Why Tennessee will have a shot at winning the SEC East

Before you make fun of me saying I'm a biased fan, let me tell you this: This will likely not happen.


Tennessee ended the 2019 season on a 6-game win streak, the longest win streak to end the season by a team not called LSU. With a Top 10 recruiting class and some valuable transfers, this team is equipped to make some upsets. The only setbacks this season were Gooden and Jordan being dismissed due to off field issues, and Hill transferring. Otherwise, this team doesn't lose too much production from last years team.



QB Depth

Tennessee's quarterback issues last year were extreme. Jarrett Guarantano emerged as their Week 1 starting QB, but was benched due to inconsistency, the rest of the year was a mess for the coaches as injuries plagued the QB system. Tennessee ended up starting 4 different players at QB (one of whom was a WR). This year, the battle for the position gets interesting. They will have 3 QBs who all have starting experience plus a highly rated 4-star Freshman Harrison Bailey in the mix. Guarantano is the likely starter, but don't count out Brian Maurer, who started a big chunk of last year's games, JT Shrout, who has a cannon for an arm, and fellow Freshman Harrison Bailey.





Running Game

Tennessee enters 2020 with one of the best Offensive Lines in the nation, which is composed of 4 former 5-star recruits and a 4-star Center. Trey Smith and Cade Mays enter the season as projected 1st round picks, while Brandon Kennedy, a sixth-year Center, Darnell Wright and Wanya Morris, 2 former 5 stars will play a huge role as well. Although Cade Mays has not yet received eligibility, most people assume he will. Now to the Running Backs. Tennessee lost a huge amount of production when Tim Jordan was dismissed following his arrest, but will still be mighty in 2020. Eric Gray enters 2020 with sky high expectations, after rushing for a Freshman school record yards against Vanderbilt, then recovering an onside kick and scoring the winning touchdown against Indiana. Ty Chandler enters his senior year after being the number one back last year, but may have to share major carries with Gray. Chandler has elite speed and a ton of receiving skill. Carlin Fils-Aime took a redshirt last year, but will have his redshirt lifted this season. He has experience as he is a senior, and will likely be the 3rd back for Jim Chaney's offense this season. You shouldn't count out Freshmen Jabari Small and Tee Hodge for that 3rd spot though.




Depth at Receiver and Tight End

This could be questionable but the Vols return Senior Wideout Josh Palmer who is a consistent playmaker and has pretty much locked up the starting job as the number 1 wideout this year. Brandon Johnson comes in after redshirting in 2019. Many forget he actually led the team in receiving yards in 2017 and will play a huge role in the offense this year. Sophomore Ramel Keyton enters 2020 as a projected 3rd WR. The former recruit out of Marietta High School in Georgia used to be teammates with Freshman QB Harrison Bailey. USC transfer Velus Jones Jr. has a shot at a starting role, but will likely be utilized more as a punt returner. Georgia transfer Deandre Gibbs opted out of the season, which hurts, but the Vols still have Sophomore Cedric Tillman, Freshmen Malachi Wideman, Dee Beckwith, Jimmy Holiday, and Jalin Hyatt.

TE Austin Pope had surgery, but should be ready to go. Princeton Fant is the only other TE that has experience.





Defense

The Vols return Freshman All American Henry To'o To'o and prized CB Bryce Thompson. They should be the leaders of the D this year. Shamburger returns at CB, and Emerson, Solomon, and Middleton return on the line. Emmitt Gooden's dismissal certainly hurt the Vols, but they have the depth to replace him.




Special Teams

Brent Cimaglia returns as one of the best kickers in the SEC and the nation. He only missed 2 field goals last year, which were both because of bad snaps. Paxton Brooks returns as punter, but Joe Doyle, who held the punter position for half of the year last year, will challenge as well. UConn transfer Brett Graham will have a role in holding. The Vols lost long snapper Riley Lovingood, but Matthew Salansky returns along with Freshman Will Albright to fill that void. The Vols lost Marquez Callaway, who was a prized punt returner, but have former All-Pac 12 USC transfer Velus Jones Jr. to replace him. Ty Chandler and Eric Gray will likely cover kick returns this year as well.




There you have it. The Vols will have a shot, but it's a long one. Enjoy the season football fans.

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