Playing in the SEC means a team is always going to play one of the tougher schedules year in and year out. But it seems like Tennessee has gotten a particularly tough draw over the years in terms of both their SEC and non-conference scheduling. And it appears that may be the case once again this season.
Athlon Sports came out with their rankings for every FBS quarterback heading into the offseason before the 2018 season. And according to those rankings, Tennessee’s secondary will be tested in a multitude of games this season.
According to Athlon’s rankings, the Vols will face seven of the top 25 quarterbacks in college football this season, and that includes five of the top 11 signal callers in the nation.
Here’s where all of the quarterbacks Tennessee will face this season were ranked by Athlon:
122. Ryan Metz, UTEP
107. Hasaan Klugh, Charlotte
95. Terry Wilson, Kentucky
94. Feleipe Franks, Florida
24. Kyler Shurmur, Vanderbilt
14. Jake Bentley, South Carolina
11. Jake Fromm, Georgia
9. Jarrett Stidham, Auburn
6. Drew Lock, Missouri
2. Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama
1. Will Grier, West Virginia
As you can see, the Vols will have to face the top two quarterbacks in the country this year according to Athlon Sports, and they’ll face a handful of other talented QBs according to those rankings as well.
Last season, the Vols’ secondary put up better numbers after a dismal 2016 season. But those numbers were skewed somewhat because opposing offenses were more likely to run against Tennessee’s defense rather than throw against it.
The Vols gave up the fewest passing yards per game in the SEC last season, allowing only 161.7 yards per contest. But they finished in last place in the conference in interceptions (5) and still allowed 15 touchdowns despite teams only attempting 279 passes against them last season. That total was the second-lowest in the SEC, and the only team who faced fewer pass attempts by opposing quarterbacks was Florida with 270 attempts. And the Gators only played 11 games last year after forfeiting one of their match-ups due to inclement weather.
Not only that, but the Vols are thin at corner heading into the 2018 season and are replacing their three top corners from last year. Rashaan Gaulden, Emmanuel Moseley, and Justin Martin are all off the roster from last year, and all three were Tennessee’s primary starters at the two outside corner spots and at nickel.
Athlon also rated Tennessee’s quarterback situation, and they weighed in on the Vols’ QB battle as well. They believe Stanford grad transfer Keller Chryst will win the starting job for Tennessee, and they ranked him as the No. 72 quarterback in the nation heading into this season.
Heading into last season, Athlon had Chryst ranked as the No. 51 quarterback in the nation as he prepared to start the season for Stanford. Quinten Dormady/Jarrett Guarantano were ranked No. 62 in last year’s rankings by Athlon.