8-5 overall? 5-3 in Conference? 1 win against a bowl team? 6 overtimes to beat Arkansas? Tennessee? Run for cover, the IceMan cometh!
2002 was not even that close. They lost by a combined 120-33 vs Miami, Florida, Alabama, and Maryland.
The 2003 squad returns 8 starters on offense and 4 starters on defense. Among the returning are QB Casey Clausen (2297 psg yds) and RB Cedric Houston (779 yds rushing). OT Michael Munoz may be All-American caliber. In addition, the Vols have moved defensive secondary phenom Mark Jones to a wideout position. The offense should be great.
Defensively, several players who expected to contribute, missed time during the spring due to injuries. all are expected to be back. DB Rashad Baker leads the secondary.
Phil Fulmer, like him or not, is a winner.
Fresno State, Marshall, and Miami highlight the OOC slate. In conference, the Vols will host Georgia and South Carolina. UT must take road trips to Florida, Auburn, and Bama.
The Vols will compete for the SEC East crown, and are my pick to win it.
Prediction: 10-2 Overall. 7-1 SEC. SEC runners-up. BCS bowl bid. Top 10 ranking.
SEC Sports Smack note: The Vols look to return to the top of the SEC East standings. They are well coached, and laden with talent. Coach Fulmer does a heck of a job recruiting.
Tennessee is a mainstay in the SEC elite, and will remain there for the foreseeable future. The program is rock solid.
The grade scandal and Tee Martin episodes that have rocked Old Rocky Top are long gone now.
As long as there is Alabama football, there will be scandals at UT. But, it appears to be smooth sailing in the near future, despite every Private Investigator from the state of Alabama being holed up in a corner of Knoxville or Memphis.
There will be new challengers to the thone in the future, but 2003 will be the year the Vols reclaim top billing in the East.
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