It’s game No. 3 of the 2019 season and the Tennessee Volunteers are still winless. I’m not sure anyone saw that coming. The entire complexion of this year has changed, so what can we learn in a game against FCS Chattanooga? With this team, plenty. Here are a few things Tennessee needs to iron out against the Mocs.
1. First and foremost, win the game.
This is where we’re at. Sitting at 0-2, nothing is a given anymore — not even Chattanooga. There are no cupcakes. Every next game has become the biggest game of the season. So yeah, first and foremost, Tennessee has to establish a lead here and put the Mocs away — something that they were unable to do in the first two weeks.
2. Play Brian Maurer and JT Shrout.
Jarrett Guarantano is struggling, but he’s probably the best option that Jeremy Pruitt has right now. But Guarantano has held the offense back so much through two weeks that Pruitt would be crazy not to get the other two quarterbacks some playing time — if for nothing more than to settle the backup quarterback spot. Both guys are lacking experience and we don’t really know what the Vols have in them. As long as the game is in hand, why not give them each some time?
Nobody is realistically expecting either guy to go out and blow the coaching staff away enough to win the job from Guarantano, but why not take a look?
For what it’s worth, Jeremy Pruitt reiterated that Guarantano was his starting quarterback this week, as expected.
3. Settle the offensive line rotation.
Jeremy Pruitt wasn’t lying when he told the media that he was going to play as many as ten offensive linemen. Through two weeks, that’s exactly what he’s done. But by now, it would seem like the coaching staff would know who is standing out. Can we narrow this rotation down to seven? How about six?
The curveball here is the status of Trey Smith, who is head and shoulders above the rest, but is being monitored closely due to his history with blood clots. Naturally, you’ll have to rotate him in and out, unless he’s relieved of his pitch count going forward.
It’s important to narrow this competition down a bit though to build some chemistry ahead of SEC play. I’m not sure you want to roll into The Swamp rotating offensive linemen in and out during or after drives.
4. Continue to get Quavaris Crouch and Roman Harrison up to speed.
Henry To’o To’o got all of the headlines on Saturday night against BYU, but Crouch flashed a little bit too defensively. He made a couple of early plays getting after Zach Wilson, forcing pressure and ending a couple of drives. Tennessee is still looking for an edge presence opposite of Darrell Taylor — could one of these two freshmen be the immediate answer? In what already seems like a lost season, why not get these young guys out here and develop them for a full game?
Both guys saw a lot more playing time against BYU, so let’s keep that going against the Mocs.
5. Establish some depth
What happens if Alontae Taylor or Warren Burrell goes down? What about To’o To’o? What about Aubrey Solomon or Greg Emerson?
We’ve seen the starters have huge issues getting lined up defensively, so we can only imagine what would happen if some more inexperience was forced into action off of the bench.
Similarly, Pruitt has talked about his lack of depth at running back. Tennessee has a clear top three in the rotation, but what comes after Tim Jordan?
Getting all of these guys some game reps may prove to be valuable come late October or November. With the NCAA’s redshirt rule now allowing players to appear in four games, you might as well take advantage.