After a long, hard winter - which was even harder to handle after an abysmal football season - Vols fans are excited to finally get out and catch a glimpse of the 2018 Tennessee Volunteers.
There have been plenty of offseason stories to come out of Knoxville, ranging from quarterback transfers to position changes. While much of the 2017 roster is still intact, there are plenty of new faces that could make an immediate impact this season - including both coaches and players.
Some of these new guys are looking to make their way into the starting lineup come fall and today is just one of the many stepping stones taken to reach that goal.
So who are the players to watch? Who will step up and make some plays? We will officially find out around 2PM E.T., but until then, here are a few things to keep an eye on during today’s game.
Redshirt sophomore Jarrett Guarantano finished out 2017 as the starter, but there was plenty left to be desired from the former four-star recruit.
Guarantano was slow in his reads and decision making, struggled with the deep ball, and didn’t use his legs to the extent that was expected from the number-one dual threat quarterback in the 2016 class.
He didn’t register a touchdown pass until his penultimate start of the season against LSU. Sure, he threw one in garbage time during the Indiana State game, but no one cares about that.
The Vols averaged just a bit over 16 points per game with Guarantano at the helm. One could argue that poor offensive line play and a severe lack of talent at the wide receiver position(s) didn’t help. In the end though, Guarantano has to find ways to make more plays on the field.
Guarantano will square off against Will McBride today, but expect him to be pushed by Keller Chryst, the Stanford grad transfer later in the year.
Obviously the quarterback position is a huge deal, but the most interesting development of the offseason has been Pruitt’s decisions to move multiple players around the roster.
Former running back Carlin Fils-Aime is now in the defensive backfield. Junior Tyler Byrd has been everywhere - from wide receiver, to cornerback, to safety, and now back to wide receiver.
The most surprising moves, however, are with Pruitt’s newcomers. 2018 recruits Alontae Taylor and Greg Emerson - two players that were deemed integral pieces of the most recent class - have completely swapped sides of the field. Taylor is at cornerback while Emerson is playing offensive line.
Depth concerns at the offensive line have helped shed a light on the Emerson move a bit, but taking a speedster like Taylor out of the receiving corps is a bit of mystery. Especially when the incumbents struggled to produce for much of last year.
It will be very exciting and interesting to see how these changes affect the team as a whole and we will get a good idea of that today.
Pruitt’s Coaching Style/Strategies
This one is the biggest enigma of them all. No one has really gotten a glimpse into Pruitt’s coaching style nor his strategies, other than what has been provided at the podium. It makes sense for Pruitt to be tight-lipped about his roster and honestly, it’s quite refreshing to see him avoid inflating the program like Butch Jones did.
At the same time though, if things go wrong, leaving people in the dark usually isn't the way to handle things. Your Sabans and Meyers can spout off and be as rough as they want, but your newbies like Pruitt may have to tread more carefully in the beginning.
Today marks the first sample of how he will run the program and what to look forward to this season.
Regardless, his approach should rub off on players and toughen up the roster as a whole.
The New Scoring System
This one isn’t as near as crucial, but it’s nice to see all memory/semblance of the Butch Jones era completely wiped off of the mountain top.
Gone is the convoluted scoring system, mini-drills, and whatever else assisted in the clown show that was once ran in Knoxville.
That’s all I have for this one, I just wanted to reiterate one last time how happy I am that Jones is gone for good.
What will you watch for today?
This poll is closed
How the position changes affect the team
Pruitt’s coaching style
Offensive line play
The new recruits