Hoover, Ala. -- "For the first time, we have a settled roster," Tennessee coach Derek Dooley began. "We have a full 85. We are deeper than we've ever been."
Taking on the SEC with an offensive line that boasts more than 100 starts -- instead of one with a mere three -- Dooley is expressing confidence for perhaps the first time. "The SEC has enjoyed taking advantage of our tough times. You're not gonna have Tennessee to kick around any more."
Injuries were a massive challenge for the Vols last year, but Dooley names offensive lineman Antonio Richardson among the players set to make an impact returning from setbacks. "He brightens up a huddle. We played 32 true freshmen the last two years, so he's a wily veteran since he's a sophomore." Linebacker Herman Lathers is another whose post-injury "level of commitment" gives cause for hope.
Firethrower Tyler Bray has made some "lifestyle changes," we've learned, as "you have to live as a quarterback at Tennessee."
"The receiving corps is getting a lot of publicity, and that's a good thing, but we really only have one guy who's been through 12 games in the league," Dooley said of his team's primary attraction, which features studs Justin Hunter and Da'Rick Rogers.
Like Alabama coach Nick Saban, Dooley favors a nine-game SEC schedule, for the sake of familiarity and preserving "what makes this league special." He touts his father's vision of a plus-one playoff game "20 years ago," so of course he calls the new playoff system "healthy."
And you might be surprised to learn "a lot of publications" are picking N.C. State to win the ACC, but that's how coach is selling the Chick-fil-A Kickoff undercard matchup.
Your updated Recruitedness Power Rankings, in which we rank how recruited we feel to each program after each coach has taken the podium:
- John L. Smith
- Steve Spurrier
- James Franklin
- Les Miles
- Derek Dooley
- Kevin Sumlin
- Nick Saban
- Will Muschamp
- Dan Mullen
- Joker Phillips
- Gary Pinkel
- Gene Chizik