Sizing up Gators’ 2018 SEC opponents: Scouting Tennessee

Tennessee NCAA college football head coach Jeremy Pruitt speaks during Southeastern Conference Media Days Wednesday, July 18, 2018, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)


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



  1. Rog — there was an “if it bleeds it leads” article on MSN/Sports today about how horribly Pruitt treated Mark Richt when he was the DC at Georgia three or four years ago. Any scuttlebutt or G2 up there about it?

  2. As a Tennessee fan, obviously I hope that Pruitt does a great job as our HC. Only time will tell and he has a serious rebuilding project on his hands, and most UT fans realize this is not going to be a quick fix. I was really frustrated that the opinion of two former Georgia players seemed to be given so much air time. Maybe there is a time and place to air those opinions out, but the SEC Media Days should not be that place. Isn’t this the time for all teams to have their moment to “shine” and not be scrutinized.

  3. Mark might be their time to shine but scrutiny is part of the SEC. One of the reasons so many coaches fail.
    New coach: First 3 years
    Warm-becoming a SEC Coach
    Warmer-not living up to expectations (real or not)
    Hot-Wining less that X (# depends on team) games
    Hotter-Losing to team rivals
    Boiling-Losing consecutively to team rivals with losing seasons.
    You can add alienating the fan base and Losing the favor of the alumni at any point.
    fact is everyone wants 10 win or better seasons. Mathematically impossible for the whole conference to attain that in the same season. This means someone is always in the hot to boiling range. UT fired the most successful coach next to Neyland. Some rumors where the alumni didn’t want his record beaten. I read that several places. I hope you guys get better so when we meet and beat you it will improve our rankings.