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How Much Talent Does Pruitt have to Work With in His First Year?

Photo credit: Anne Newman/RTI

There’s been a lot of talk this offseason about how much talent the Vols actually have on their roster heading into the 2018 season. Tennessee’s 4-8 overall record last season have led many to write off the Vols as somewhat talentless and lacking in potential for Jeremy Pruitt’s first season as head coach.

But the numbers tell a different story entirely.

I combed through Tennessee’s roster heading into the 2018 season, and it may surprise you just how much talent is still left on this roster even after losing players like Derek Barnett, Josh Dobbs, Alvin Kamara, Cam Sutton, Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Josh Malone, Rashaan Gaulden, and John Kelly over the last two seasons. The talent pool isn’t as shallow as some may have you believe.

With the dismissal of Ryan Thaxton earlier this week, the Vols now have 84 scholarship players on their roster heading into the 2018 season. Of those 84 players, well over one-third of them (41.7 percent) were ranked as four-stars or better by the 247Sports Composite rankings in their respective recruiting classes.

Tennessee still has two five-stars on their roster in senior Kyle Phillips and sophomore Trey Smith, and there are 33 other players on Tennessee’s roster who were rated as four-stars by the composite rankings. That includes grad transfers Keller Chryst and Brandon Kennedy as well.

According to those composite rankings, the Vols have two five-stars, 33 four-stars, 47 three-stars, and two former two-stars (Eli Wolf and Riley Lovingood) heading into this season. That’s an average star rating of 3.42 stars per player.

That average doesn’t compare to teams like Georgia and Alabama, no. But it’s certainly talented enough in comparison to teams like Florida, South Carolina, and Missouri. In fact, the Vols’ 2018 roster is actually slightly more talented than the 2017 roster.

Last year, Tennessee had three five-stars, 30 four-stars, 49 three-stars, and two former two-star players on their roster. That averaged out to a 3.40 average star rating per player. That’s not a huge difference compared to this season, but there’s still a difference. And this year’s roster has more overall experience than last year’s team at some important areas.

The Vols will still be fairly young and inexperienced in a lot of areas this year. But when you compare this roster to last year’s, you’ll see there’s plenty of reason for optimism.

Tennessee returned no starts at quarterback last season, returned very little starts at wide receiver and running back, and had big question marks on the defensive line and at linebacker. This year, the Vols have more experience at quarterback, some veterans on the front seven, a lot of experience at safety, and have fewer question marks at wide receiver.

There are still plenty of unknowns about Tennessee’s roster heading into 2018. A lot of the talent that’s present has either underperformed, hasn’t played a great deal, or has been injured too much to live up to their potential. The offensive line and cornerbacks are big question marks too.

But there’s still plenty of talent in Knoxville, and Pruitt and his staff have plenty to work with in their first year. And that could lead to a few surprises this season.

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