It’s fair to say that the past 10 years have not been particularly kind to Tennessee football. A decade that kicked off with the surprise departure of Lane Kiffin and the burning of mattresses. Followed by the disaster known as the Derek Dooley era, highlighted by orange britches and locker room speeches on personal hygiene. Then came the rise and fall that encompassed the Butch Jones era. A span that brought some success in the form of back-to-back nine-win seasons — ultimately culminating in the worst season in program history, Jones' dismissal, and one of the most bizarre coaching searches in the history of football.
The good news is that things finally appear to be taking a turn for the better on Rocky Top under the direction of Jeremy Pruitt and athletic director Phillip Fulmer. Thanks to a remarkable turnaround in year two of the Pruitt era, the Volunteers managed to wrap up the final season of the decade with a bowl victory and will now ride the momentum of a six-game winning streak into the next decade.
While a 63-62 overall record will forever be considered lackluster for one of the winningest programs in college football history, the last ten seasons of Tennessee football haven’t been a complete disaster. There were a few signature wins along the way and several highlight moments worthy of celebration. There were plenty of standout players deserving of recognition as well. And that is what this exercise is truly about. So, without further ado, here is the Tennessee Volunteers' All-Decade Team:
QB: Joshua Dobbs (2013-16)
RB: Jalen Hurd (2014-16)
RB: Rajion Neal (2010-13)
AP: Alvin Kamara (2015-16)
WR: Jauan Jennings (2015-19)
WR: Justin Hunter (2010-12)
WR: Josh Malone (2014-16)
TE: Mychal Rivera (2010-12)
C: James Stone (2010-13)
OL: Antonio "Tiny" Richardson (2011-13)
OL: Trey Smith (2017-present)
OL: Dallas Thomas (2008-12)
OL: Ja'Wuan James (2010-13)
DL: Derek Barnett (2014-16)
DL: Malik Jackson (2010-11)
DL: Daniel McCullers (2012-13)
DL: Curt Maggitt (2011-15)
LB: Jalen Reeves-Maybin (2013-16)
LB: A.J. Johnson (2011-14)
LB: Daniel Bituli (2016-19)
CB: Cameron Sutton (2013-16)
CB: Justin Coleman (2011-14)
S: Rashaan Gaulden (2015-17)
S: Brian Randolph (2011-15)
K: Brent Cimaglia (2017-present)
P: Trevor Daniel (2013-17)
RS: Evan Berry (2014-17)
Toughest Omission: Tyler Bray
While Bray spent just three seasons in a Tennessee uniform, he ranks fourth all-time in both career passing yards (7,444) and touchdown passes (69). He holds the single-game passing record at Tennessee with 530 yards against Troy in 2012. And only Peyton Manning has thrown for more yards in a single season at Tennessee than Bray with 3,612 in 2012. Despite all his success, Bray's win-loss record left plenty to be desired, mostly as a result of bad defenses during his time on Rocky Top.
Deepest Position: Wide receiver
There was no shortage of standout wide receivers worthy of making the all-decade team. And several didn’t make the list for no other reason than there simply wasn’t enough room. In addition to the group that did make the cut, players such as Denarius Moore, Da'Rick Rogers, Cordarrelle Patterson, Marquez Callaway, and Marquez North all shined during their time at Tennessee.
Weakest Position: Defensive line
Despite the fact that Tennessee's best player of the decade came out of this position group, the star power is fairly lackluster overall. The Vols recruited plenty of high-profile defensive linemen over the last 10 years, and many were solid players, but few made an impact worthy of making the list.
Where's Cordarrelle Patterson?
There's no question that Patterson was Tennessee's most electric player of the past decade. And the eventual first-round NFL draft pick and All-Pro certainly had a season to remember as a Vol in 2012, earning All-SEC accolades after breaking Tennessee's single-season record for all-purpose yards with 1,858. Patterson is probably deserving of making Tennessee's All-Decade Team based on that one season alone. However, it was difficult to slot the do-it-all star into any one position group over players that had success at those positions over a longer period of time.
Key Stat: 33
The number of sacks accumulated by star defensive end Derek Barnett to break Reggie White's long-standing career mark at Tennessee. Barnett racked up double-digit sacks in each of his three seasons as a Vol before he was taken by the Philadelphia Eagles in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft.
— Written by Rob McVey, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @Rob_UTVOLS.