9. 2011: 5-7 (1-7)
Derek Dooley had no chance this year to begin with. He inherited a mess with Tennessee football in 2010 and got them to 6-7 after making and losing a bowl. However, amidst an NCAA investigation that didn’t end until the offseason before this year and still major roster attrition as he was the third head coach in three years in 2010, 2011 was basically another first year.
To make matters worse, the Vols got the most brutal draw in SEC history. They drew the LSU Tigers, Alabama Crimson Tide and Arkansas Razorbacks from the West. These teams would finish as the top three teams in the nation, and Alabama and LSU would play for the national title.
UT got off to a 2-0 start, highlighted by a win over the eventual Big East Champion Cincinnati Bearcats, led by Butch Jones. However, Justin Hunter, one of their few weapons, suffered a season-ending injury at the Florida Gators, leading to their first loss. Quarterback Tyler Bray then went down in their second loss to the SEC East champion Georgia Bulldogs.
Without Bray and Hunter, the Vols were blown out by Bama, LSU and Arkansas, and they lost 14-3 at home to the South Carolina Gamecocks, who also finished in the top 25. They did beat the MTSU Blue Raiders, and Bray came back for an overtime win over the Vanderbilt Commodores.
What pushed this team onto the list, though, was their final game. They were 5-6 and visiting the 4-7 Kentucky Wildcats with a chance to reach a bowl. However, the team was so mentally drained from the year that UK, with a receiver in at quarterback, scored a 10-7 upset, their first win over the Vols in 27 years. Dooley got another year, but that is what did him in.