Coach: Jeremy Pruitt, second year (5-7, all at UT).
Last year’s record: 5-7 overall, 2-6 in the SEC (7th in the East).
Last year’s game: The Gators produced multiple big plays on both sides of the ball and pulled away from the Vols for a convincing 47-21 victory in Knoxville. The UF offense produced touchdown plays of 65, 47, 38 and 19 yards, while the aggressive defense forced six turnovers — two fumbles and four interceptions.
Starters returning: 17 (10 on offense, seven on defense).
Strengths: With the experience he gained last season, Jarrett Guarantano has grown comfortable at quarterback, and he’ll have nine other returning starters to work with. The passing game has to be potent because Guarantano has some dynamic receivers to go to in Jauan Jennings and Marquez Callaway. The two combined for 67 receptions and four touchdowns last season. The running game should be solid, with Ty Chandler and Tim Jordan running behind a line that has made steady progress over the past two years and returns seven players with starting experience. The strength of the defense is the secondary, where three of four starters return.
Possible problem areas: The Vols are scary thin on the defensive line and at outside linebacker. If injuries hit in those two areas, the UT defense could be in for a long, difficult season. Another question mark concerns standout offensive lineman Trey Smith, who has dealing with blood clot issues. It is still uncertain whether he will be able to play this season.
The schedule: The Vols have a challenging early non-conference game against BYU in the second contest and two weeks later dive into SEC play at Florida. It’s a tough schedule throughout. Georgia, Mississippi State and South Carolina come to Knoxville, but the Vols have a difficult road schedule with games at Alabama, Kentucky and Missouri.
Quotable: “When I was growing up, Tennessee was one of the premier programs in the country, and that’s still the expectation of the fans, everybody associated with the athletic department, our coaching staff and our players. We have a plan as a staff. We’ve got to execute the plan. Our players, they believe in our vision and the kids that we’re recruiting. And it takes a lot that goes into it, and we’re continuing to work on our plan.” — Jeremy Pruitt