Grading on the curve

With most coaches, we talk about a second-year bounce if they know what they’re doing, but considering that Jeremy Pruitt’s second season started out 1-4, with losses at home to Georgia Southern State and BYU, and finished with a six-game winning streak against a bunch that included a Sun Belt squad and two P5 schools that played in minor bowl games, it appears the media is willing to give the man a mulligan.

SEC: Tennessee

Odds to win SEC Championship: +10000

Why it’s undervalued: The SEC East has been the Florida-Georgia show as of late. The Bulldogs and Gators have won the last five divisional titles, all while Tennessee has either fallen short or been in rebuild mode. With Florida and Georgia being the favorites out of the East in 2020, don’t overlook Tennessee as a longshot. Whereas Kentucky has overachieved in the past two seasons — a credit to coach Mark Stoops — Tennessee is still looking for its breakout.

Reason for optimism: The talent Coach Jeremy Pruitt has stockpiled is impressive. The Vols have a legit offensive line with a nice mix of proven veterans and young but promising tackles (Wanya Morris and Darnell Wright were SEC All-Freshman selections). The quarterback room is led by Jarrett Guarantano who, despite his ups and downs, has been good enough but there’s more upside behind him with blue-chip freshman Harrison Bailey. If there’s a Year 3 jump, it’s in part because of the guys Pruitt has recruited.

Question mark: Who’s going to be the breakout star? Top receivers Jauan Jennings and Marquez Callaway are gone so there’s a lot of room for a freshman or sophomore to fill the void — and the Vols have a bevy of talent waiting in the wings. Also, can sophomore running back Eric Gray take the next step after a strong finish to last season? There are a lot of possibilities for this offense.

Schedule: It’s hard — the early-season trip to Oklahoma sets the tone — but there are opportunities for the Vols to be a CHAOS TEAM in SEC play. Florida, Missouri, Kentucky and Alabama all come to Knoxville. If Pruitt improves upon last year’s seven-win regular season with Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Oklahoma on the schedule — all four could be vying for playoff spots at the end of the season — that will say a lot about the direction of the program.

I count two “if”s and one “a lot of possibilities” in four paragraphs.  In particular, the “if” in that last sentence is doing some heavy, heavy lifting.  Eh, if it doesn’t work out, that just puts the fourth-year bounce in play.

13 Comments

Filed under Because Nothing Sucks Like A Big Orange

13 responses to “Grading on the curve

  1. DugLite

    Senator please don’t make that loss look better for UT. It was Ga State not Ga Southern.

    Like

  2. Ran A

    The writer spent less than an hour on this – pulling information from other articles and wrote this. If you really want to talk about where UT sits, you start with ‘The Vols’ haven’t won the East since 2007. Mentioning UF and the last 5, how about the last 10? USC jr. – 1, Missouri -2, UF -2 – UGA – 5.

    Look at the guy’s resume. Any of y’all looking for a good part-time job?

    Liked by 2 people

  3. spur21

    Just want the Vols to beat FU – beat them bigly.

    Like

    • The other Doug

      Saban and Smart have the kryptonite for Mullen’s offense, so Pruitt might be able to stuff the gators.

      Like

  4. SouthernYank

    Guarantano is garbage, so they’re going to run and play defense. And if he’s as bad as I know him to be, Bailey will be the starter by week 5.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. PTC DAWG

    Maybe Mullen can topple them in Atlanta…

    I keed, I keed.

    Like

  6. I don’t see it. There is a strong correlation between returning receiver production and how effective an offense will be the following year. Tennessee has 28.1% of receiving yards back from WRs and 11.2% of receiving yards returning from TEs. QB play was not great in 2019, but it will magically improve with a new group of WRs/TEs and no spring? They return all of Jarrett Guarantano’s production, so they’ve got that going for them… which is nice.

    The defense could be good, but they were 5th in the SEC East in yards per game and points per game in 2019 (4th in yards per play). The offense was 6th in the divison in ypg, 5th in ppg. They managed a third place finish, but I think that has more to do with how bad the division was than portend a return to prominence. I see 8-5 and fighting off Kentucky and South Carolina for 3rd in the division again. Speaking of Kentucky, they have a lot of upperclassmen in starting roles this year. If Terry Wilson is healthy at QB and Joey Gatewood gets his waiver, they could be trouble in the East.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Normaltown Mike

      yeah, after last season where we experienced the struggles of no returning leaders at WR, I did a quick look at their stats and saw that they lost about 70% of their production. And the guy slinging it is bad on top of all that.

      But on the plus side, Georgia State and BYU aren’t on the home slate this year….

      Liked by 1 person

    • That’s how to color

      Like

    • Ran A

      They are going to have to run the ball. That’s a very talented line; if they can run – they will win some games. If they cannot; that team is in for another long year. Kentucky – completely agree. Keep saying it – watch out for Kentucky.

      Like

  7. practicaldawg

    Last year it seemed like Jennings was involved in every scoring play they had. I don’t see how they replace him (or do much without him).

    Like

  8. Rocketdawg

    I do think old Redneck Jirmy will eventually supplant Disco Dan as second fiddle in the SEC East. The man may be a world class asshole but he has shown that he can evaluate talent (at least defensively) and is a good X’s and O’s type of guy. Pruitt’s downfall will be keeping his pants on around coeds or pissing off the wrong booster (Haslem) with his temper/lack of people skills.

    Like