Most reasonable fans/media analysts aren’t expecting the Tennessee Vols to challenge the Georgia Bulldogs for the SEC East championship in 2018.
But at the same time, the expectation is that Tennessee will at least win a conference game and have a better season than they did in 2017, when the program hit rock bottom.
National college football analyst Stewart Mandel, however, thinks it could it be another long season for the Vols.
Mandel, who is the lead college football columnist for The Athletic and previously covered the sport for Fox Sports and Sports Illustrated, recently said on The Audible podcast “If they [Tennessee] don’t get some really good grad transfers they could go 0-8, it’s that bad”.
It’s not so much Pruitt’s ability as a coach that Mandel doubts — it’s the talent on the current roster. As Mandel put it, “The cupboard was left completely bare by Butch Jones”.
— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) April 11, 2018
While I agree it’s going to be a trying season for the Vols, I don’t think the outlook is as bleak as Mandel suggests.
Sure, there are some depth concerns. And the Vols have to replace running back John Kelly, their top offensive player from a year ago.
But Tennessee is returning the bulk of a team that could’ve easily won seven games last season (Florida, South Carolina and Kentucky games came down to the final play).
This is also still a team that has more talent than Kentucky, Vanderbilt and probably even South Carolina.
I think there will be some close losses for the Vols in 2018, as Pruitt goes through trials and tribulations as a first time head coach (much like Kirby Smart went through at Georgia in 2016). But I also think Tennessee will pull out a win or two in the closing moments.
When the 2018 season is over, I’d be very, very surprised if the Vols have an 0-8 conference record.
I’m not ready to predict how Tennessee’s 2018 season will go (it’s a bit early for that), but I think they’ll have at least a couple of conference wins.
Featured image via USA Today