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2023 Tennessee Volunteers Preview and Predictions


In 2022, the Tennessee Volunteers brought the football program back into the spotlight for the first time in years. The Vols went 11-2 with wins against Florida, on the road at LSU, Alabama, and Clemson in the Orange Bowl. The Vols climbed all the way up to number 1 in the College Football Playoff rankings. With that being said, Tennessee has some very high expectations for 2023.


The 2023 version of the Volunteers will look slightly different than it did a year ago. The Vols are losing star quarterback Hendon Hooker, Biletnikoff winner Jalin Hyatt, star outside linebacker Byron Young, and others. Even with many players gone to the draft, Tennessee still has plenty of returning talent and a plethora of new guys that will fit in perfectly.


Tennessee returns 13 starters overall and over 50% production on both sides of the ball.


Returning Offense: 7 starters, 57% production

Returning Defensive: 6 starters, 69% production


Offense

The offense starts and ends with Joe Milton. No other way around it. If Tennessee is going to be successful, Milton has to play the way he is capable of playing. I believe that Milton will be as good as advertised, and the Tennessee offense will not skip a beat after the departure of Hendon Hooker.


The Tennessee running back room is absolutely stacked. Every running back from a year ago is returning. Jabari Small and Jaylen Wright carried most of the load last season, and both are back. A guy, nobody, is talking about is Dylan Sampson. Sampson was phenomenal in limited touches a year ago, and with him having a year under his belt with the offense, he is looking to take a huge step forward.


The wide receiver room speaks for itself - Ramel Keyton, Bru McCoy, Squirrel White, and Dont’e Thornton. One of the best wide receiver rooms in the country, mainly because of the offense they play in.


The Tennessee offense will not take a step back, and I believe that it will be one of the better offenses again in 2023.


Defense

One bright spot on the Tennessee defense last season was the Defensive Line, and I expect that group to be even better in 2023. This group is deep with talent; the more depth you have, the better the D-Line will be. Rodney Garner has been around the game for a long time, so when he feels good about his group, know that he has some dudes that can play.


I love this Tennessee linebacker group led by Aaron Beasley. Beasley is going to have a huge year for the Vols, and he is the core of this Tennessee defense. With the additions of true freshman Arion Carter and BYU transfer Keenan Pili, the Vols have some options and quality depth at the position.


The defense as a whole will be much better, largely due to the depth. The coaching staff has repeatedly said that the defense is so much deeper than it was the past couple of seasons. If the Tennessee defense can improve just a little bit, this team will be dangerous.


Tennessee Football Schedule 2023


Virginia (in Nashville) W 55-13

With all due respect, Virginia is one of the worst teams in the Power 5, and I do not think Tennessee has any trouble in this one. Great first game for Tennessee as they get some guys some experience early in the year against a Power 5 opponent. I expect the Tennessee defense to be flying around and get a ton of guys some reps.


Austin Peay W 62-7

With it being the first home game of the season, expect the Vols to be clicking early and play with a ton of confidence. By game two, coaches should know who plays where and who the guys that will step up are. I think the Vols will try to put this one to bed early to rest guys, for the trip to Gainsville the following week.


@ Florida L 30-27

To be completely honest, I have a terrible feeling about this game. Tennessee has not won a game in the Swamp since 2003. Having the first real test of the year being a road game in the Swamp is not a good recipe for success in my opinion. The question mark will be how the team will react to playing in that type of environment at night. Is Tennessee going to have a better team in 2023? Absolutely. But do the Vols have what it takes to win an early-season road game against a rival? I just do not know.


UTSA W 49-24

Everyone is saying Tennessee is on upset alert against the Roadrunners, and rightfully so. I think UTSA is the best group of five team in 2023. However, I do not see them winning a game in Neyland. If Tennessee were to lose at Florida in week three, UTSA is in for a rude awakening.


South Carolina W 56-20

Everything about this game seems like Tennessee has the advantage. The Vols will be foaming at the mouth to get revenge. Neyland is going to be rocking, and Josh Heupel has mentioned this game many times this offseason. Tennessee will be ready to play, and they will not forget about the embarrassment they faced last year.


BYE


Texas A&M W 38-35

Very tricky game for the Vols. I am interested to see how the Aggies look coming off their game against Alabama, as the Vols are coming off a bye week. I think this game is extremely close, but I expect Tennessee to pull it out at home in the end. Texas A&M will be much improved this season, and this will be a huge game for both teams.


@ Alabama L 35-31

I like how Tennessee matches up with Alabama, but I feel like the Tide will get their revenge for some reason. After what happened in Knoxville a year ago, Alabama will be ready to play. In my eyes, this game could go either way. Since the game is in Bryant-Denny, I think the Tide takes this one.


@ Kentucky W 49-38

This game could be interesting. If the Vols are coming off a loss in Tuscaloosa, I do not see them losing back-to-back. Kentucky will be a good team this year, and this game will be a lot closer than it was last season. I expect the Wildcats to punch the Vols in the mouth early, but in the end, I think Tennessee wins.


UConn W 66-10

At this point of the season, these games are very valuable for teams that need to get healthy or rest some players. Not much to say about this one. I think the Vols will be glad to be home and will play well because of it.


@ Missouri W 44-21

For whatever reason, Josh Heupel has had a ton of success against Eli Drinkwitz and Missouri. Even though this is a road game and a tricky place to play, I think the Vols have too much talent. They cruise in this one late.


Georgia W 35-27

In my upset pick of the year, I think the Vols have what it takes to defeat the back-to-back national champs. This will be one of the most exciting games of the year, and with the game being in Neyland, I feel like the ball will bounce the Vols' way this year. Much like the Alabama game a year ago, Neyland will be packed to the 'Rocky Top.' I think the team will play with a ton of confidence. Tennessee still remembers the game in Athens, and they cannot wait to get that taste out of their mouth.


Vanderbilt W 42-17

In the final game of the 2023 regular season, I think the seniors will be sent off with a win. With a chance to win ten games for the second straight year and possibly even an SEC Championship berth on the line, Tennessee will be ready to play. Vanderbilt could make this interesting for a little bit because Tennessee will be coming off a brutal Georgia game. However, the Vols just have too much talent.


Tennessee Volunteers 10-2 (6-2)

The Vols have a good chance to go back to a New Year’s Six bowl game and an outside shot at an SEC Championship appearance. The Vols have some question marks. If they can figure those out, look out for Tennessee. This is Joe Milton's team, and he will decide whether Tennessee's team is successful in 2023.





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