By Alex Norman
Before you read this article let’s get one thing straight. You don’t know how Tennessee is going to perform this season, and I don’t know how Tennessee is going to perform this season. Any season preview article is, at best, an educated guess into what the next few months will hold for the Volunteers.
So if you are looking for some exclusive inside information that will allow you to wow your friends at the bowling alley and give you enough confidence to bet the mortgage on the over/under for Tennessee wins, you should skip the next few hundred words. (By the way, this coaching staff is allowed to speak publicly once a millennium and leaks from the football complex are rare due to head coach Jeremy Pruitt’s authoritarian ways… so anyone that tells you that they have the scoop on this program is lying.)
That all said… Tennessee will be better this year than in 2018 thanks in part to some key additions to the coaching staff. Having Jim Chaney as offensive coordinator, Derrick Ansley as defensive coordinator, and Tee Martin as assistant head coach, passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach will be a big boost for this roster. All of those coaches know how to develop talent. This team should be disciplined once again. Now, the playmakers should get more opportunities to flourish.
“They pay me to run an offense and do the best I can,” said Chaney. “I get caught up in my own job and putting our kids in the best situation to be successful. I think it’s a process… Let’s go out and get better every day and see where it lies at the end of the day… I am here and I’m excited to be here. We’ll see what happens.”
“The guys are a year older in scheme,” said Ansley. “Going through the spring and having acclimated practices in the summer, you can also get around and develop them a little bit more. I think the familiarity with the scheme and the coaching staff kind of helps guys calm down, take a deep breath and see things a little bit clearer.”
“I never thought I was going to come back and coach here,” said Martin, who of course was the starting quarterback for the 1998 SEC and BCS national champion Volunteers. “The way it worked out and the timing of it was great. I am just as excited to get started as our fanbase is… It’s time to go. We had a really good offseason. I’ve been talking to them and they were all here for the summer, everyone is excited and ready to go.”
As far as the on field talent, Jarrett Guarantano is back for his redshirt junior season. He took a battering in 2018, and was knocked out of multiple games. His development, and perhaps most importantly the development of the Tennessee offensive line, will go a long way towards finding out if this team will be playing in a bowl game this winter.
“You look at these guys (the offensive line), and when they walk into a room, whether they’ve been here for a year, two years, three years, you can see how their bodies have changed in a positive way,” said Pruitt. “We’ve got guys that have experience and that have played in a lot of games. We’ve got guys that are new on the campus and they’re looking for the opportunity to play. We have competition in the room. We have smart guys that demonstrated to me in the spring some physical toughness or some physicality… I’m excited about the group.”
Wide receiver Marquez Callaway reportedly ran a 4.4 40 this off season. If Chaney can find a way to get him the football, it will mean big things for the Volunteers offense.
Senior linebackers Daniel Bituli and Darrell Taylor are two of the leaders counted on for this Tennessee defense. Look for sophomore Alontae Taylor and senior Nigel Warrior to play at a postseason award levels in the Volunteers secondary. The loss for the year of defensive lineman Emmit Gooden to a knee injury will be one the Vols must work past this season.
Tennessee starts the 2019 next Saturday (August 31) against Georgia State. The game will kickoff at 3:30 p.m. at Neyland Stadium.