The main storyline of Saturday night’s Orange and White Game will undoubtedly be Jim Chaney’s new offense. The veteran SEC play-caller was hired to replace Tyson Helton, who left to accept the Western Kentucky head coaching job.
Tennessee’s offense was, well, a disaster for the better part of 2018. Offensive line issues were the main reason for those struggles, but inconsistencies across the board — coaching staff included — contributed to the cause.
A new direction in year two should provide a similar looking system, but hopefully much better results. According to Jeremy Pruitt, Tennessee still need more consistency, but there’s plenty of reason for optimism.
“We’ve been more consistent running the football,” Pruitt said on Tuesday afternoon. “We have less mental errors than we did this time last year. I think we’re bigger, stronger, we can push a little more. We have to get more consistent in doing that. We’ve eliminated penalties, converted third downs, handled the four-minute situation.”
At this point last year, Pruitt was just trying to figure out what he had on the roster. A position change was made seemingly every day, while he didn’t even have enough bodies on the offensive line to rotate in a new five man group. That’s all changed now, thanks to a couple of strong recruiting classes.
“We have some guys who have playmaking ability on the offensive side that have some experience,” Pruitt said. “And putting in a new system, I think it’s been relatively easy for the guys. Just watching from afar, looking at it, you couldn’t tell that it’s a new system.”
That’s been the common phrase out of Tennessee camp. Stylistically, the offense is going to look very similar to what you saw last year. There’s likely plenty of terminology, but it’s probably a plus for Jarrett Guarantano that he doesn’t have to go through a radical change again.
Pruitt wasn’t all sunshine and roses on Tuesday, of course. He pointed to some inconsistencies that he’s noticed from the offense that he would like to see cleaned up during the final week of the spring.
“Still have occasionally a bad snap or two, really have to improve in that standpoint,” Pruitt noted. “Still didn’t create as many explosive plays as we would like. Too many negative plays, whether it’s in the run game or sacks and just not finishing, whether it’s out on the perimeter, whether it’s up front, in the run game, the pass game, just finishing blocks. You have to be able to finish.”
It’s worth mentioning that what you see from the offense on Saturday won’t be the final product. The Vols will add five-star tackle Darnell Wright into the fold this fall, while they seem cautiously optimistic about the return of Trey Smith. Still, without those two pieces in place, it will be interesting to see if the other offensive line pieces have improved. It will also be our first look at five-star tackle Wanya Morris and four-star receiver Ramel Keyton. Of course, above all else, it’s our first look at Jarrett Guarantano in yet another new offense.
You can catch the Orange and White Game live on SEC Network at 6 p.m. ET. Or you can always attend the game at Neyland Stadium for free.