The Tennessee Vols are back. And under Jeremy Pruitt’s second year at the helm, the Vols are looking to improve upon 2018’s 5-7 campaign drastically.
Not only has the team improved across the board (overall at each position) they are looking at a more relaxed schedule this season. Sites like Bovada Sports have Tennessee listed as 25.5-point favorites in their season opener against Georgia State.
Week 1 – Georgia State at Home
Week 2 – BYU at Home
Week 3 – Chattanooga at Home
Week 4 – Florida on the Road
Week 6 – Georgia on the Road
Week 7 – Mississippi State at Home
Week 8 – Alabama on the Road
Week 9 – South Carolina at Home
Week 10 – UAB at Home
Week 11 – Kentucky on the Road
Week 13 – Missouri on the Road
Week 14 – Vanderbilt at Home
The Vols don’t have a ranked non-conference foe this season. On top of that, they have eight home games.
The Vols do have a couple of tough road games, Specifically, No. 2 Alabama, No. 7 Georgia, No. 8 Florida, and No. 12 Kentucky (end of 2018 season rankings). But when we give the schedule a cursory glance, the Vols look bowl-bound in 2019.
The team is entering the season healthier than last year, plus they return a plethora of starters. Essentially, the entire 1st-team offense is back. Even though they finished last in yards-per-game in the SEC, experience counts for a lot. You have a complete unit returning under the second-year of a new head coach. Things are going to start to click.
Jarret Guarantano only had a total of three interceptions last season, which shows that he makes excellent decisions with the ball. We should expect him to improve on his 1900+ yards and 12 TDs this time around, especially with Tee Martin coordinating an experienced receiver corps.
The offensive line has to do a better job with the run-block this season if they want to compete with the ‘big boys,’ Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. Last year the Vols were the dredges of the SEC with just 129 yards-per-game. Chandler and Jordan are both powerful, capable backs who could contribute a lot if they get a little help from the big uglies.
If we are completely honest about it, last year was a terrible year for the Oline. There is some serious talent up front, but Tennessee struggled with injury. Now if Trey Smith and Marcus Tatum are coming back, but there is an injection of depth with Top-recruits, Wayna Morris and Darnell Wright. On the inside, we could see Ryan Johnson switch from Center over to Guard. The line should be more productive with this setup. If they can stay healthy, we should see the rock moving much better on the ground this year.
Even if we take the pessimistic route and immediately chalk up Florida, Alabama, and Georgia as losses –even though anything can happen any given Saturday– Kentucky is a tough, but winnable game. Mizzou, at Faurot Field, isn’t a gimme, but it’s definitely winnable as well. All in all, we could be looking at an 8-win season, ladies and gentlemen!