Vols’ Season Preview: Pruitt Brings New Hope

Let’s get a look at whether the Volunteers football program is due for a resurgence in 2018 or will be mired at the bottom of the SEC. The oddsmakers are dealing lines on Tennessee’s total wins as well as conference and national championship odds that we will dissect for fun and profit.

Jones Out – Pruitt In

The Tennessee administration had seen enough of Butch Jones after a 50-17 blowout loss to Missouri last year, dropping the team to 0-6 in conference play. Assistant head coach Brady Hoke would take over for the remaining two games on the regular-season slate but the new boss was the same as the old boss and the Vols would lose those final two under Hoke’s charge.

A new regime was needed after Tennessee gave Jones an $8 million kiss out the door, and they selected Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt (after a few embarrassments) to right the sinking ship. Whether a new coach means more wins remains to be seen, but one would have to believe that the Vols will be better than last season because they can’t really be worse.

2018 Tennessee Volunteers

There are gaps, spaces, and many questions with so few answers surrounding this team, but the big piece of good news is that 6-foot-6, 330-pound offensive lineman Trey Smith, the No. 1 high school recruit in 2017, is back on the field and recovering nicely from a blood clotting issue that put not only his football career, but his life, in jeopardy. The Freshman All-American Smith’s job will be to protect one of several candidates vying for the quarterback position, one of which is Stanford senior transfer Keller Chryst. The former Cardinal has plenty of experience but eventually lost the starting job last season at Stanford and is now a Volunteer. However, he will be pressed by redshirt sophomore Jarrett Guarantano, who split time with Quinten Dormady now of the Houston Cougars, for the starting job.

Jauan Jennings will be back after a season that ended abruptly after he sustained a broken wrist in the opener and will be joined by speed-burner Marquez Callaway. Tight end Dominick Wood-Anderson has joined the Tennessee fold out of junior college and the hype train has followed him straight into Knoxville. Ty Chandler will be the featured back after John Kelly graduated into an LA Rams uniform.

Many of the same names and faces from last year’s suspect Tennessee defense are returning but one thing Pruitt does well is construct impenetrable defenses. Knoxville would welcome a little Roll Tide defensive mojo. Expect more aggressive blitz packages that will complement his 3-4 scheme.

What Are the Odds the Vols Will Contend in SEC?

Tennessee has a tough road to hoe this season with an opener vs. high-powered West Virginia and matchups against SEC powers Georgia, Auburn and Alabama. What did the Vols do to incur the wrath of the schedule-makers this season? Sportsbook Review, the sports bettors’ top choice and No. 1 resource, has the best online sportsbooks in the world posting their lines on one site and before we turn to see what the oddsmakers are dealing on Tennessee, let’s take a moment to walk through the season.

The WVU game will be played at a neutral site in Charlotte with the Mountaineers as 9.5-point favorites. Then it’s two cupcakes and wins over East Tennessee State and UTEP. The rebuilding Florida Gators come to Knoxville to open SEC play. Tennessee has a chance to open 4-0, but all the lollipops and sunshine will more than likely turn to doom and gloom as the Big Three come calling looking for a scalp. Georgia, Auburn, Alabama will be losses, but don’t give up hope because we see an uptick with wins over South Carolina, Charlotte and Kentucky. A win over Mizzou would be a bonus, but let’s maintain perspective and chalk that up as a loss. The Vols will wrap their season with a win over Vandy.

As we click on over to Sportsbook Review, we see that best online sportsbooks are dealing Tennessee as a +10000 long shot to win the conference, which pits them 10th amongst the 13 SEC entries (Ole Miss banned from postseason play). If you want to dream a little dream the Vols are being dealt as +150000 to win the national championship. But the line we are interested in is the oddsmakers total season wins’ projection. Currently the Tennessee total wins props is 5½ (O-125), which looks like easy money to us.