Before we kick off the 2018 season, we’re going to make some over/under predictions and re-visit at the end of the season and see how we did.
Jarrett Guarantano passing yards — 2,000
Conner: Over. I think Guarantano ends up as Tennessee’s starting quarterback and throws for 2,300 yards in 2018.
Terry: Over. Every indication we’ve gotten to this point tells us Guarantano will be the guy under center for Tennessee. I’m betting we won’t see a prominent air attack this season, but with weapons like Jauan Jennings and Marquez Callaway, JG can get over the 2,000 yard hump.
Noah: Over. I’ve liked the odds of Guarantano being named the starter since his spring game performance, and while Chryst wasn’t yet on campus at the time, Guarantano looked like QB 1 on the field. I particularly like the receiving corps that he will get to work with in 2018, especially with Jauan Jennings healthy. Late last season and in the spring game, it was also clear that Guaranatno to Marquez Callaway has the potential to be a deadly tandem.
Evan: Over. At this point, we are still unsure how the coaching staff really feels about Guarantano. They could rotate as many as four to five backs this season, which will benefit Guarantano if they find success on the ground, but will also limit his numbers. He only has to average 166 ypg to get to 2,000 through twelve games. If he can’t do that, then he is not the answer at quarterback. As long as he stays healthy and doesn’t get benched, Guarantano will eclipse this number.
Austin: Under. Last season Guarantano totaled 997 yards passing despite appearing in 9 of Tennessee’s 12 games. Granted, some of those appearances were late game situations where he had minimal passing attempts. Also, the offensive line should be much improved this season, as will the scheme. But I’m not sure it will be enough to more than double his passing output from a season ago. I think Guarantano still has a lot to prove in terms of his accuracy, and he faces an intense QB battle just to win the starting job in the first place.
Jauan Jennings receiving yards — 800
Conner: Under. Tennessee has another great wideout in Marquez Callaway, who will take catches away from Jennings.
Terry: Under. As excited as I am to watch Jennings get to work again, I just don’t know if he’s in a spot to put up numbers. I think Marquez is a more dynamic threat and will rake in more of the downfield targets. Jennings should be able to make a difference in the redzone, however.
Noah: Under. While I think Jennings will be a threat all season, I think Callaway will get more looks, and rightfully so. A lot of it also depends on Jenning’s availability after missing all of last season and the spring with injury. He’s also been sidelined through some of fall camp, which has helped strengthened the Guarantano-Callaway connection, I’m sure.
Evan: Under. The Vols’ passing game won’t be the strength of this offense and with other targets such as Marquez Callaway, DWA, Ty Chandler, and younger receivers like Brandon Johnson and Josh Palmer - I don’t see Jennings going over 800 receiving yards.
Austin: Under. Marquez Callaway is a stud, and Brandon Johnson is an emerging star. Plus athletic JUCO transfer tight end Dominick Wood-Anderson looks to be a huge weapon in the passing game. Simply, Tennessee has depth in the pass-catcher department, and all players will get their touches. Tyson Helton has shown on previous coaching stops an ability to spread the ball around very well. Jennings may not get to 800 yards receiving, but he may not have to for the Vols to be successful through the air.
Jonathan Kongbo sacks — 3.5
Conner: Over. Kongbo has to finally have his breakout year for the Vols’ defense to succeed.
Terry: Over, but I’m not real confident in this one. Somebody on the edge has to get some sacks, right? It might as well be Kongbo. Hopefully a new staff can make the difference for him. Surely he can get to four sacks.
Noah: Over, but like my colleagues, I’m a little hesitant in this prediction. While he has woefully underperformed during his time at Tennessee, I think having a defensive-minded staff can go a long way in helping him have the breakout season that everyone has been waiting for.
Evan: Under. My faith in Kongbo is gone. I expect Tennessee to find pressure elsewhere.
Austin: Over. Jonathan Kongbo was born to rush the quarterback. This season he is finally in a scheme and playing for a coaching staff who will be able to maximize his strengths and put him in positions to be successful.
Ty Chandler rushing yards — 550
Conner: Over. Even with several other options at running back, Chandler will establish himself as the No. 1 back and have a good season.
Terry: Under. Tim Jordan got a lot of work with the first team offense in the spring, now Madre London steps into the picture. This staff has proven to love bigger backs who can withstand the grind and Chandler doesn’t exactly fit that bill. I think he’s going to be a dynamic weapon for the Vols, but I’m not sure he’s going to be used as much as most people think.
Noah: Under. One of the few bright spots of the Butch Jones era was the running back position. Though under used, most of the time they performed well when given the opportunity, and as a freshman, Chandler showed flashes in 2017. Last season it was John Kelly who carried the load with Chandler in the No. 2 spot and Carlin Fils-amie-who is now at defensive back-behind Chandler. I think the backfield is more stacked this season with Tim Jordan, Madre London and freshman Jeremy Banks.
Evan: Under. I LOVE Chandler, but like Jennings, there are just too many mouths to feed in the backfield. Tim Jordan looked phenomenal in the spring game and grad-transfer Madre London should factor in heavily as well. Chandler may be utilized more in the passing game and the return game as well.
Austin: Under. In all of Tyson Helton’s seasons as an offensive coordinator (or, technically “passing game coordinator” at USC) he has never had more than two running backs eclipse the 500 yard mark in the same season. At this time I can see Madre London and Tim Jordan getting the bulk of the carries at the running back position. I still think Helton will find many creative ways to get Chandler the ball and utilize his athleticism effectively, but I think he’ll fall short of the 550-yard mark.
SEC wins — 2.5
Conner: Over. Tennessee beats Florida, Kentucky and Vanderbilt.
Terry: Over. This team had talent when Pruitt arrived and he’s already plugged up some trouble spots on the roster. A culture change and a return to a conventional offense is exactly what this program needed. I think they find a way to beat three conference opponents (Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Missouri — maybe Florida or South Carolina).
Noah: Over. Tennessee will win the games they should and pull an upset here and there. They get Florida, Missouri and Kentucky at home, and I believe they can win two out of three in those match ups, plus a win over Vanderbilt to cap off the season.
Evan: Under. This is tough, especially for a team that went 0-8 in the SEC last season. Without J.J. Peterson fully in the mix, the Vols return essentially the same defense from a season ago minus experienced players at corner. Plus, learning a whole system will feature some major growing pains. I think they get by Kentucky and Vandy, but Florida is always a toss up. The biggest chance for an upset is South Carolina, but that will remain to be seen.
Austin: Over. This essentially hinges on the Florida game. The Vols will have an electric home field advantage, and will catch Florida early enough in the season that they may not yet realize that Emory Jones is the best quarterback on their roster for what Coach Mullen wants to do.
Wins — 5.5
Conner: Over. I think Tennessee wins six games and gets back to a bowl game.
Terry: Over. Maybe it’s just that time of year where the optimism kicks in, but I’m feeling decent about this group. They may have a rough start, but I think they can string some wins together in November. Six is still the goal and I feel comfortable that they can get to that number.
Noah: Over. Last season was historically bad for Tennessee, but it shouldn’t have been that bad. I think six wins is a real possibility, and the Vols can get things started in week one in what I strongly believe is a winnable game against West Virginia. Figure that in with the non-conference games against UTEP, ETSU and Charlotte, plus two or three SEC wins and you have six wins right there. A bowl game after a 4-8 campaign in 2017 would be a huge turnaround.
Evan: Over. I think the Vols get past West Virginia, their cupcakes, and the two SEC teams I mentioned earlier. They have a chance to upset a couple of teams, but will fall short in the end. Six games is a great launching point for this staff and the extra bowl practices will get this team geared up for 2019.
Austin: Over. This is a team that will get better and better each week as the season progresses and players get game reps in the new systems both offensively and defensively. I think if they can stay relatively healthy through the gauntlet of Georgia, Auburn, and Alabama they have a very realistic shot at winning 7 regular season games, plus their bowl. Doubling their win total from last season in year-one with a new coach is something I think all Vols fans would sign up for.