Everyone has an opinion on the Volunteers. Many hate them, in fact, most probably hate them. They have arguably the largest online presence of any fan base, and that doesn’t help. But they have consistently had some of the best teams in CFB history and when they’re down, they’re not down for long. And while last season had one of the worst starts in Vol history, it appears a massive rebound is exactly what’s coming next. Here’s why we’re making that prediction:
For starters, the Volunteers return their entire Defensive Line. The team will miss Darrell Taylor, but have signees Tyler Baron and Morven Joseph coming in. Pruitt’s defense has been consistently getting more cohesive and effective, and 2020 may be their greatest improvement yet with the amount of returning talent. Cornerbacks Bryce Thompson, Alontae Taylor and Shawn Shamburger will surely be feasting downfield. It became clear how vital Thompson was when the defense got significantly better following his return from suspension. Shamburger should also provide leadership to the ‘backs group in his senior year. Tennessee is adding promising recruits to an extremely experienced defense; they should have one of the Top 25 defenses in the country barring any major injuries.
Jarrett Guarantano didn’t have the best 2019 season. There were some shining moments of potential, but the terrible start to the season as well as glaring inconsistency made him out to be one of the worst QBs in the SEC. However, with the 2020 season comes a new opportunity, and Guarantano is up for it. He announced he had “unfinished business,” and a second year under experienced OC Jim Chaney should help Guarantano iron out the wrinkles. As an added bonus, touted recruit Harrison Bailey is waiting in the wings. He can watch and learn from Guarantano, and if things don’t pan out well, be ready to replace him. Either way, the QB will be protected because…
O Line Improvement
Pruitt and Chaney have worked year round to improve the Vol O Line over the last two years, and it’s paid off. Furthermore, *all five* starting O Linemen are returning. This should do wonders for chemistry and consistency, especially since last year’s squad already saw great improvement by the end of the season. Trey Smith, who made the All-SEC first team last season, will lead this group. Guarantano will have a comfortable pocket.
Any Vol that’s been paying close attention should be thrilled with what Pruitt’s built so far. Sure, a 13-12 record doesn’t look stellar on paper, but the improvement over the last two years has been notable. Last season certainly had a rocky start, but the Vols comeback, six game winning streak and Gator Bowl win over a strong Indiana team perhaps show Pruitt’s coaching strength more than anything. The Volunteers really figured things out in the second half of the season, and you have to give Coach Pruitt credit. He’s clearly built a culture down there, and something tells me we’re just starting to see the benefits of this. We’ll see if Pruitt can be the first of Saban’s former assistants to take him down.