Every week, after Tennessee plays, I will be getting in my feelings x 5 about it. Here we go.
1. The Pieces and The Puzzle. One of the biggest challenges Jeremy Pruitt and company faced, upon arriving in Knoxville, was identifying playmakers and getting familiar with the roster. In spite of the outcome on Saturday, the general feel is that these coaches found a 2-deep that looks talented enough to win games. Now that these pieces are identified, Pruitt and his coaches must begin solving the puzzle. Fortunately, teams make their biggest leap between games 1-2. The picture should but far more in focus by the end of sept.
2. Perfect Storm. Tennessee’s combination of new coaches, conference-leading youth, and extreme lack of experience in the defensive backfield crashed into what may very well end up as a historically relevant passing attack from West Virginia. After a shaky half, the Mountaineer strength played perfectly into Tennessee’s weakness, and it was over very quickly for the Vols.
3. Changing of the Guard. Tennessee played a wild number of new players Saturday, and a few were immediately impressive. OL Jahmir Johnson delivered some violent, impressive blocks, while Alontae Taylor looked beyond his years at CB and on special teams. All of the first-time Vols flashed their potential and Pruitt’s faith in them speaks volumes.
4. Lingering Questions. The Vols left Charlotte with an L, and a bunch of questions. Will Ty Chandler’s undisclosed injury cost him multiple games? Were the non-Taylor true-FR defensive backs impressive enough to hold onto their jobs? How quickly can OL Coach Will Friend Iron our the kinks in Tennessee’s front 5? How much will Keller Chryst be employed during the upcoming games, now that Guarantano has flashed in game 1?
5. Cupcake Kings. Might it have been better for Tennessee to open with one of the upcoming cupcakes? Hell yes. But, instead, Tennessee now gets to recover, teach, and experiment as and ETSU come to town. ETSU is a middling FCS program and UTEP got abused by every team It encountered in 2017. Tennessee must take full-advantage Of scheme-tweaking and depth-cultivating opportunities. Tennessee doesn’t have time to waste.