We’re 69 days from kicking off the Butch Jones era of Tennessee football. So far, so good for the new regime.
However, life becomes more challenging when the other guys show up. They’re not going to salute when the Team 117 flag is raised. They won’t be bringing any bricks to add to the foundation.
For your summer consideration, here’s 12 of the other guys Tennessee ought to worry about.
Marcus Mariota, Oregon: He’s the triggerman for the most problematic offense the Vols will face in 2013. Mariota threw for 32 touchdowns and rushed for 752 yards last year — as a freshman.
The dual threat is being hyped as the Pac 12 offensive player of the year. The Vols are hoping the sophomore slump kicks in by the time they arrive in Eugene on Sept. 14.
De’Anthony Thomas, Oregon: He’s only 5-foot-9 and maybe 170 pounds soaking wet. The problem (for UT) is that Thomas is fast, really fast.
He’s got 4,000 all-purpose yards in two seasons to prove it. He rushes, he catches passes, he returns kicks. He scores a lot of touchdowns.
Antonio Andrews, Western Kentucky: Andrews is a bigger version of Oregon’s Thomas, with 3,161 all-purpose yards last year, including 1,728 rushing.
Think Bobby Petrino won’t come up with ways to get the ball in Andrews’ hands?
Kyle Christy, Florida: He’s only a punter so what’s the big fear? Field position in The Swamp, that’s what.
Christy set a school record last year with a 45.8-yard average. Against the Vols he was even better, getting 48.6 yards on five punts.
Louichez Purifoy, Florida: Besides having one of the great names in college football, Purifoy is a dynamic cornerback and special-teams star.
In fact, he’s so dynamic, Will Muschamp will get him some plays at receiver.
Todd Gurley/Keith Marshall, Georgia: I couldn’t tell the freshman tailbacks apart last year when they were leading UT’s defense on not-so-merry chases.
For the record, Marshall was the one with 164 rushing yards, Gurley 130. They haven’t gone anywhere.
Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina: You can still see him on Sportscenter crumpling that Michigan guy and taking his football with one bit mitt.
The jaw-dropping hit is also on posters all over the state. I saw one in Charleston last weekend.
Amari Cooper, Alabama: Quite the coming-out party Mr. Cooper had against the Vols last year. The freshman had seven catches for 162 yards and two TDS.
It wasn’t just the Vols, though. He made Freshman All-America with 53 catches. Even quarterback AJ McCarron’s girlfriend was impressed.
C.J. Mosley, Alabama: A consensus All-American at inside linebacker, Mosley is as big and tough as they come.
A worthy poster boy for a Nick Saban defense, Mosley made 43 more tackles than anybody on Alabama’s defense last year. And that was a pretty good defense.
Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama: There ought to be an offensive lineman on this list. My pick is the 6-6, 310-pound All-SEC tackle, because he’s a road-grader and you know some serious tailback is coming right behind him.
Dorial Green-Beckham, Missouri: Considering all the hype, Green-Beckham had a disappointing freshman season with only 25 catches. Two of them, however, were for crucial TDs against Tennessee.
Still, he’s a fantastically talented 6-foot-6 target and I’m betting by Nov. 2 of his sophomore year DGB has figured it out and is putting up big numbers.
Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt: Speaking of big numbers, Matthews torched UT’s defense last year for 115 yards on seven catches. He added insult to injury by running 47 yards for a score.
His final tally was 94 catches and 1,323 yards. He’s big and he’s good. Receivers like that didn’t used to go to Vandy.
Mike Strange may be reached at 865-342-6276. Follow him on Twitter at Strangemike44.