The 2019 college football season really springs into action on Saturday. One of the many teams getting into the fold are the Tennessee Volunteers, who’ll host the Georgia State Panthers in Knoxville for their season opener.
Last season’s opener against the West Virginia Mountaineers snapped a nine-game win streak in Week 1 matchups for the Vols. Previously, their last loss in the first game of the season came on Labor Day 2008, when the then-18th-ranked Volunteers lost 27-24 to the UCLA Bruins. Now they’ll look to make it just a blip on the radar instead of a trend under Jeremy Pruitt, who will begin his second year as Tennessee head coach.
The stars for the Vols to watch are primarily on defense. Linebacker Darrell Taylor and defensive back Nigel Warrior were each All-SEC Second Team selections by the coaches in the preseason. But they did have a First Team selection too in return specialist Marquez Callaway. These three will be leading the charge for Tennessee this year and they’ll certainly be the ones to watch.
In addition to that triad, the focus will be on Trey Smith, as well. Smith missed much of 2018 after dealing with serious health issues. But a few days ago, the former five-star recruit was cleared by medical professionals. So, Jarrett Guarantano will have an elite player blocking for him, as he’s currently listed at left guard with Riley Locklear.
For Shawn Elliott and Georgia State, it can only go up from here. The Panthers went 2-10 a season ago and finished 1-7 in Sun Belt play. They had two selections to the Preseason All-Sun Belt teams. The first was punter Brandon Wright, a redshirt senior who made the First Team special teams unit. The second was offensive lineman Hunter Atkinson, a redshirt senior who made it onto the Second Team offense.
HOW TO WATCH
Time: 3:30 p.m. ET/2:30 p.m. CT
Watch Online: WatchESPN
Spread: Tennessee (-25.5/26)