We made it. Football season is finally here. Like Madonna, we’ve made it through the wilderness.
No one knows just what this season holds for our beloved Tennessee Volunteers in year two of the Jeremy Pruitt era, but everyone seems excited nonetheless. Coming off of a 2018 season that wasn’t terrible, but certainly not great, here are some numbers that you need to know before the 2019 season starts next weekend:
The umber of losses against non-conference opponents the last eight years.
Sure, we are in the thick of one of the worst runs in Tennessee football history, but you wouldn’t know that just from looking at its record against non-conference opponents.
Now, granted, that includes games against G5 and FCS opponents. But since the start of 2011, Tennessee has gone 31-4 against non-conference opponents. Pretty impressive given the stretch of mediocrity Tennessee is currently trying to crawl out of.
Ranked non-conference opponents, though? Not so much. Tennessee is 2-4 against ranked non-conference opponents in that same span, with losses against No. 17 West Virginia last season, No. 19 Oklahoma in 2015, No. 4 Oklahoma in 2014, and No. 2 Oregon in 2013. The two wins came in back-to-back bowl games against No. 12 Northwestern and No. 24 Nebraska in 2015 and 2016, respectively.
To put a convenient spin on this, though, Tennessee is 29-0 against unranked, non-conference opponents the last eight years. So, if BYU comes to Knoxville unranked in week 2, we can pencil it in as a win before kickoff. . .right?
The number of turnovers the Tennessee offense had last season.
Last season’s Tennessee offense has proven to be somewhat of an enigma. We all knew that the offensive line was going to struggle after some early season injuries. But even then, they struggled mightily as the season went on. Beyond that, most people remember the weak point of the offense being quarterback Jarrett Guarantano, which makes this statistic somewhat interesting.
Tennessee actually had the most fumbles in the SEC, totaling 11. But, they also had the fewest interceptions in the SEC, totaling five. Of those five interceptions, Guarantano threw only three of them, the fewest of any starter in the SEC.
But, that stat is heavily tied to volume, which leads me to my next number to know.
The number of passing attempts from Guarantano last year.
There is a slight possibility that Guarantano threw the least amount of interceptions in the SEC because, well, he threw the least amount of passes in the SEC.
It will be interesting to see if this number was caused by now-departed offensive coordinator Tyson Helton and if he just disliked throwing the ball with this offense or if he didn’t have any faith in Guarantano.
If it’s the former, then Guarantano has plenty to look forward to under new offensive coordinator Jim Chaney. Everyone knows Chaney loves slinging the ball around.
If it’s the latter, and Guarantano still hasn’t warranted enough improvement for a greater volume of throws, then this number will probably be pretty low again. Only time will tell which was the case.
The number of different possible combinations of the 11 (not including Trey Smith?) offensive linemen in the group.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but Tennessee still hasn’t sorted out their best combination of starting offensive linemen yet. And, boy, is there a lot of different combinations. Here is the list of what most are considering the top linemen in the group:
- Wanya Morris (Started LT in 8/11 scrimmage)
- Jerome Carvin (Started LG in 8/11 scrimmage)
- Brandon Kennedy (Started C in 8/11 scrimmage)
- Riley Locklear (Started RG in 8/11 scrimmage)
- Marcus Tatum (Started RT in 8/11 scrimmage)
- Darnell Wright
- Jahmir Johnson
- K’Rojhn Calbert
- Ryan Johnson
- Jackson Lampley
- Chris Akporoghene
- Trey Smith (we can only hope, right?)
Obviously, there are a number of combinations that aren’t very feasible. There are a number of names there that wouldn’t last long at center or left tackle, for example. But, nevertheless, there are a dizzying amount of combinations for Pruitt and staff to test out before the season starts.
Or, for another convenient spin on this stat, there is more depth in this position group than there has been in a long time. There is certainly more size, which is almost always a good thing.
The average age when the season kicks off of what appears to be the top three corners.
The corner group was a bit of a question mark going into last season, but this season, they could potentially be the best group in the defense. And the best part?
The big two in the group are returning starters Bryce Thompson and Alontae Taylor. Thompson is 19, while the old man of the trio, Taylor, is 20. Both had little to no prior experience playing the position before last season, and they were both far from liabilities as the season went on. That bodes well for them now that they have a year of experience under their belt.
Unfortunately, it is starting to look like the incumbent at the nickel spot, Baylen Buchanan, could be out for a while with a narrowing of the spine. With him out indefinitely, Pruitt had to find a replacement at the nickel back position, a spot that becomes more important every year.
Fortunately, though, Warren Burrell has come out of the woodwork and is starting to look like Buchanan’s best replacement.
Burrell has been an unexpected, yet pleasant surprise this off-season. He was only a three-star recruit in the 2019 recruiting class, but he has, apparently, gotten to campus and taken well to the defense. He will likely see some early playing time at the ripe age of 18.
The number of people that picked Tennessee to win the SEC this year at SEC Media Days.
Some brave soul went down to SEC Media Days and picked Tennessee to win the SEC. If these votes weren’t cast under the condition of anonymity, would they have still picked Tennessee to win the SEC? Probably not. Was it done as a joke or a dare? Probably. Is it hilarious that somebody actually voted for a team that hasn’t had a winning season since 2016 to win the SEC over potential playoff teams like Alabama and Georgia? Absolutely.
Hats off to whoever threw this one out. I hope you look like an absolute genius come December for calling this one in July. You probably won’t, but shooters shoot.
The number of beers I’ll be enjoying in Neyland the night of the BYU game.
Booze in Neyland, now? Hell yeah.
Obviously, 15 beers in three quarters of football *might* be a bit of an exaggeration. That would be, what, $3,000 at the end of the night? But the point remains: it’s awesome we can now get a few beers inside historic Neyland Stadium.
I believe Fox Sports Knoxville’s own Tanner Carson said it best on the subject:
Me and the boys walking up to make our first purchase of one (1) $11 Mich Ultra at Neyland this fall pic.twitter.com/ClBP95rumJ
— Tanner Carson (@TCarson__) May 31, 2019