Tennessee Football Preview
Tennessee had a rough start to their season last year and even though they got a lot of criticism for it, they started to turn things around at the end of the year. Going into 2020 the Volunteers will be looking to get on a hot streak to start the year and carry that momentum in a year where that could be more important than ever with the season looking so much different. Head coach Jeremy Pruitt has done a nice job recruiting lately and has a lot of new faces in 2020.
Jarrett Guarantano is back for his 5th year. Guarantano has had an up and down career for Tennessee but brings senior leadership to a program that will desperately need it. Guarantano has some intriguing skills but has dug himself into a hole when it comes to his draft stock. Brian Maurer will be the backup again this season.
Ty Chandler has been a key contributor since he was a freshman and a big-time recruit. He hasn’t flashed enough though to make him a high-end RB in the conference. He will be relied on heavily in the run game along with Eric Gray, a sophomore back who saw time last year as well.
The receiving corps in Knoxville will look a lot different after the loss of Jauan Jennings and Marquez Callaway. Josh Palmer is back after being second on the team in receptions. Palmer will be looked at as a late round guy who could elevate his stock now being the number one guy. Look for USC transfer, Velus Jones Jr. to be a big contributor as well.
The tight end room for Tennessee is fairly well structured, especially compared to a lot of other units in the conference. With the loss of Dominick Wood-Anderson, they’ll be looking for Austin Pope and Princeton Fant to step up. Pope and Fant have both been around the program for some time now and will be comfortable with the system.
It’s no secret that Tennessee has one of the best offensive lines in the country. This is a group with the perfect blend of experience and upside amongst the unit. Trey Smith is back at guard and would’ve likely been the first guard taken if he were to declare for this past draft. Cade Mays transfers in from Georgia to play the other guard spot and will be on the radar of NFL teams as well. Brandon Kennedy from Alabama will come in and start at center for the Vols. Wanya Morris and Darnell Wright were both highly recruited tackles that will round out a dominant offensive line.
The SEC has proven to bring in a lot of defensive line talent and Tennessee follows that trend. Darel Middleton, Greg Emerson, and Aubrey Solomon are all two gap players along the front that will be huge in Pruitt’s defense. Matthew Butler and Emmitt Gooden will also be in the mix on the interior. Deandre Johnson will be the lead rusher this season as he will be a senior.
Daniel Bituli was the heart and soul of the Vols defense last year at linebacker. Henry To’o To’o is back though after leading the team in tackles as a freshman. He is someone to keep an eye on in the future. Quavaris Crouch and Kivon Bennett will also see a lot of time at the linebacker spots in Knoxville.
Shawn Shamburger returns as a senior DB and will be playing that nickel/overhang role for the Vols. Shamburger, despite having a smaller frame, is a physical defensive back that should get more national attention. Alontae Taylor is the highlighted name in the secondary because he’s the best coverage corner. He’ll be back for his junior year and is now eligible for the draft. Bryce Thompson also returns at CB after hauling in 3 interceptions this past season. Trevon Flowers and Jaylen McCollough will get the first crack at the safety spots even though they’re not experienced at this point.