Ken Williamson • Umpire: Wally Hough • Linesman: Lane Thomas • Line judge: Mickey Bryson • Back judge: Grantis Bell • Field judge: Bobby Ables • Side judge: Rob Skelton
  • TV announcers (SECN): Tom Hart (play-by-play), Andre Ware (color), Cole Cubelic (sidelines)
Overall record Last meeting Result
75–30–5 2015 Tennessee, 53–28

#24 Nebraska[edit]

Pregame line: Tennessee –9.5

Music City Bowl
1 234Total
#24 Nebraska 0 7710 24
Tennessee 0 21314 38
  • Location:
    Nashville, Tennessee
  • Game start: 3:30 pm
  • Elapsed time: 3:44
  • Game attendance: 68,496
  • Game weather: Temperature: 46 °F (8 °C) • Wind: 5 mph (8.0 km/h) • Weather: Clear
  • Referee: M. Mothershed • Umpire: R. Meisenheimer • Linesman: Rod Ammari • Line judge: Dale Keller • Back judge: Justin Nelson • Field judge: John Morton • Side judge: Mike Weselch • Center judge: Mike McCabe
  • TV announcers (ESPN): Tom Hart (play-by-play), Andre Ware (color), Cole Cubelic (sidelines)
Overall record Last meeting Result
0–2 2000 Nebraska, 31–21

Team players drafted into the NFL[edit]

Player Position Round Pick NFL club
Derek Barnett Defensive end 1 14 Philadelphia Eagles
Alvin Kamara Running back 3 67 New Orleans Saints
Cameron Sutton Defensive back 3 94 Pittsburgh Steelers
Jalen Reeves-Maybin Linebacker 4 124 Detroit Lions
Josh Malone Wide receiver 4 128 Cincinnati Bengals
Joshua Dobbs Quarterback 4 135 Pittsburgh Steelers

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