As we head into the 2020 season, expect more people to take note of what the Tennessee Volunteers did at the end of the 2019 season. An 0-2 start turned into 1-4, but Tennessee lost just one more game from there. They ripped off six wins in a row to claw back to 8-5, opening some eyes along the way.
Today, the morning after LSU beat Clemson in the National Championship Game, Tennessee has appeared in ESPN’s way too early top 25. Jeremy Pruitt’s Vols checked in at No. 25 overall.
Here’s what Mark Schlabach had to say about the Volunteers.
There’s no question that the Volunteers are getting better under coach Jeremy Pruitt. The question heading into 2020 is how much have they closed the gap on SEC East rivals Florida and Georgia? Yes, the Vols won their last six games, including a come-from-behind, 23-22 victory over Indiana in the TaxSlayer Bowl. But the Volunteers also lost to the Bulldogs and Gators by an average of 30 points. Pruitt and his staff did a good job of keeping the ship afloat after opening the slate with stunning losses to Georgia State and BYU. UT still doesn’t have the overall talent and depth of its biggest rivals, but Pruitt is making up ground. He’ll have to decide whether rising sophomore Brian Maurer -- or even early enrollee Harrison Bailey -- is a better option at quarterback than Jarrett Guarantano. UT’s biggest deficiency is still in the trenches, but the return of guard Trey Smith and addition of former UGA offensive tackle Cade Mays will help. (ESPN)
Tennessee’s biggest deficiency certainly isn’t in the trenches anymore, it’s at the quarterback position. But as Schlabach mentioned, Jeremy Pruitt at least has options this fall.
He’s spot on when he identifies Tennessee’s next step. Last season they were able to beat who they were supposed to beat in the second half of the season. The real test in 2020 will be when whether or not Tennessee can hang with top ten programs like Oklahoma, Florida, Georgia and Alabama.
Clemson claimed the top spot in the rankings, followed by Ohio State, Alabama, LSU and Oregon. Georgia and Florida were 6th and 7th, while Oklahoma was 8th.