The Tennessee Vols will kick off the 2020 season on September 26 in Columbia against the South Carolina Gamecocks.
It’s a game the Vols are expected to win.
But after a strange offseason that could best be described as challenging, it’s a game where anything can happen.
In other words, this is a game that shouldn’t be an assumed win for the Vols — especially after what UT head coach Jeremy Pruitt had to say on Thursday.
Pruitt spoke to reporters via a Zoom call and he didn’t sound thrilled with Tennessee’s offense.
“It was pretty sloppy, to be honest,” said Pruitt when discussing the Vols’ scrimmage at Neyland on Wednesday night. “Lots of penalties, especially on the offensive side – false starts….offensively, we put the ball on the ground a few times.”
It wasn’t just the offense that Pruitt was unhappy with, either.
“Defensively, again the things that you think would show up when you’ve not had a chance to go live in a very long time is missed tackles.”
“We have a whole lot of things that we really need to improve on over the next two weeks and we’ve got to work hard to do that,” added Pruitt.
Tennessee’s had numerous players out over the last several weeks due to injury and COVID-19 (some positive tests, mostly contract tracing). It’s hard to build team chemistry with that many players out (over 40 players were out last weekend).
There are certain things that can’t be repped in a practice with limited personnel. And Tennessee doesn’t have the luxury of starting the season against a much inferior opponent like Charlotte. South Carolina isn’t expected to finish near the top of the SEC East, but they’re still a dangerous team (the Gamecocks were 4-8 last season, but they managed to beat Georgia in Athens).
It’s doubtful that UT will look “sharp” when they take the field against South Carolina on September 26. There are some kinks that will need to be worked out. But the good news is that they won’t be alone in facing that challenge. The Gamecocks will likely be in a similar situation.
This is a game that could come down to which team has had the least amount of players miss practice due to COVID-19/contact tracing. It’s unfortunate, but that’s the reality of the 2020 college football season.
Featured image via Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports