SBNation’s own Bill Connelly is back with his first look at 2018 as a whole. You probably know Bill’s work already as we’ve utilized his advanced statistics quite a bit on this site. Today, Connelly released his 2018 projections, which blend recent history, recruiting and returning production.
The results for Tennessee — which you could have guessed — were not all that kind. Tennessee is projected to finish 79th in the FBS, checking in just behind Troy and Utah State. Ouch. Vanderbilt was ranked 75th, for reference. The Volunteers were the last of all the SEC teams.
What killed their projection the most was returning production, where they check in at 115th. The Vols lost four contributors at cornerback in Rashaan Gaulden, Justin Martin, Emmanuel Moseley and Shaq Wiggins. They lost starting running back John Kelly to the NFL Draft. Jashon Robertson, Coleman Thomas and Brett Kendrick have all moved on from the offensive line.
To be fair, there wasn’t a lot of “production” to replace as Tennessee struggled in just about every phase of the game in 2017, but still. New faces paired with new schemes create plenty of unknown.
Tennessee’s recruiting impact was ranked 21st, which was averaged out over the past two years. Jeremy Pruitt came away with the 20th ranked recruiting class during the 2018 cycle, according to 247 Sports.
So, nothing too earth-shattering here. I think we’re all expecting a bit of a bumpy road in 2018 as Jeremy Pruitt and his staff try to drag Tennessee out of the basement of the SEC. The Volunteers have to find an answer at quarterback, find a new offensive line combination, find a consistent pass rush along with essentially replacing the entire cornerback depth chart. All of this while installing a new offensive and defensive system.
While we all want to win now, expectations should be held in check over the summer months. Getting to a bowl game should remain the ultimate goal for this football program in 2018.