Tennessee kicks off the 2020 season with a match-up against Charlotte in Neyland Stadium on Sept. 5. A decision on whether or not the season will be played as scheduled has yet to be made, nor have decisions been made in regards to how the season will look if it is indeed played.
Still, Rocky Top Insider presses on to get Vol fans ready for Year 3 under Jeremy Pruitt by taking a look at the best players Tennessee will face at each position. First up is our look at the 10 best quarterbacks the Vols will take on this upcoming season.
No. 1 — Kyle Trask, Florida (Sept. 26)
Trask enters the 2020 season viewed by most as the top returning quarterback in the SEC. He isn’t the Tua Tagovailoa-type that has been at the top of this list in recent years, but Trask is still a terrific quarterback.
He finally earned the starting job for the Gators last season after Feleipe Franks was injured in Week Two against Kentucky. Trask proceeded to lead Florida to an 11-2 finish as the Gators completed the season ranked ninth in the country. On the season, Trask threw for 2,941 yards and 25 touchdowns with seven interceptions. He completed 66.9 percent of his passes.
Trask ranked second in the league last year behind LSU’s Joe Burrow in passing yards per game (245.1), ahead of quarterbacks such as Kellen Mond, Ryan Hilinski, and Bo Nix. He also threw for more touchdowns (25) than the aforementioned quarterbacks, as well as Georgia’s Jake Fromm (24), and he threw fewer interceptions (7) than Jamie Newman (11) — Georgia’s transfer quarterback — did at Wake Forest. He even had a better quarterback rating.
With the best tight end in the SEC in Kyle Pitts at his disposal along with a revamped offensive line and a trio of talented wide receivers, Trask is poised for a big year in his first full season as a starter.
No. 2 — Mac Jones, Alabama (Oct. 24)
Jones isn’t Tagovailoa, but he doesn’t have to be. He’ll be behind an offensive line that SEC Network analyst Cole Cubelic considers the best in the SEC, and he’ll be throwing to a pair of likely first round receivers in Devonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle. He’ll also be handing the ball off to arguably the best running back in the SEC in Najee Harris.
The redshirt junior appeared in 12 games last fall including four starts following Tagovailoa’s season-ending hip injury. Jones averaged 293 passing yards, 3.25 touchdowns, and 0.5 interceptions per start last season. If translated over a 13-game season, those averages would total 3,809 yards, 42 touchdowns, and six interceptions.
Jones will have to fight off incoming five-star Bryce Young for the job. His chances of doing so increased when spring practice was canceled due to COVID-19. Young will be breathing down Jones’ neck to get on the field, but as long as Jones plays well, Young will have to wait his turn.
No. 3 — Jamie Newman, Georgia (Nov. 14)
The Wake Forest transfer is this year’s Kelly Bryant. After arriving in the SEC with 16 ACC starts under his belt, Newman is considered a Heisman favorite by many media publications and oddsmakers due to his dual-threat ability. Newman started 12 games for the Demon Deacons last season, completing 61 percent of his passes for 2,868 yards, 26 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. He rushed for 570 yards and six touchdowns on 180 carries.
Like Jones, Newman will have to win the quarterback battle during fall camp after JT Daniels announced at the beginning of the summer that he was transferring from USC to Georgia. First and foremost, Daniels will have to be granted immediate eligibility.
No. 4 — Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma (Sept. 12)
Rattler is supposed to be the next great five-star quarterback to win a Heisman Trophy in Norman following the graduation of Jalen Hurts. The Phoenix, Arizona native redshirted last season following a prep career where he threw for an Arizona state high school record 11,083 yards and 116 touchdowns. Rattler completed seven of his attempted 11 passes last season while maintaining his redshirt. He threw one touchdown.
The former consensus No. 1 overall quarterback in the country is now primed to take over for Hurts despite being in a position battle with redshirt sophomore Tanner Mordecai.
No. 5 — Terry Wilson, Kentucky (Nov. 7)
Wilson is dangerous with his legs, but he’ll have some rust to knock off after missing the entire 2019 season after tearing his patellar tendon in just the second game of last season. He was carted off the field following an illegal horse-collar tackle late in the third quarter of a 38-17 win over Eastern Michigan at Kroger Field on Sept. 7 and underwent successful surgery to repair his left knee on Sept. 19.
The injury came following a breakout season in 2018 where he rushed for 547 yards and four touchdowns, though he rushed for just one touchdown over the final eight games of the season. Wilson had a high completion percentage (67.2) in 2018, but that was largely because Kentucky didn’t take many chances through the air. He only threw for 200 yards on three different occasions and averaged 145 passing yards per game.
Wilson will help form a dominant rushing attack behind a great offensive line this season in Lexington. If he can prove his worth as a passer, he’ll end the year as one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC.
No. 6 — Ryan Hilinski, South Carolina (Oct. 10)
Most of Hilinski’s struggles as a true freshman can be attributed to injuries. He required a procedure to clean up his the knee following the season after dealing with elbow and knee injuries throughout the 11 games in which he started after taking over in Week 2 following a season-ending injury to senior Jake Bentley.
Those injuries played a role in Hilinski finishing the season 11th in the SEC in passer rating (113.4). He was last among regular starters in yards per attempt (5.8) as he completed 58.1 percent of his passes and threw for 2,357 yards, 11 touchdowns, and five interceptions.
A healthy Hilinski has the chance to be really good. That is, if Will Muschamp can find some good pieces to put around him following the departure of Bryan Edwards to the NFL.
No. 7 — Feleipe Franks, Arkansas (Oct. 31)
Another season for the Vols, another game on the schedule against Feleipe Franks as the opposing quarterback. Franks decided to transfer to Arkansas following his redshirt junior season that was cut short in Gainesville due to a season-ending lower body injury.
The 6-foot-6 quarterback started 25 games for the Gators that proved to be a roller coaster of emotions. Franks has always had the arm talent, but he has lacked the pedigree between the ears to get the job done. He now looks to team up with Sam Pittman in Arkansas to end his collegiate career on a high note.
Along with All-SEC running back Rakeem Boyd and a trio of talented wide receivers in Treylon Burks, Mike Woods, and Trey Knox, Arkansas’ 2020 offense has the potential to give defenses some issues with Franks leading the way.
No. 8 — Shawn Robinson, Missouri (Oct. 3)
The TCU transfer redshirted in 2019 at Mizzou after an injury-riddled season in 2018 with the Horned Frogs. In seven games as a sophomore at TCU, Robinson averaged 190 passing yards and threw for nine touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Robinson will look to beat out Connor Bazelak for the job in Colombia. Bazelak, a redshirt sophomore, looked good in limited action last season but attempted just 21 passes and left the final game with a torn ACL. He was able to do some drills in the first three spring practices before COVID struck, and Mizzou expects him back for fall camp.
One would assume Robinson is the frontrunner to win the job. The former blue-chip recruit is the only true dual-threat quarterback on the roster. That alone should be more of a fit for first-year head coach Eli Drinkwitz.
No. 9 — Chris Reynolds, Charlotte (Sept. 5)
One of the most impressive coaching jobs in the entire country last year was what Will Healy did in year one at Charlotte. Healy led the 49ers to a 7-6 record to secure their first winning season and bowl bid in program history.
Chris Reynolds guided Charlotte’s potent spread option attack at quarterback. Behind a school record 22 passing touchdowns from the rising junior, the 49ers averaged 29.8 points per game and 414.5 yards per game. Through the air, Reynolds threw 2,564 yards while completing 62.2 percent of his passes. He threw 11 interceptions.
The true dual-threat quarterback added six rushing touchdowns to go along with his passing totals. Reynolds was the team’s second leading rusher at 791 yards on 153 carries. He averaged 5.0 yards per carry.
No. 10 — Whoever wins Vanderbilt’s starting quarterback job (Nov. 28)
Vanderbilt’s quarterback room isn’t all that threatening on paper entering the season. Four newcomers will enter fall camp with a chance to win the job. Former Hawaii quarterback Jeremy Moussa and Kentucky transfer Danny Clark will get the first crack at winning the job, but the freshmen duo of Mike Wright and Ken Seals will be gunning for the job the moment fall camp begins.
Moussa was 4-for-9 passing in two games at Hawaii in 2018 as a freshman before transferring to the junior college ranks where he totaled 37 touchdowns and averaged 353 passing yards per game last year. The redshirt sophomore was on campus in the spring, but he was rehabbing an injury.
Clark, a one-time Ohio State commit at the age of 14, spent two years at Kentucky before transferring to Copiah-Lincoln Community College last year. He did not play a snap during his two seasons at Lexington.
Seals arrives on West End after throwing for 3,060 yards and 33 touchdowns in his final season of high school ball in the state of Texas. Seals added 500 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns.
Wright is the other possible option. Vanderbilt ramped up their efforts in his recruitment once it became clear that none of the three quarterbacks who played in 2019 would return. Wright is the biggest running threat of the group, but he would likely benefit from a redshirt year.