Coach’s corner

Head coach: Jeremy Pruitt

Age: 45

Record at school: 5-7

Breaking it down

Location: Knoxville, Tenn.

Stadlium: Neyland Stadium (102,445)

All-Time record: 838-390-53

Conference affiliation: SEC

Last conference title game appearance: 1998

Returning starters: 18

Four-down territory

1. Jeremy Pruitt’s second year: Pruitt, the former Alabama assistant coach, had a mixed bag in his first season coaching the Vols. The highlights were SEC wins over Auburn and Kentucky. The lows included blowout losses by conference elite powers Alabama, Georgia and Florida and another loss to Vanderbilt. The team’s fan base will expect improvement in Pruitt’s second season.

2. Staff changes: Pruitt has three new staff members, including offensive coordinator Jim Chaney and defensive coordinator Derrick Ansley. Former Vols standout Tee Martin has also joined the staff.

3. Offensive boost: Chaney and Martin were brought in to revamp an offense that scored 17 points or less in five games and, except for a 59-point outburst against ETSU, topped out at 30 points in an upset win over Auburn. Chaney’s addition should help returning starting QB Jarrett Guarantano, an efficient passer who threw only three interceptions last season. “Jim’s a guy who that figures out who his best players are and finds a way to get him the ball,” Pruitt said of Chaney.

4. Defense needs help: By pairing Ansley along with holdover defensive coordinator Chris Rumph, Pruitt is confident the Vols can improve on last season’s woes on that side of the ball. In six losses, Tennessee allowed 38 or more points. “He’s a guy that if I start a sentence, he can finish it,” Pruitt said Ansley. “He’s one of the very bright minds in college football.”

Extra Point

Quarterback Jarrett Guarantano set a Tennessee record by throwing 166 consecutive passes without an interception. That broke the previous mark set by Casey Clausen of 143 in 2003. 

Upset special

Cheer: Oct. 26 vs. South Carolina. The Gamecocks are a darkhorse pick to win the East, but must visit Tennessee in the sixth game of a seven-game SEC stretch. With South Carolina coming off back-to-back games against Georgia and Florida, Tennessee is in a good spot to beat Will Muschamp’s team.

Jeer: Oct. 19 at Alabama: Alabama currently owns a 12-game winning streak over the Vols dating back to 2007. Tennessee’s last win was 16-13 in 2006. With Alabama expected to be ranked No. 1 or No. 2 to open the season, don’t expect an upset when Tennessee visits the Crimson Tide this season.

Crystal ball

7-5: Tennessee will be better in Pruitt’s second season and likely will become bowl eligible. To reach that goal, the Vols have to win their four non-conference home games and win three SEC games. There’s little room for error, but Tennessee should be improved and take a step toward restoring the program’s pride. 

Did you know?

Linebacker Daniel Bituli speaks three different languages — English, French and the dialect from his village in the Congo. “I told him, ‘Daniel, I only need you to speak one language, and that’s our football language.’” coach Jeremy Pruitt said. 

Quotebook

“The first reason is because I wanted to come back and get my degree and make sure I graduate and do those things to help myself be successful off the field. I wanted another shot to play football in college with my teammates again, just to play at the University of Tennessee and get that one last experience.”

Senior linebacker Darrell Taylor

2018 results

5-7 overall, 2-6 SEC

West Virginia 40, Tennessee 14

Tennessee 59, ETSU 3

Tennessee 24, UTEP 0

Florida 47, Tennessee 21

Georgia 38, Tennessee 12

Tennessee 30, Auburn 24

Alabama 58, Tennessee 21

South Carolina 27, Tennessee 24

Tennessee 14, Charlotte 3

Tennessee 24, Kentucky 7

Missouri 50, Tennessee 17

Vanderbilt 38, Tennessee 13

2019 schedule

Aug. 31 Georgia State

Sept. 7 BYU

Sept. 14 Chattanooga

Sept 21 at Florida

Oct. 5 Georgia

Oct 12 Mississippi State

Oct. 19 at Alabama

Oct. 26 South Carolina

Nov. 2 UAB

Nov. 9 at Kentucky

Nov. 23 at Missouri

Nov. 30 Vanderbilt

— Gregg Dewalt

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