The Tennessee Vols will enter the 2019 season with higher expectations than they did a season ago.
The one year grace period for Jeremy Pruitt is essentially over.
Fans and analysts aren’t expecting the Vols to compete for spot in the College Football Playoff, but they are expecting UT to win at least six games. And that’s the bare minimum.
Of course, if I know anything about college football it’s that it’s unpredictable. Whatever we expect to happen, usually doesn’t. And the things we think could never happen, end up happening.
With that in mind, here are five unexpected things I think could happen for the Vols in 2019.
Josh Palmer will lead the team in receiving
Marquez Callaway and Jauan Jennings are the two wide receivers who garner all the headlines for the Vols, but I think Josh Palmer could be the team’s leading receiver in 2019.
We know from Jim Chaney’s past stint at Tennessee that he loves to take shots down field. Callaway is probably the best 50/50 ball catcher on the team, but Palmer is the best down field threat. He should be able to rack of plenty of yards in Chaney’s system.
Jarrett Guarantano will throw for 3,000 yards
It’s well known that Chaney is something of a quarterback whisperer. He completely turned around Jonathan Crompton’s career in 2009. And I expect he’ll do the same for Guarantano in 2019.
Crompton passed for 2,800 yards in 2009, after failing to pass for more than 889 yards in a season prior to Chaney’s arrival.
Guarantano passed for 1,907 yards last season. It seems reasonable that he could see a huge uptick in passing yardage with Chaney calling plays.
Bryce Thompson will lead the SEC in interceptions
Bryce Thompson was a pleasant surprise for the Vols in 2018. As a true freshman, Thompson played in 11 games and led Tennessee in interceptions with three.
That’s impressive for a player barely removed from high school.
— PFF College (@PFF_College) November 15, 2018
Thompson was one of the highest graded freshman cornerbacks in 2018. There’s no reason to think he won’t take a major step forward in 2019 — especially with Pruitt and Derrick Ansley coaching him.
Jeremy Pruitt will be named SEC coach of the year
Looking at UT’s schedule, there’s an outside chance the Vols could win nine games this season. While that’s unlikely, it’s certainly possible.
If the Vols get anywhere close to nine wins (or if they get to eight with a bowl game win), then Pruitt should absolutely be named the SEC coach of the year.
Tennessee’s football program was on life support when Pruitt was named head coach. It’s tough to lead a team to a winning record as it is. But to take a team that was at its lowest point ever and turn it into a winner? That would be simply amazing.
Tennessee will finally beat Will Muschamp
This might not seem bold, but it is.
The Vols have been trying to beat Will Muschamp since 2011 (when he was the head coach at Florida).
Tennessee’s had a better team than Muschamp’s team on several occasions, but they haven’t been able to break through against the former Saban assistant.
It’s finally going to happen in 2019. Tennessee will beat South Carolina for the first time since 2015, giving the Vols their first ever win against Muschamp.
Featured image via Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports