2019 SEC Season Preview: Tennessee Volunteers
Over the course of the next several weeks, the SoBros Network crew will be going team-by-team through the SEC, previewing the upcoming American tackle football season. Up next, the 2019 Tennessee preview!
2019 Tennessee Preview
Year one for Jeremy Pruitt may have only ended with five wins, but it was a definite success. Coming off the atrocious final year for Butch Jones, the UT fan base had to suffer through a nearly agonizing coaching search. So, to come out on the other side of all that and have two wins over ranked teams (@ Auburn and vs. Kentucky) along with finishing just one win away from bowl eligibility was really something for Coach Pruitt. The man is trying to do more than just win – he’s having to change a culture that’s suffered in not-so-silence through some real dark seasons over the past decade. Pruitt brought in a top notch recruiting class with guys like Darnell Wright and Wanya Morris possibly starting right out the gate. UT has the talent and confidence – they just need to put to all together if they want to get back to bowl game pay dirt.
The offense brings back eight starters from last year though the offensive line may see a couple of fresh faces. They may have to, as the o-line was downright awful at times in 2018. I just have memories of Vol running backs getting bottled up at the line over and over and over again. Ty Chandler and Tim Jordan have big play potential, but it’s all going to come down to what the offensive line looks like. This leads to us talking about the return of Jim Chaney.
Chaney is hoping to bring (back) some stability to the offensive coordinator position at UT. After all the success he had at UGA, the Vol fanbase is all fired up to see what he can do with the group he has in Knoxville. A couple of solid running backs plus the returning Marquez Callaway, who is always looking to stretch the field has to have Chaney thinking there is big play ability. The return of Chaney along with VFL Tee Martin as a wide receivers coach goes back to the change in culture for UT at least on the offensive side.
Of course, I haven’t mentioned the two names most Vol fans are curious about- Jarrett Guarantano and Jauan Jennings. Jennings has had some serious ups (the UGA Hail Mary catch) and some big time lows (flukey weird stuff leading into Pruitt’s hire), but through it all he’s still got big play, NFL potential which can’t go overlooked. JG is coming into his junior year and showed real flashes last season. The biggest problem for Jarrett in 2018 was the injuries. He was banged up a lot which goes back to the Vol o-line. This group is gonna have to be better this year as there are hopes that JG will take a leap forward in the passing game. Guarantano has the juice – he’s just gonna need more consistent play out of the big fellas in front of him.
On the defensive side, the Vols have to replace A LOT on the defensive line. Not only did they lose talent over the offseason, but they just lost Emmit Gooden to a knee injury that will have him missing the season. The injury has been called ‘crippling’ by some outlets, which tells you where the depth is with the defensive line. Even before the injury to Gooden this group was gonna be a real worry for the staff. Now it seems like they’re gonna have a real mix and match crew in the early goings of the season.
Once we get past the d-line, there is a lot of returning talent at the other two levels of the defense. The linebacking corps will be led by Darrell Taylor and Daniel Bituli, who both play their absolute tails off. The secondary will have returning faces all over the place including Bryce Thompson, who is coming off a Freshman All-American year in 2018. Thompson led the Vols with three interceptions last year, so don’t be shocked to hear his name more than a few times this season. Add in Alontae Taylor, Nigel Warrior, and Baylen Buchanan and this Vol secondary has some real potential to improve on last year’s numbers. If a dependable d-line can be pieced together, expect this defense to turn a few heads in 2019.
2019 Vols Schedule
8/31 vs. Georgia St- One of the few ‘lock-in wins’ for the Vols but they’ll absolutely take it.
9/7 vs. BYU- I feel like this one may be a close, tough game that BYU could steal. I’m gonna assume that the Vols come in fired up from a week 1 win and beat this Cougar team – but watch out sweetheart!
9/14 vs. Chattanooga- Should be a jackhammer of a win for the Vols no matter how things go with BYU the week before.
9/21 @ Florida- Coming off a 47-21 loss to UF last year, this Vol crew will be fired up to head to Gainesville looking for revenge. I think this year’s game is closer, but I don’t expect a Vol win. This Florida team is a legit dark horse playoff contender assuming they have consistency out of their offense.
10/5 vs. Georgia- I’d love to see Coach Pruitt pull off a huge upset in one of these two games – I just don’t see it. Give me the Dawgs but much like the UF matchup I think this year is closer just with the same outcome. Even with a bye week, this is a brutal back-to-back.
10/12 vs. Mississippi St- This feels like a toss up game at this point. With the Vols at home and really fighting to get over the bowl game hump, I’m leaning towards Big Orange. With how these two teams match up, circle this one as we could have some SEC wackiness.
10/19 @ Alabama- It feels like this game hasn’t been close since Mt. Cody broke Vol hearts all those years ago. I don’t think this one’s terribly close either unless the Vols play completely out of their minds. Give me Bama.
10/26 vs. South Carolina- Will Muschamp stays beating the Vols. No one can explain it, but it’s just a fact. I think that ends this season with a top notch performance by the UT offense. Someone has to be the one to break the Muschamp curse and Coach Pruitt feels like the guy.
11/2 vs. UAB- Should be a pretty easy win for UT especially coming off the level of play they’re gonna be coming off of over the course of the month prior.
11/9 @ Kentucky- Beating UK last season was probably the biggest win of the year for UT. With all the talent lost for the Wildcats, I’m expecting the Vols to do it again, especially if they’re hovering around that potential sixth win.
11/23 @ Missouri- Drew Lock is out, but Kelly Bryant is in, which doesn’t bode well for the Vols. This one could be a real fun back and forth or it could be a big time blowout (like last year) – either way I think Missouri gets the win.
11/30 vs. Vanderbilt- The Derek Mason led Commodores put it on UT last year in Nashville. Expect a much closer game, as both teams should be fighting it out for bowl placement or eligibility as a whole. With all the turnover on the defensive side of the ball for Vandy, I see UT getting the job done in front of a rowdy Neyland crowd.
There will be a lot of eyes on this UT team. The additions of Chaney and Martin, along with the returning faces, has Vol fans hoping for a big time year. If things are situated on both the offensive and defensive lines, I don’t think it’s crazy to say this could be a possible eight-win team. That’s probably the ceiling, as the schedule is just brutal at times, but expect to see Big Orange back during bowl game season. It’s not a lock by any means, but I still think six to seven wins should be expected in Vol Country.
OTHER 2019 SEC SEASON PREVIEWS
Alabama Crimson Tide
Mississippi State Bulldogs
South Carolina Gamecocks
Texas A&M Aggies
John Mosley is the independent wrestling correspondent of the SoBros Network. He graduated from ETSU with a degree in Radio, TV and Film along with a minor in Film Studies. Since graduating he’s done pretty much nothing but watch, film, edit or commentate for local wrestling promotions and is the current color commentator for Resolute Wrestling. #Preds #Titans #DefendOrVacateConor Follow on Twitter: @SoBroMose.