Can you feel it? Tennessee football is almost here. Soon we will have SEC Media Days. Then practice. Then the season opener versus West Virginia in Charlotte on September 1st.
Yes folks… our long national nightmare is almost over.
So, I thought it’d be a good time to take a look at the 2018 Tennessee Volunteers. This article will focus on the offense, with a future article on the defense.
The Vols offense was… well… not good in 2017. They went over 14 quarters without putting the football in the end zone, and ranked 124th out of 129 FBS teams.
The big question on Rocky Top concerns the quarterback position. Quinten Dormady transferred to Houston, leaving only two scholarship signal callers on the roster: redshirt sophomore Jarrett Guarantano and sophomore Will McBride. New Vols head coach Jeremy Pruitt and offensive coordinator Tyson Helton weren’t satisfied with those options, which led to the acquisition of former Stanford quarterback Keller Chryst, who comes to Knoxville as a grad transfer.
The starting quarterback competition will come down to Guarantano and Chryst, who arrived at Tennessee last month. Guarantano looked good at times this spring, but by no means was he so impressive that the case was closed. We may not know who gets the call between those guys until game week leading up to the Mountaineers matchup.
Incoming freshman J.T. Shrout and McBride will fight for that third spot on the depth chart, but don’t discount those guys. In three of the past five seasons, the Vols have had to start a third stringer due to inquiries.
At wide receiver, the Vols have what is potentially the top one-two punch in the SEC with junior Marquez Callaway and redshirt junior Jauan Jennings. Callaway started ten games last year, leading the Vols with five touchdown grabs, with a total of 24 receptions. He should be the Vols go to guy in the red zone. His 6-2 frame and leaping ability make him a matchup nightmare for defensive backs.
Jennings has NFL-level talent, but an injury and controversy-plagued 2017 was damaging to his reputation. His catches against Florida and Georgia in 2016 give his a special place in Tennessee football history, and he could build on his resume with a solid 2018. Jennings only played in the first half of the season opener in 2017.
In addition to the Callaway/Jennings combo, juniors Brandon Johnson (tied for team high with 37 catches in 2017) and Tyler Byrd will hopefully get their share of looks, especially Byrd. Butch Jones could never quite figure out what to do with Byrd, one of the Vols most athletic players. Sophomores Latrell Williams and Jordan Palmer will also be in the mix.
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