​Tennessee football preview: Volunteers 2017 schedule, roster and three things to watch

Can Tennessee's Butch Jones build on back-to-back nine-win seasons? The Vols are taking a positive approach into 2017.

The Tennessee Volunteers were supposed to have that long-awaited breakthrough in 2016. The Volunteers were certainly one of the nation's most exciting teams and did break the losing streak to rival Florida, but it also included a three-game losing skid and a loss to Vanderbilt.

Butch Jones enters his fifth season at Tennessee coming off back-to-back 9-4 seasons, but the Volunteers are still looking for their first SEC East Division championship since 2007. It won't be easy after the loss of impact players such as Joshua Dobbs, Alvin Kamara, Josh Malone and Derek Barnett, among others.

MORE: 17 questions for the 2017 season

The Volunteers are ranked No. 24 in Sporting News' Way-Too-Early Top 25, and here's a preview of Tennessee's 2017 schedule, roster and biggest questions entering the season.

When is Tennessee's spring game?

Tennessee's Orange and White Spring Game is 4 p.m. ET on Saturday, April 22, at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn.

Where will Tennessee's spring game be televised?

Tennessee's Orange and White Spring Game will be televised on the SEC Network.

2017 Tennessee football schedule

Sept. 4: vs. Georgia Tech (Atlanta)

Sept. 9: vs. Indiana State

Sept. 16: at Florida

Sept. 23: vs. UMass

Sept. 30: vs. Georgia

Oct. 7: BYE

Oct. 14: South Carolina

Oct. 21: at Alabama

Oct. 28: at Kentucky

Nov. 4: vs. Southern Miss

Nov. 11: at Missouri

Nov. 18: vs. LSU

Nov. 25: vs. Vanderbilt

Dec. 2: SEC championship game

2017 Tennessee recruiting class

Tennessee had a composite ranking of No. 15 across four major recruiting sites. The Volunteers' have a three-star heavy class, but five-star tackle Trey Smith could get a look right away.

2017 Tennessee roster

Tennessee's roster will be updated in the spring and fall here.

Three things to watch

1. Who starts at QB?

That's the most-obvious question. Dobb started every game the last two seasons, and the competition should ramp up this spring. Junior Quinten Dormady was the primary backup for Dobbs the last two seasons, but redshirt freshman Jarrett Guarantano was a highly-touted recruit who will generate interest. Freshman Will McBride also is on campus and could factor in. Jones needs to find a reliable starter who can handle a brutal September schedule. This competition should be interesting.

2. Who's the backup RB?

Tennessee entered last season with the tag-team of Jalen Hurt and Alvin Kamara, but John Kelly actually finished second on the team with 630 yards and five TDs. He averaged 6.4 yards per carry and inherits lead-back duties. Who is the second back? Carlin Fils-aime is the lead candidate, but a group of freshmen that includes Ty Chandler, Tim Jordan and Trey Coleman could push for carries.

3. How will Brady Hoke help?

Former Michigan coach Brady Hoke is the new defensive line coach, and Tennessee will need him to be at his best. Derek Barnett and Corey Vereen combined for 20 of the Vols' 31 sacks last season. The interior should be tough with Shy Tuttle and Kahlil McKenzie, but defensive ends Kyle Philips and Jonathan Kongbo need to take the next step. Hoke recruited excellent defensive line talent at Michigan —which could be seen last season. Can he develop that talent in Knoxville?

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