The game: Sept. 22 in Knoxville.
Last year’s result: Feleipe Franks launched a 63-yard touchdown pass to Tyrie Cleveland on the game’s final play to give the Gators a stunning 26-20 victory in The Swamp.
Key players returning: OT Trey Smith, WR Jauan Jennings, LB Daniel Bituli, S Nigel Warrior, LB Darrell Taylor, OL Marcus Tatum, S Micah Abernathy.
Key losses: RB John Kelly (778 yards rushing and nine TDs last season), TE Ethan Wolf, DB Rashaan Gaulden, OL Jashon Robertson, P Trevor Daniel.
Scouting the offense: Like several other schools in the SEC, the Vols still don’t know who their starting quarterback is going to be. That will be determined in preseason camp between Stanford graduate transfer Keller Chryst and sophomore Jarrett Guarantano, who saw significant playing time last season. Whoever the QB turns out to be, he’ll be playing behind a line that will have four new starters and with running backs who are pretty much unproven — Ty Chandler and Tim Jordan. The Vols should be strong at wide receiver, led by Jauan Jennings and Marquez Callaway.
Scouting the defense: In a line of scrimmage league, the Vols look a little vulnerable up front, where the only returning starter, Jonathan Kongbo, has been moved to outside linebacker. That leaves the defensive line with little playing experience at all four positions, and without a potentially dominant player. UT should be strong at linebacker (Darrell Taylor, Quart’e Sapp and Darrin Kirkland) and safety (Nigel Warrior and Micah Abernathy), but questionable at safety, where both starters need to be replaced.
Scouting the special teams: The Vols will be all new here. New kicker, new punter and new return man, so this is a considerable question mark heading into the season.
“When you talk about commitment, you can look at the Tennessee fan base. I’ve been all over the state. I’ve been all over the Southeast. The passion, you can feel it. We’re hungry. They’re hungry. Everybody’s hungry. We’re excited to get started. We’re excited to get this era started and can’t wait to do it.” — Jeremy Pruitt