Tennessee looks to cash in on some of the bad luck they had this year in exchange for good luck and a team returning all but three starters to do big things in the SEC East next year. However, before the season even starts, Tennessee may be in trouble.
The Vols are in danger of losing some members of the coaching staff.
Yes, Tennessee already had a big win in gaining South Carolina's running backs coach, Jay Graham. Marcus Lattimore's success under Graham and Graham's history as a great running back at Tennessee may convince a top prospect or two that Tennessee may be worth a shot.
Then, Tennessee may also pull in a good new wide receivers coach after Charlie Baggett "retired."
However, even if Tennessee does get another great hire for that position, they may be in hot water on the other side of the ball.
Arizona State is apparently looking hard at Justin Wilcox for their head coaching position. That is very bad news for Tennessee.
In his second year as defensive coordinator, Wilcox turned Tennessee's defense into a very respectable unit despite the loss of Janzen Jackson in the preseason (Tennessee's best defensive player), Herman Lathers suffering a season-ending injury in the preseason and the Vols' best corner, Prentiss Waggner, switched positions to free safety.
Tennessee ranks 35th in the country in points against. That's pretty good when you consider all the setbacks I just pointed out and the fact that Tennessee played Alabama, LSU, Arkansas, Georgia and South Carolina this season. Four of those came one after another.
Tennessee's defense got better and better as the year went on, and since only two defensive starters will be leaving, there's no reason to think that the unit will not be even better next season.
However, if the choice is between defensive coordinator and head coach of a BCS school, then there's little hope that he'll stick around. Even worse, he may take some other defensive assistants with him.
Still, believe it or not, that may not even be the worst of Tennessee's problems. Guess who else might be gone? Derek Dooley.
The rumors about Mark Richt retiring at the end of the season are probably spurious, but until Georgia finishes its bowl game, I'm not ready to dismiss it entirely. If he does retire, one of the top candidates for his replacement will be Derek Dooley.
Furthermore, after a 5-7 season that included a loss to Kentucky, Dooley is squarely on the hot seat. Maybe he'd take a different job if he thinks he'll just be fired at the end of the season in Tennessee anyway. Besides, who wouldn't want to coach at the same school that their father did?
Now, let me make this clear: I think these rumors are, most likely, completely fabricated. However, they're out there, and with the run of bad luck that Tennessee has had this season, it wouldn't shock me if Tennessee lost Dooley to Georgia.
Unfortunately, the Arizona State reports are more than just rumors, so I've already accepted that Tennessee is going to lose Wilcox, and I don't blame him for taking the job. I just hope he doesn't take anyone with him and that we find a decent replacement.
We'll just have to wait and see what happens, but whatever does, it doesn't bode well for 2012.