Jeremy Pruitt’s second year in Knoxville is off to a bumpy start. Unfortunately for him, it’s probably going to get a little worse before it can get better. Tennessee faces No. 3 Georgia on Saturday night at Neyland Stadium. Vegas has set the line of this one in the 20s, expecting things to get ugly in Knoxville this weekend.
“Probably the best Georgia team that I can ever remember at this point in time in the season,” Pruitt said on Monday. “Very complete on both sides of the ball.”
Georgia sits at 4-0 fresh off of an open date after a win against Notre Dame. The Bulldogs took care of Vanderbilt with ease during week one to move to a 1-0 start in conference play. Kirby Smart’s team ranks in the top 15 nationally in both total offense and defense, posing a massive threat to a Tennessee team that’s trying to find its way.
“It starts with Jake Fromm,” Pruitt said of the Georgia offense. “To me, he does as good a job as anybody in the country — and maybe as anybody I’ve ever coached against — as far as keeping their offense in positive situations. He takes care of the football, gets the ball out of his hand, controls protection, keeps them in positive run plays.”
Fromm hasn’t been spectacular this year by way of numbers, but he hasn’t had to be either. He’s making this offense tick with his remarkable efficiency, completing 75 percent of his passes so far this season. He’s added six touchdowns against zero interceptions and has been sacked exactly one time all year.
He meshes well with Georgia’s run first attack — one of the most potent in the country.
“They’ve got six or seven guys who play up front,” Pruitt said. “Very talented, big men. D’Andre Swift is as good as anybody in the country, a guy who can make you miss, catch a ball out of the backfield, got home-run ability. Brian Herrien, he’s another guy that’s played a lot of football there.”
Swift is averaging nearly eight yards per carry. His 49 carries leads the team so far this year, but it’s not a one man show. Brian Herrien averages over five yards per carry, while former five-star prospect Zamir White is over seven yards per carry.
Needless to say, Tennessee’s 66th ranked rush defense will be put to the test early and often on Saturday night.
Let’s face it — the Georgia offense is probably going to get theirs. It’s the Tennessee offense that needs to come to life and show a pulse this weekend. Jeremy Pruitt has opened the door for change by playing freshman quarterback Brian Maurer two weeks ago against Florida, but will he go back to Jarrett Guarantano this weekend? On Monday, he wasn’t interested in letting us know the plan.
Regardless of who the quarterback is, Tennessee will face the fifth-ranked rushing defense in the country when Georgia comes to town. Kirby Smart has this group looking an awful lot like an Alabama front seven these days.
“They’ve added several pass rushers in this past signing class that you see out there, but they’ve got lots of depth up front,” Pruitt said of Georgia’s defensive front. “They’re big, physical. They’ve done a nice job stopping the run, haven’t allowed a rushing touchdown this season. Creating much more negative plays probably than they have in the past.”
It’s another spot where Tennessee can’t afford to beat themselves. The final score didn’t come close to showing it, but the Volunteers had a chance to hang in that Florida game. But a Jauan Jennings drop and a Jarrett Guarantano interception killed any chance they had early on in the first half.
After and open date to try to sort out some of these issues, it will be fascinating to see if there’s any improvement on either side of the ball for the Volunteers.