Most college football analysts aren’t too optimistic about the Vols’ 2018 football season. Given the fact that Tennessee is coming off their worst season in program history, have a first-time head coach at the helm, and have a rough schedule, most analysts aren’t confident the Vols can even make a bowl game this season.
One analyst, however, is thinking a little more positively about Jeremy Pruitt’s first year with Tennessee.
The Vegas over/under total for the Vols’ 2018 win total is 5.5 wins. And according to Barrett Sallee of CBS Sports, the Vols will get the “over” on that win total rather than the “under.”
Sallee wrote a piece analyzing the win total projections for all 14 SEC teams heading into the 2018 season. And he’s a little more bullish on the Vols than most other analysts right now.
“A bowl game for Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt would be phenomenal in Year 1, and the oddsmakers agree,” Sallee writes. “So where will it come from? Keller Chryst comes over from Stanford to compete for the starting quarterback position with Jarrett Guarantano, Madre London comes from Michigan State to add depth to the backfield, and the Vols expect to get wide receiver Jauan Jennings back after he was dismissed by the interim staff last November. West Virginia in the opener, road trips to Georgia, Auburn and South Carolina, and the annual meeting with Alabama make the schedule brutal. Give me the over and a sweat towel.”
Tennessee’s roster will look drastically different this fall compared to last season or even during spring practices earlier this year. The Vols welcome in three grad transfers to the roster and the remaining 16 prospects from their 2018 signing class, and several of those players will both compete for and win starting jobs this fall.
It’s not a stretch to say the Vols could have between seven to nine newcomers on the starting roster when Tennessee suits up to play West Virginia in the season opener in September.
The Vols’ 2018 roster and coaching staff have a ton of questions surrounding them. Several of UT’s coaches, including Pruitt himself, will be serving in their respective positions for the first times in their careers. And Tennessee will be counting on a large number of new players to make significant contributions this fall.
None of Tennessee’s last three new head coaches were able to win more than seven games in their first season leading the Vols. Lane Kiffin went 7-6 in his first (and only) season as UT’s head coach in 2009, Derek Dooley went 6-7 in 2010 for his first year, and Butch Jones went 5-7 in 2013 in his maiden voyage.
If Pruitt and his staff have a season more akin to Kiffin’s first year, Vol fans will be happy and have plenty of optimism heading into 2019. But if he and his team look more like the 2013 squad, then skepticism will abound in the fan base.
The 2018 season will be an interesting one to watch for Tennessee, and at least one national analyst expects Pruitt and the Vols to make progress from last year.