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Vols need some freshmen to step up at skill positions

The SEC Football Media Days create the illusion that college football is just around the corner. In fact, the corner is still six weeks away.

And six weeks is way too long for the average SEC football fan. It could be especially long for Tennessee fans this preseason.

There is too much time to think about what could go wrong in the weeks leading up to the season.

This is supposed to be an optimistic time for fans. Best-case scenarios come easily and repeatedly. Almost anything seems possible.

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However, after last season, UT fans might be less apt to embrace those possibilities and more likely to think of what could go wrong in preseason camp.

What could go wrong? Injuries.

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Injuries began piling up right away for Tennessee last season. Too many of those injuries were to key players.

A year later, you couldn’t blame fans for flinching at the thought of a full-contact practice or anticipating the first full-scale preseason scrimmage with as much dread as excitement.

Fan angst is exacerbated by how injuries are reported. Coaches are more guarded about injury news than ever. The only thing better than no information is misinformation.

For example, when a coach announces that a player is “day-to-day” with an ankle injury, the prognosis hardly seems dire. A fan might conclude that the player could be healed by the upcoming Saturday.

Adams: Butch Jones, Derek Mason know impact of one game

But at Tennessee, there have been too many recent cases of “day-to-day” stretching into weeks or even becoming “season-ending.”

Tennessee fans shouldn’t assume the worst when it comes to injuries, though. Don’t stray into Voodoo Land. It’s not as though the Vols have been cursed.

And there’s nothing in the Neyland Stadium or Haslam Field turf that would make UT players more susceptible to injuries or illness. If there were, a coach as thorough and detail-oriented as Butch Jones would have found it.

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From SEC Media Days
Mike Strange – USA TODAY Network – Tennessee

All teams occasionally have a run of injuries. The run rarely extends from one season to the next. Sometimes, that stretch of injuries doesn’t extend through an entire season.

Last season, when star players like Cam Sutton and Jalen Reeves-Maybin went down early with injuries, fans might have wondered: “Who’s next?” They might have wondered the most about Tennessee’s most valuable players, quarterback Joshua Dobbs and All-America defensive end Derek Barnett.

Yet no matter how many times Dobbs carried the ball or how many times blockers double-teamed Barnett amid a crowd of 300-pounders near the line of scrimmage, both players held up for the 13-game season.

More: Jones wanders back into ‘5-star hearts’ waters

Of course, it’s natural for all fans to be concerned about the health of their star players, particularly their quarterback. 

But Tennessee fans shouldn’t be concerned about the injuries that helped sabotage the 2016 season. Injuries, like turnovers, tend to even out over time.

If you also subscribe to that theory, you know Tennessee is due for a healthy season.

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or john.adams@knoxnews.com. Follow him at: Twitter.com/johnadamskns.

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