It has been a long offseason for Tennessee following the ending to last season.
The Vols were living up their SEC East favorites tag through victories over Florida and Georgia. Then …
After losses to South Carolina and Vanderbilt, they lost out on a trip to Atlanta and didn’t get a consolation-prize Sugar Bowl bid either.
Now, after eight long months and a shuffling of the coaching staff by Butch Jones, it’s time for kickoff.
Here’s what I’d like to see Monday night against Georgia Tech:
Let QB situation unfold naturally
Butch Jones has mentioned leading up to game day that he has an idea regarding who will start at quarterback. Jones has also mentioned throughout fall camp that he is not opposed to playing both Quinten Dormady and Jarrett Guarantano.
Regardless, one guy has to start, and whoever it is deserves at least three series before a change is even considered.
According to offensive lineman Drew Richmond, the guys up front can help Dormady throw for 20 touchdowns this season.
A goal for Drew Richmond in 2017 is for John Kelly to run for 2,000 yards and Quinten Dormady to throw for 20 TDs. pic.twitter.com/TZiEmBvO9a
— Dan Harralson (@danharralson) August 30, 2017
Let Larry Scott run his tempo
Outgoing offensive coordinator Mike DeBord has landed the same position at Indiana. The Hoosiers kicked off their season Thursday night hosting Ohio State, and ESPN broadcaster Kirk Herbstreit spoke fondly of DeBord and his high-tempo offense – something that was not seen during DeBord’s Tennessee tenure.
Kirk Herbstreit on Mike DeBord's offense being the fastest tempo in the last 7-8 years in college football. pic.twitter.com/kbjIWap20w
— Dan Harralson (@danharralson) September 1, 2017
Now, as Larry Scott takes over for DeBord, it is time for Scott to run an offense in the manner he would like. Whether or not that is stretching the field and taking more shots down field, as the “Voice of the Vols” Bob Kesling thinks may occur, Scott’s direction of the offense should be trusted.
Vols’ defense handling the A-backs
It’s no secret that Tennessee’s linebacker corps is thin following Darrin Kirkland Jr.’s season-ending knee injury. The Vols may try to provide more of a defensive line rush to make up for Kirkland’s absence, which could open up things for the Yellow Jackets to try to throw short or intermediate passes to their A-backs – or even run more with the A-backs to attack the linebackers and offset the line pressure.
At the position, the Yellow Jackets return their top three guys in Clinton Lynch, J.J. Green and Qua Searcy. In 2016, Lynch rushed for 415 yards on 37 carries, Searcy gained 273 on 46 carries and Green had 154 yards on 25 carries. The three also combined for 29 receptions.
— CampusLore (@CampusLore) September 1, 2017
Departed quarterback Joshua Dobbs will tell you there is plenty of talent on Tennessee’s roster to win the SEC East in 2017.
A lot of attention was placed on the core seven players of Dobbs, Derek Barnett, Jalen Hurd, Alvin Kamara, Josh Malone, Jalen Reeves-Maybin, and Cam Sutton. But the program is deeper than a handful of players now.
The players who make up that depth need to show what they are capable of, and they get their first chance on a big stage in the only game being played Labor Day night.
Having young guys in true freshman Trey Smith and redshirt freshmen Nathan Niehaus and Ryan Johnson on the offensive line, on top of having true freshman Josh Palmer and redshirt freshman Latrell Williams at wide receiver on the two-deep depth chart shows Tennessee has young players who can make an impact offensively.
Ty Chandler becoming a factor
True freshman running back Ty Chandler arrived at Tennessee in the fall, missing out on the luxury of going through spring practices before his first collegiate season.
The running back position is thin for Tennessee, but John Kelly returns to lead the unit and if Chandler can provide an immediate impact, the group can show zero drop-off from last season.
Georgia Tech will field an experienced defense, returning 17 players on their two-deep depth chart. The Yellow Jackets finished 64th nationally in 2016 in rush defense, giving up 172.2 yards per game. Georgia Tech’s defense was most vulnerable in giving up first downs on the ground on second down (50) last season.
Carlin fils-Aime may be listed above Chandler on the initial two-deep chart released by Butch Jones, but Chandler will need to be an early factor to help build an identity for the Volunteers’ offense.