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Insider

Breaking down the Vols

Each week at TideNation we will speak with a writer who covers one of Alabama's 2012 opponents. Today we spoke with Patrick Brown, who covers all things Tennessee for the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Question: Tennessee has been down for quite some time now. Do you feel like they're poised for a breakout year in 2012?

Brown: Well, considering Tennessee finished last in the SEC East and won just one league game last season, the Vols can't go much lower. Derek Dooley has insisted publicly since January that he's comfortable and almost borderline excited about the stability of his roster, and to a degree he's right. He's got three of his own recruiting classes on campus now, and all those freshmen that have had to play fairly significant roles in his first two years -- the number's close to 40 -- are now a year older and have played in the SEC. When Dooley arrived, the offensive line he inherited had just three starts combined. That number is now 99. There's some talent on offense, and the defense, now led by former Alabama assistant Sal Sunseri, is fresh. The schedule -- Mississippi State and Missouri instead of LSU and Arkansas plus Florida at home -- is more manageable. Will that equal more wins? It should, but there are still some questions.