Georgia football: 4 things you need to know about Tennessee
Tennessee has been a little bit of turmoil over its first 4 games of the regular season. OK, maybe more than a little. After a heavy loss at Florida on Sept. 21, the Volunteers limped into their open week at 1-3 and with narrow margins to work with if they’re to avoid missing a bowl for a 3rd consecutive year.
Here’s a closer look at the Bulldogs’ opponent Saturday as No. 3 Georgia looks to make it 3 wins in a row against the Vols and improve to 5-0:
A hot seat for Jeremy Pruitt
The hope was that when Tennessee hired Jeremy Pruitt to take over for Butch Jones, he would build on his time with Georgia and Alabama to bring a relentless defense to Tennessee and restore a winning tradition not seen since the Phillip Fulmer days. To be fair to the Volunteers, the defense hasn’t been terrible: it’s allowed just 149.8 yards on the ground and 190 yards through the air across 4 games. (Florida was held to 128 yards on 37 carries despite 2 touchdowns in its win over the Vols despite 313 yards passing.)
The issue is that the wins just haven’t come: Pruitt enters Saturday’s game at 6-10 overall, 2-7 in SEC play. And it has some people thinking whether the program is better off sliding Fulmer from his current athletic director role and back to the sidelines. But Pruitt’s high buyout, plus the fact that Tennessee’s still playing Jones to not coach its team, might not mean an imminent change. Sorry, Vols fans.
A slow start for Jarrett Guarantano
Jarrett Guarantano crested the 300-yard mark for the 2nd time in his career in Week 1 against Georgia State. One caveat: The Vols lost. Since then, he has thrown for just 425 yards across 3 games. Granted, he threw just 8 passes (completing 7) in the win against Chattanooga, but was 10-of-17 for only 107 yards in a loss to Florida.
Guarantano just hasn’t been able to make many big plays with his arm when it’s mattered the most, and that has led to some questions among the Knoxville media as to whether a switch needs to be made behind center. All in all, it hasn’t been good enough for the New Jersey native.
A key target at wide receiver
While Jauan Jennings caught just 1 ball for 12 yards against Chattanooga, the team didn’t really need him in its win against the Mocs. But he has been one of the lone bright spots with 19 catches for 281 yards and 4 touchdowns this season.
It’s been a bit of a redemption tour for the redshirt senior from Murfreesboro, Tennessee. After being kicked off the team in November 2017 after a social media rant levied against the coaching staff, he was extended a lifeline by Pruitt and has fought off injury the past couple of years to become a reliable target for Guarantano. He’s certainly a player that the Georgia defense will need to account for at all times as someone who could make things difficult for the Bulldogs secondary.
A trio of departures
Linebackers Will Ignont and Shanon Reid, plus wide receiver Jacquez Jones, left the team following its loss to Florida. While Ignont, who departed for “personal reasons,” recorded 47 tackles and 2.0 tackles for a loss in 2018 and had been good for 16 tackles in 2019. Reid and Jones weren’t used as much and entered the transfer portal looking for increased playing time elsewhere. (In fact, Jones said that he no longer “fit in (the program’s) scheme” and that they “weren’t using a lot of my ability” despite calling the staff “amazing”.)
That being said, Ignont leaves a bit of hole in the Volunteers’ defensive corps at middle linebacker.