Fall camp is underway, launching the most optimistic stretch of the college football year.
The buildup to the season almost always brings an extra win or two to every fan’s win total for his or her favorite team.
Afraid of a 5-7 season in July?
No problem. August will get your squad to a bowl game.
Thinking 8-4 or 9-3?
The month of August will bring a 10-win season… or maybe even better.
For that to happen, the team must take every advantage of fall camp.
For Tennessee, a a successful fall camp could put Tennessee in title contention.
What might the Vols hope to accomplish in August to make a championship possible this fall?
Here are the five best things Tennessee can hope to accomplish over the next month.
Doneiko Slaughter establishes himself as a lock-down cornerback
Slaughter became a fan-favorite last season making big plays in different ways.
He’s always a candidate to knock a ball loose when he runs to the line of scrimmage.
Against Kentucky, he showed his ability to defend the pass.
Tennessee’s defense needs better, more consistent play from the secondary.
If Slaughter can establish himself as a No. 1 corner and limit opposing teams’ top receivers, the potential of Tennessee’s defense changes in a big way.
That’s exactly what defensive coordinator Tim Banks would love to see before the start of the season.
Mincey gets mean at right tackle
Gerald Mincey has the tools to be a high-level offensive lineman.
He entered fall camp as the projected replacement at right tackle for Darnell Wright, who was one of the nation’s best players last season.
So where did Mincey start camp, at least during the media’s viewing session of practice No. 1?
As John Campbell’s backup at left tackle.
Is Mincey ready to fight for his starting spot?
Jeremiah Crawford is. That’s why he ran with the first team at right tackle.
Mincey’s physical ability is why NFL teams view him as a draftable player next spring.
The fight he shows in camp will determine whether he starts on Sept. 2 or serves as a backup to Campbell and Crawford.
For Tennessee to reach its potential, it would like for Mincey to fight for — and earn — a starting position.
Nico proves he’s ready
Offensive coordinator Joey Halzle didn’t hesitate when he was asked on Tuesday if the staff is confident in Nico Iamaleava IF he’s needed to play — for whatever reason.
“Huge confidence in him,” Halzle said. “That guy is mature beyond his years.”
If Iamaleava can prove Halzle right in August, Tennessee fans should feel a lot better about the offense.
More than half of the 14 SEC teams had to rely on their backup quarterback due to a starter’s injury last season.
That included Tennessee.
So the Vols have to make sure Iamaleava is ready.
That could be due to injury. Or another reason.
Joe Milton III still has more to prove.
What if he falters and the coaching staff has to consider a Plan B during the season?
No one at Tennessee is planning on that happening. But they have to prepare for the possibility.
That’s why Iamaleava has to be ready.
A Tennessee left guard emerges
The Vols have real competition at left guard.
Ollie Lane is a veteran who will try to replace Jerome Carvin, an important starter for Tennessee the last few years.
What about Andrej Karic?
He transferred to Tennessee from Texas, where he mostly played tackle and as an extra blocker in jumbo formations.
If Karic or Lane can grab hold of the starting guard position before Sept. 2, Josh Heupel should feel more confident in what he can call on the field.
The left guard positon doesn’t receive a lot of attention.
But its importance can’t be discounted.
Dont’e Thornton shows he’s ready to explode
Add Thornton to the list of players Halzle can’t wait to coach this fall.
“He has freaky talent,” Halzle said. “A guy that size that can run like that is rare.”
That goes in line with the abundance of off-season hype Thornton received.
“Hyatt-like speed” was the talk coming out of UT’s facilities during the summer.
Attach that speed to a 6-5, 214-pound frame, and the Vols should have a playmaker.
If Thornton proves he belongs on the field during fall camp, watch out.
Thornton’s talent combined with Heupel’s scheme should produce plenty of fireworks at Neyland Stadium.
And an extra win or two by the time the season ends.