The shortcomings of this Tennessee football team are well documented. They have been predicted and previewed since the last season ended.
But as the Vols open training camp this week, it's worth noting that, in the second year of coach Derek Dooley's program, they are no longer at ground zero. And for all their publicized flaws, they also have strengths, especially when you compare them to their SEC East competition.
For example, the Vols are experienced in three areas where experience is especially beneficial — at quarterback and in the offensive line and secondary.
That experience is a good place to start in building toward the season opener.
Quarterback: Tyler Bray flashed his potential in the last six games of his freshman season, so it's easy to forget about the guy he replaced. Don't.
Matt Simms gives the Vols something no other team in the division has — a backup quarterback with starting experience. Those experiences include the game-winning touchdown pass in double overtime against UAB, clutch fourth-quarter play in a 16-14 loss to LSU on the road, and 19-of-31 passing for 259 yards against Florida.
When Simms got the large majority of the snaps through the first seven games, he completed 100 of 176 passes for 1,253 yards. Those are more impressive stats than either Vanderbilt starter Larry Smith or Kentucky starter Morgan Newton has compiled. They also are similar to the numbers put up by Florida quarterback John Brantley in his first seven starts last season — 129 completions in 208 attempts for 1,206 yards.
Offensive line: UT's youth in the offensive line was a major disadvantage last season. Now, the Vols have a combination of youth and experience.
In fact, they have the most experienced offensive line in the division.
Redshirt junior tackle Dallas Thomas qualifies as the veteran in an offensive line that includes four sophomores with starting experience. Also, backup center Darin Gooch started six games last season, and Dooley has further bolstered his depth with a recruiting class that includes Notre Dame transfer Alex Bullard and high school All-American Marcus Jackson.
Secondary: The return of safety Janzen Jackson, who missed the spring to deal with personal issues, makes this the strongest, most experienced sector of the defense.
Jackson, who made the SEC's preseason second team, is one of six defensive backs who have started at least six games.
Prentiss Waggner, who made second-team All-SEC last season, is experienced at both safety and cornerback. And he's listed as a backup on the preseason depth chart.
Cornerback Art Evans, who has 18 career starts, also is listed as a reserve. Another backup, cornerback Eric Gordon, has started six games.
Despite all that experience, the Vols have only two seniors as starters or backups — Evans and cornerback Anthony Anderson, who has one career start. They also will add several heralded recruits to the secondary, including junior college transfer Byron Moore.
So, as experienced as they are in the offensive line and secondary, they will be even more experienced next fall. And by then, their shortcomings won't be as evident.