The Tennessee Vols beat the South Carolina Gamecocks on Saturday for their seventh straight win (dating back to last season).
It’s the longest winning streak in the nation for a Power-5 team (thanks to LSU’s loss to Mississippi State on Saturday).
And yet, Tennessee should be better.
The Vols team we saw on Saturday night Columbia is a much-improved team. It’s clear that Jeremy Pruitt and his staff have done a trememdous job of coaching up this group of kids.
However, the Vols are two key ingredients away from being an elite team.
The first is fairly obvious.
Jarrett Guarantano doesn’t look much different in year five than he did in year four. He’s the same player. Tough, but inconsistent. JG will make numerous terrible throws (mostly throws that are way too high for his wide receivers to make a play on), and then he’ll make a beautiful throw for a touchdown that reminds you of how much arm talent the New Jersey native possesses.
Vols offensive coordinator Jim Chaney did a nice job on Saturday night of getting receivers open. JG just couldn’t execute consistently.
Guarantano is never going to be “the guy”. He’s good enough to be on the field, but not good enough to get the Vols into the top ten (where they should be). JG knows where to go with the ball, he just isn’t talented enough to make the play happen.
The second area where the Vols need to improve is team speed on defense.
Pruitt has done a good job of recruiting size. The Vols are much bigger in the trenches. And it showed on Saturday night.
But Tennessee is not fast enough defensively to be elite. It showed on Saturday night when the Vols were constantly burnt on screens, throws to the flats and slants.
Fortunately, the Vols have some speed on the way in Terrence Lewis and Dylan Brooks and other top 2021 recruits.
Until those players arrive, though, it’s going to be a challenge for the Vols to contain opposing offenses in the SEC.
Tennessee isn’t far away. But they still have a couple of areas where they need to improve before they can be considered an elite college football team.
Featured image via Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports