There’s no question that Tennessee Volunteer fans will be looking for wins this year, but based on the records of the non conference opponents coming Neyland Stadium this fall, those wins may not generate much excitement.
Tennessee faces ETSU, UTEP and Charlotte at home. Those teams had a combined 5-29 record last year with UTEP going winless and Charlotte garnering one victory. Those teams are ranked 125 and 129 respectively entering this year on a list of 129 Football Subdivision teams. ETSU and Charlotte have both recently restarted their football programs.
The Charlotte 49ers are in their sixth season for football. All have been under head coach Brad Lambert (17-41).
Lambert has a new offensive coordinator in Shane Montgomery, hoping to bolster a squad that scored only 14 points or less in seven games last season. The 49ers were last in nearly all significant offensive categories in 2017.
Miami Hurricane grad transfer quarterback Evan Sheriffs could revive an offense that will probably adopt a pro-style. Starter Hasaan Klugh returns but his strength is running the ball. He threw 13 interceptions last year.
Sheriffs may target 6-3 Buffalo transfer Tyler Ringwood in the passing game. The 49ers need to put longer drives together and convert a higher third down percentage. Running back Benny LaMay is back with six other starters including 6-3, 311 pound guard Nick Davis. The running game produced only four touchdowns last year.
Like the offense, the defense was last in Conference USA in 2017. New defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer is counting on returning safeties Ben DeLuca and Ed Rolle to shore up a defense that gave up nearly 250 passing yards per game.
Returning linebackers Juwan Fogge and Jeff Gemmell, along with hybrid LB/DE Tyriq Harris, lead a squad that has all 11 starters back. 301 pounder Timmy Horne anchors the line.
Charlotte travels to Knoxville to face the Volunteers November 3.