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Predicting the 2019 SEC Football Season: Tennessee Vols

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UT improved in 2018. Will they take that next (baby) step?

NCAA Football: Tennessee at Alabama
Who’s tackling who?
John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

It is installment number five of wild blind dart-throwing predictions. Today, we countdown the days until Fat Phil Fulmer fires Jeremy Pruitt and takes over coaching the team himself. It’s all part of the master plan...

Coach: Jeremy Pruitt (5-7, SEC 2-6, beginning his second season)

2018 record: 5-7 (2-6 in SEC, 7th in the East Division)

CB969 2018 Prediction: 5-7; “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?”

Looking back: Well, the Vols did “improve” going from no conference wins to two. Predictably, they beat the cupcakes but lost to WVU, Florida, and UGA - each by 26 points! Then they up and upset #21 Auburn on the road and won convincingly at home against #11 Kentucky. If a team is going to win only two conference games, make them good ones. They wrapped the season with big losses to Mizzou (by 33 pts.) and Vandy (25 pts.), the latter of which eliminated them for bowl eligibility.

Returning starters: 8 on offense, 6 on defense, punter, kicker.

Key losses: S Micah Abernathy, DE Kyle Phillips, DL Shy Tuttle, DL Alexis Johnson, OT Drew Richmond (transfer to Southern Cal), QB Kelly Chryst, TE Eli Wolf (transfer to UGA), Safeties/ST coach Charles Kelly (to Alabama), OC Tyson Helton (HC at WKU), OL Nathan Niehaus (retired due to injuries), LB Darrin Kirkland (retired due to injuries).

Top returnees: OT Trey Smith, QB Jarrett Guarantano, S Nigel Warrior, RB Ty Chandler, WR Marquez Callaway, WR Jauan Jennings (back for his 29th season), CB Bryce Thompson, LB Daniel Bituli, LB Darrel Taylor, PK Brent Cimaglia, P Joe Doyle.

Top newcomers: Offensive Coordinator Jim Chaney, Defensive Coordinator Derrick Ansley (Alabama DB coach 2016-17), Passing Game Coordinator/WR Coach Tee Martin, DT Aubrey Solomon (transfer from Michigan has not been cleared yet), OL Darnell Wright (Huntington, WV), OL Wanya Morris (Loganville, GA), LB Henry To’oto’o (Concord, CA), ATH Quavaris Crouch (Charlotte, NC), WR Ramel Keyton (Marietta, GA), DB Jaylen McCollough (Powder Springs, GA), RB Eric Gray (Memphis, TN), DB Tyus Fields (Charlotte, NC), OL Jackson Lampley (Nashville, TN), DT Savion Williams (juco; Upper Marlboro, MD). [FFPF REALLY opened the coffers for this class!]

Name you need to know: Nigel Warrior is a guy that Alabama and many other programs highly coveted as a high school senior. He is sure tackler on defense and will be expected to lead a rocky secondary.

Strengths: Picking up Chaney and Tee Martin are big steps to improving the offense... Strong recruiting class... Punter and kicker return... Experienced receiving corps (though they have underperformed)... Soft OOC schedule... The return of linebackers Daniel Bituli (leading tackler) and Darrel Taylor (8 sacks)... CB Bryce Thompson was a Freshman All-American...

Weaknesses: Is Derrick Ansley ready to be DC in the SEC?... Fulmer’s meddling... It’s either Guarantano at QB or the waterboy, and the former is SO inconsistent... The Vols may be starting two freshmen on the OL... Has center Brandon Kennedy fully recovered from his ACL injury?... Has left tackle Trey Smith fully recovered from blood clots in his legs?... Defensive line lost all three starters and one of its top second-teamers. This will be a tough rebuild... Despite four starters returning in the secondary, they were not good last season: 84th in the nation in TDs allowed (21) to INT (9) ratio...

Outlook: It’s baby steps in Knoxville. Both the offensive and defensive lines are troublesome, but the Volunteers should be slightly better this season. Pruitt is doing his magic on the recruting trail, picking up some impressive athletes. Expect many of them to get early playing time as he attempts to change the culture in Scruffy City.

2019 SCHEDULE:

Sat, Aug 31 vs Georgia State - W
Sat, Sep 7 vs BYU - W - This is their “P5” game. Much easier than WVU.
Sat, Sep 14 vs Chattanooga - W
Sat, Sep 21 @ Florida - L
Sat, Sep 28 bye
Sat, Oct 5 vs Georgia - L
Sat, Oct 12 vs Mississippi State - W - This could go the other way, but I’m taking the home team.
Sat, Oct 19 @ Alabama - L
Sat, Oct 26 vs South Carolina - W - Same deal as the MSU game.
Sat, Nov 2 vs UAB - W
Sat, Nov 9 @ Kentucky - L - UK will take a step back, but I gotta go with the home team.
Sat, Nov 16 bye
Sat, Nov 23 @ Missouri - L - road game.
Sat, Nov 30 vs Vanderbilt - W

On paper, the Vols should have a good shot to win at least nine games. But they are still the Vols. They could easily lose to BYU, MSU, and/or SC. I’d even throw UAB or Vandy in there. Tennessee is fortunate that somehow the SEC East got worse this off-season.

FUN FACT: Since 2008 (11 seasons), Tennessee has had five head coaches and five bowl appearances.

Let’s go Bowling! Thanks to the OOC schedule and some weak SEC East opponents, they should be able to muster six wins.

Poll

Poll

Regular season wins for Tennessee in 2019:

This poll is closed

  • 3%
    4 or less
    (18 votes)
  • 10%
    5
    (56 votes)
  • 25%
    6
    (137 votes)
  • 36%
    7
    (193 votes)
  • 24%
    8 or more.
    (130 votes)
534 votes total Vote Now

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