Our annual Vault Predictions are back in the most unpredictable year, ever.
No one really knows how this season will go, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun trying to guess what will come of the Vols this year.
Be sure to let us know about your own prediction(s) and what you think in the comment section!
1. Total starts for Jarrett Guarantano - 7 1⁄2
Evan: Under. You’ve gotta admire what Guarantano has done in his career, even if the wins/production really isn’t there. The kid has shown tremendous leadership, dedication, and courage throughout his time on Rocky Top.
But I don’t know if he has what it takes to help this team get to the next level in 2020. Reports about the backup quarterback position aren’t encouraging, but Guarantano’s floor is pretty damn low and we’ve seen him hold the team back. I don’t know if the coaching staff can let that happen this year.
I hope starts all 10 games. I really do. I just don’t think it will happen.
Terry: Over. I think getting a second season under Jim Chaney will be a big deal for Jarrett. I’m not expecting him to go light the world on fire or anything, but playing behind this offensive line with this rushing attack should make things easier for him.
If Harrison Bailey got a spring camp, maybe I feel differently, but the trust factor is certainly there with this staff for Guarantano. Unless things go totally off the rails, this is his ship to steer.
2. Eric Gray total rushing yards - 850 1⁄2
Terry: Over. I’m a huge believer in Gray and I think he becomes the clear-cut top option for Tennessee in the backfield. This offensive line is ridiculously talented and experienced and Gray should be the beneficiary.
Evan: Over. This may be the easiest one on the list. This offensive line is stocked and the staff wants to run the ball. Ty Chandler didn’t take the steps needed last year to keep his handle on the starting gig. This is Gray’s backfield and he’s going to show why this year in a major way. I don’t see anything holding him back from a 1k yard season, to be honest.
3. Total receiving yards for Josh Palmer - 750 1⁄2
Evan: Under. This one is tough. I like Palmer a lot and I think he’s going to have a big season. He’s shown that he can be a deep threat and then he also showed last year he can be a short-to-intermediate option, as well. If he puts it all together, then this could be a big year.
However, I don’t know if the staff will throw the ball enough and I don’t if the quarterback play will be good enough to get him past 750. No matter what happens, it will be fun to see how Palmer plays this year.
Terry: Under. Couple reasons here — 1) Tennessee just isn’t going to have a passing offense that puts up numbers with the current quarterback situation. 2) I think they’ve got too many options at receiver, even though Palmer is the clear cut top guy. Brandon Johnson, Velus Jones Jr., Cedric Tillman, Ramel Keyton, Jalin Hyatt, Malachi Wideman and Jimmy Callaway each should eat into Palmer’s stats.
4. Henry To’o To’o total tackles - 104 1⁄2
Terry: Under. To’o To’o is never going to come off of the field, but a shortened season and playing alongside of Quavaris Crouch and Jeremy Banks should keep him under 100.
Evan: Over. What did I say about Gray’s numbers being the easiest? I take that back. To’o To’o is ready to rock and he’s going to have a huge year.
5. Bryce Thompson interceptions - 3 1⁄2
Terry: Under. Thompson has three picks in each of his last two seasons and now has less games to try and break that personal best.
Evan: Over. Thompson is a playmaker and this secondary is going to feast on teams like South Carolina, Missouri, Arkansas, Vanderbilt, and others. Thompson will get his due.
6. Points scored per game - 27 1⁄2
Evan: Under. The Vols averaged just 23 points per game last year. The average in 2019 was 29 points per game, so even if the Vols hit the over, they could still be considered a below-average scoring team.
I just don’t think they have the offense to score four touchdowns a game. I think they’ll improve on last year’s mark, but I don’t think it will eclipse this mark.
Terry: Under. Though this offense should improve, I think Tennessee is going to try and take the air out of the ball in the second half. The Volunteers should be able to win up front and shorten games, so I’ll take the under here.
7. Total team sacks in 2020 - 30.5
Evan: Under. I really liked the over here until Pruitt’s recent comments on the pass rush —or lack thereof. Who knows, maybe he’s just playing mind games. Maybe we’ll see one of the more dominant pass rushes we’ve ever seen in Knoxville. Regardless, there are questions at key areas and the Vols have to replace Darrell Taylor, who had consecutive season of eight sacks. Tennessee had 34 sacks last year and the national average was 30, so a four-sack drop-off isn’t really that much of a decline, but still, you never want to see your numbers drop.
The good thing is we know that Pruitt can dial up some creative blitzes, which will help any issues with the straight-up pass rush.
Terry: Under. As Evan said, Tennessee found 34 sacks last season, but that was with Darrell Taylor on the roster. Statistically, it’s not a massive loss, but he attracted a lot of attention. That attention will now be redirected to unproven pass rushers.
I have no doubts that this staff will be able to generate pressure by blitzing, but I have a ton of doubts that this current crop of pass rushers can win enough one on one matchups to hit the over.
8. How many total games the Vols play in 2020 - 5.5
Evan: Over. Screw it. I’m just gonna go full optimist here and say that more than half the season is played. I know things don’t look great, especially with Notre Dame postponing its game, but hell, YOLO, right?
Terry: Over. We’re back, baby. Even the Big Ten and Pac-12 have returned. The SEC did this the right way, giving teams time to sort of test the waters in camp. We’ve yet to see any issues in the NFL, so I’m hopeful that this season stays on the rails.