Year 2 of new coaches can sometimes represent the big jump in a program.
Scott Frost at UCF, Nick Saban at LSU AND Alabama, Bob Stoops at Oklahoma, etc. Jeremy Pruitt is looking to do the same in his second year at the helm of the Tennessee Volunteers. Obviously, the jump won’t be quite as drastic, but after a 5-7 season, a solid eight or nine win season could, and should be seen as a big jump.
Quarterback Jarrett Guarantano returns to lead the offense after putting up some solid numbers last year. He completed 62 percent of his classes while throwing 12 touchdowns with just three interceptions. The top three receivers in Marquez Callaway, Jauan Jennings, and Josh Palmer all return, along with starting tight end Dominick Wood-Anderson.
In the backfield, leading rushers Ty Chandler and Tim Jordan return to pace the offensive attack. Jeremy Banks added three touchdowns on the ground and he is also back for 2019. Essentially, the entire offense is back for the Vols, and if players develop, they could be looking a devastating lineup.
Defensively, the two leading tacklers Daniel Bituli and Nigel Warrior are back to lead the unit. Leading sack man Darrell Taylor is going to wreak havoc on the backfield some more, looking to better his eight sacks last year.
Star freshman linebacker Henry To’oto’o is listed as a starter on the depth chart and will try to make an immediate impact.
Nobody on the defense has recorded an interception so the Vols need to find a ball hawk somewhere, it would only make the defense more intimidating.
The first three games are manageable, with Georgia State, BYU, and Chattanooga all visiting Neyland Stadium. That’s about as easy as it gets, though. A trip to Florida, followed by a bye week, a visit from the Georgia Bulldogs, followed by a home game vs Mississippi State, and then a trip to Tuscaloosa.
If Tennessee can come out of this trip at 2-2, they should be sitting pretty for a bowl berth and a bright future.
Prediction: 8-4 (4-4 SEC)