It starts the same every year, and this year is no different. HYPE. When you have a coach that comes to SEC Media Days dressed like a football, you know you have a real football coach. Jeremy Pruitt gave a 21-minute filibuster to open up SEC Media Day and that had me wanting to run through a cement wall. I’ll refrain from using the term “brick”, because a former head coach that will not be named tarnished the word forever. Tennessee has a coach that takes the blame, having a “that’s on me” mentality, when talking about the previous season. That self-accountability is something that our previous coach would have never showed.
Tennessee has put together a coaching staff that I believe, and I know I am agreeing with Pruitt, is the best coaching staff in the country. I will just touch on the offensive side this week. On the offensive side of the ball we have “The Unit.” Jim Chaney coming back to Tennessee after a stint at the University of Georgia is like the prodigal son coming home. It just amplifies the hype.
Jim Chaney is going to show us why Jarrett Guarantano was ranked above Jalen Hurts as the top dual-threat quarterback in the country coming out of high school. The Auburn game was only a snippet of what J.G. is capable of. This really is a put up or shut up year for Guarantano. Hearing him talking about how great his and Pruitt’s relationship is now, and also how he has been given full control of the offense has got me chomping at the bits for the season to get here.
Jim Chaney has been given an arsenal of weapons to work with and help develop. Ty Chandler will return as Tennessee’s lead rusher, and I think when he’s in the open field, no one can catch him. If Jeremy Banks figured out his fumble problem from last year, then I believe he will have a breakout year.
Tennessee had another “prodigal son coming home” type moment this offseason, and that is the addition of wide receiver coach Tee Martin. The other strength of that arsenal comes from Tennessee’s depth at wide receiver, starting with The Dawg, Jauan Jennings. Jauan is one of those players that has to really show out this year and prove to scouts why he deserves to play on Sundays. Tennessee has so many weapons after Jennings, but I will say my pick for most underrated among this arsenal of receivers is Jordan Murphy. I think Murph showed flashes of speed and elusiveness that we have only seen recently from Alvin Kamara.
Last, but not least, we have the offensive line. This is a HUGE put-up-or-shut-up year for the whole line as a unit. If Trey Smith comes back, along with the addition of Wanya Morris and Darnell Wright, the offensive line could turn out to be the most improved part of this entire football team.
Next article, I will touch on the hype surrounding the defensive side of the ball and the special teams.