After one of the most interesting offseason in all of college football, The Tennessee Volunteers are beginning a new era in Knoxville.
The Vols said goodbye to both former head coach Butch Jones and former Athletic Director John Currie, and welcomed Jeremy Pruitt from Alabama and Tennessee legend Phillip Fulmer as the new AD.
Those changes, however, almost didn’t come to fruition. Tennessee was moments away from retaining Currie and welcoming in Greg Schiano, but everybody already knows how that went.
Regardless, it’s a new year for the orange and white, and as always, the expectations are high.
There has been some speculation at the QB position since the departure of Josh Dobbs, and coming into this year, that seems to once again be the case.
You have Jarrett Guarantano, who had a fairly successful year when he was on the field. Completing 61 percent of his passes while throwing four touchdowns. He’s got the experience with the team and has built some chemistry with some of the receivers, and has given himself a good case to be the starter for week one against West Virginia.
Then you have Keller Chryst.
Chryst has made some moves since arriving on campus after coming from Stanford, and has quickly put his name right next to Guarantano’s on the depth chart, so much so that Jeremy Pruitt hasn’t officially named a starting QB for the season opener.
This may be for competitive advantage, or this could be a legitimate situation and the staff truly doesn’t know who will walk out of the tunnel as the starter.
Personally, I see Guarantano as the week one starter. His experience with some of the receivers will bode well for him.
A friend of mine told me the Vols’ season rides on the first four games of the year.
You kick off with West Virginia, then come home for three straight against East Tennessee State, UTEP and SEC rival Florida.
If Tennessee can come out of this opening stretch 3-1, there is a lot to be happy about in Knoxville. But that means beating the Mountaineers or the Gators.
Following that is arguably the toughest three-game stretch in all of college football. Two road games against Georgia and Auburn, followed by a home game against top-ranked Alabama.
Five winnable games close out the season. Tennessee is capable of winning 8 or 9 games this season, but the question is will they play up to that standard?
This year, I don’t see that big of a turnaround for the Vols, but the pieces are in place to see Rocky Top back on top in the foreseeable future.
5-7 (2-6 SEC)