Any stretch of time without college football can be downright torture. However for Alabama fans, it really hasn’t been that bad after Tua and DeVonta sent Tide Nation into the offseason with the warm and fuzzies of 2nd and 26 dancing in their heads to keep them company.
With fall camps opening this week, there is light at the end of the tunnel. And thus, it’s time for the wild blind dart-throwing of predicting the 2018 season for the SEC teams. For the Vols, it may not be so tough to predict.
Coach: Jeremy Pruitt (0-0 record as a head coach)
2017 record: 4-8 (0-8 in SEC, Last in East Division)
CB969 2016 Prediction: 8-4 (What was I thinking? But then again, check last year’s poll and comments. I wasn’t alone.) “...they lost a good bit of talent at the skill positions. The 2016 defense was probably one of the best ones they have had in a decade, but here again, many key components have moved on. There may be some growing pains this year for the Vols.”
Looking back: The Vols started out 2017 in a promising manner with a win over Georgia Tech in a kickoff game in Atlanta. Losses to Florida and UGA were to be expected but a home loss to South Carolina started the here-we-go-again moans. Another hammering at the hands of Alabama was followed by losses to Kentucky and Mizzou, leading to Butch Jones’ firing. Without him, the Vols rounded out 0-for-the SEC with their fourth loss to Vandy in six seasons.
Returning starters: 7 on offense, 7 on defense, kicker.
Key losses: S Rashaan Gaulden (Round 3, Panthers; junior), RB John Kelly (Round 6, Rams; junior), DT Kahlil McKenzie (Round 6, Chiefs; junior), TE Ethan Wolf, CB Emmanuel Moseley, KR Evan Berry, C Jashon Robertson, RT Brett Kendrick, P Trevor Daniel, LB Colton Jumper, DL Kendal Vickers, CB Emmanuel Moseley, QB Quinten Dormady (transferred to Houston).
Top returnees: LB Daniel Bituli, DB Nigel Warrior, OL Trey Smith, OL Drew Richmond, WR Jauan Jennings (reinstated from a November dismissal, recovering from wrist and knee surgeries), WR Marquez Callaway, underperforming DT Shy Tuttle, underperforming DE Kyle Phillips, QB Jarrett Guarantano (not sure if this is a good thing), LB Jonathan Kongbo, CB Shawn Shamburger, PK Brent Cimaglia. A return to the old school uniforms.
Top newcomers: Jeremy Pruitt and a whole new coaching staff including former Tide staff members Chris Rumph, Chris Weinke and Brian Niedermeyer. Former Tide OL Will Friend coaches OL. Stanford grad-transfer QB Keller Chryst, Alabama grad-transfer Brandon Kennedy. FROSH: DE Greg Emerson, LB JJ Peterson (has yet to qualify), WR Alontae Taylor. JUCO: TE Dominick Wood-Anderson, DE Jordan Allen, DE Emmit Gooden,
Name you need to know: During the 2017 recruiting cycle, offensive lineman Trey Smith was a prospect Alabama and everyone else across the country wanted to sign. But the 5-star stayed in-state to play for the Vols. He started all 12 games as a true freshman in 2017, making several Freshman All-American and All-SEC teams. He can play anywhere along the line.
Strengths: Butch Jones is now 300 miles south picking up Nick Saban’s laundry... Optimism around Pruitt and culture change... Low profile quarterbacks competition can be good... The OL is young but experienced and improving... Wide receiving corps is decent... Placekicker returns...
Weaknesses: Can Fat Phil Fulmer keep from meddling?... Embarrassing coach search... A five game stretch of Fla, UGA, Aub, Bama and SC... Returning starters are not all that good... Not much depth on defense... Unproven running backs... Lost a good punter and a good kick returner (see Key losses above)...
Outlook: Just when you thought the Vols could sink no lower, the flaming wet garbage dump of last season’s campaign came along. Tennessee suffered their first 8-loss season ever in 2017 as well as going winless in the conference for the first time since an 0-4 mark in 1924 when it was the Southern Conference. They can’t get much worse but just might. Pruitt has the pedigree but this rebuild will take some time. Will the fans and their backstabbing donut-devouring AD be patient?
Sat, Sept 1 vs West Virginia (Atlanta, GA) - L - The Vols might keep this one close for awhile but Will Grier will be too much for them.
Sat, Sept 8 vs ETSU - W
Sat, Sept 15 vs UTEP - W
Sat, Sept 22 vs Florida - L - The Gators are a bit of a mystery right now, so this could go the other way.
Sat, Sept 29 @ Georgia - L
Sat, Oct 6 bye
Sat, Oct 13 @ Auburn - L
Sat, Oct 20 vs Alabama - L - The streak continues.
Sat, Oct 27 @ South Carolina - L - The Gamecocks are looking strong and the game is in Columbia.
Sat, Nov 3 vs Charlotte - W
Sat, Nov 10 vs Kentucky - W - This one could be a coin flip but I’m taking the home team.
Sat, Nov 17 vs Missouri - L - Too much Mizzou O.
Sat, Nov 24 @ Vanderbilt - W - Pruitt gets to try out one of his best locker room speeches cribbed from Saban.
Let’s go Bowling! Nope. There are going to be some SERIOUS growing pains this time around for the Vols as they are in full rebuild mode.
How many Vols regular season wins?
This poll is closed
8 or more. (Really?)
4 or less.