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Athlon Sports previews the 2018 Tennessee Volunteers, projects a 6th place finish in SEC East

Athlon takes on Tennessee.

NCAA Football: Tennessee at Georgia Tech Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Athlon Sports is in the middle of their preview of the entire college football landscape. Earlier this week, they took on the Tennessee Volunteers. The prediction? Not so great. The sports media outlet believes that the Vols will finish 6th in the SEC East, just one spot higher than they did in 2017.

That’s at least progress, right? Here’s what Athlon had to say.

Tennessee doesn’t have much margin for error, particularly with a challenging schedule that opens with offensive juggernaut West Virginia. The Vols plan to be efficient with a low-risk offense, mindful of turnovers while featuring aggressive blitz packages and coverage schemes. Pruitt hopes that recipe is good enough to produce (at least) six wins in Year 1.

Athlon cited an unsettled quarterback situation, an inexperienced offensive line, a “porous” pass rush and inexperience at cornerback as their reasons for Tennessee’s 6th place projection—and it’s hard to disagree with any of them.

Each of those are big question marks heading into the season with no clear answer on the horizon. Tyson Helton and the rest of the offense certainly hopes that Keller Chryst can bring some sort of stability to the quarterback position. That alone would go a long way. Adding back Chance Hall and Trey Smith should bring some pop back to the offensive line, though the pieces around those two are still very much in question.

We’ve talked at length about the question marks surround the secondary, particularly the cornerback spot. That’s a position that could give Tennessee fits, especially facing Will Grier and West Virginia in week one.

It wasn’t all negative, though. Athlon praised the Tennessee receivers, especially the return of Jauan Jennings. They singled out JUCO tight end Dominick Wood-Anderson as one to watch, too.

The return of playmaker Jauan Jennings gives the receiving corps a boost. Jennings suffered a season-ending broken wrist in the 2017 opener. Brandon Johnson and Marquez Callaway are sleek targets who will complement Jennings on the perimeter. Dominick Wood-Anderson, the top-ranked junior college tight end, could create matchup problems.

Jeremy Pruitt certainly has his work cut out for him in year one. As Tennessee fans, all we can do is hope for steady growth throughout the year. Showing at least somewhat of a pulse will go a long way towards 2019, particularly helping out in the recruiting realm.

Once again, just getting to a bowl game would be an excellent first step in a clear rebuilding year for Tennessee.