UT finishes the regular season 7-5 after beating Vanderbilt

In a torrential downpour Saturday afternoon, Tennessee added another victory to the ledger by defeating Vandy 28-10. Eric Gray ran rampant against the commodores to the tune of 247 yards on the ground, as well as adding three touchdowns. After an 0-2 start, finishing 7-5 on the year is a huge win for the rebuilding Volunteers.

Both teams were required to rely on their run game with how awful the weather turned out to be, and Tennessee’s offensive and defensive lines did their job. UT rushed for 298 yards as a team, with Gray accounting for 247. Which was good enough to catapult him into the top five for single game rushing yards in Tennessee history. It would be shocking if he isn’t the feature back in the bowl game and moving forward into next season.

Vanderbilt was only able to muster 112 yards on the ground while throwing for 169. Tennessee also recorded multiple sacks on the evening. The Vols were clearly the more talented team and used a big second quarter to build an advantage they refused to relinquish.

The game was an exchange of punts other than two huge runs from Gray. Including a 94 yard run that electrified the 87,000 fans who stood tough through the rain. Jarrett Guarantano managed the game well even though his line wasn’t as pretty. He finished by going 6/17 for 120 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

UT is projected to be a participant in the Outback Bowl against Minnesota on New Years Day. This game will serve as a huge opportunity for Tennessee to announce that the rebuild of the long struggling football program is becoming successful. Which is absolutely insane considering the two upset losses to Georgia State & BYU that kicked off this year’s campaign.

UT will use the extra practices to their advantage as they’ll get to stay together for another month. It also means that seniors Jauan Jennings, Marquez Callaway, Daniel Bituli, and Darrel Taylor haven’t seen their last game in Orange & White. An eight win season seemed absolutely unachievable a few months ago. Now, the sky is the limit and the excitement for next season is immeasurable.

#17 Tennessee uses dominant team defense to slide by UTC 58-46

It could of just been an off night, or maybe the orange & white have been drinking a bit of the kool-aid. Regardless, Monday night wasn’t the best showing against a lesser opponent. But in the end, UT used their calling card, team defense, to shut down the Mocs and advance to 5-0 on the season.

The Vols had multiple stints in the game in which they couldn’t buy a basket. Two five minute spurts found the home team field goal-less. The usual team chemistry and willingness to make the extra pass wasn’t apparent early, and the rust on the offensive side of the ball never really wore off.

The good news for Tennessee is that their leaders picked up the slack when the going got tough. Jordan Bowden recorded his first double-double as a Vol with 13 points and 12 rebounds on 39 minutes played. Lamonte Turner continued distributing the basketball at a high level with 12 assists in 35 minutes. Turner was leading the SEC with 8.5 assists a game going into Monday’s match-up, I don’t think that’ll be changing anytime soon. He also led the team in scoring with 17 points on the night.

John Fulkerson was a bright spot in the rugged second half for the Vols. He scored all 14 of his points in the second period while pulling down four boards on the evening. His offensive post game is taking strides and he will be relied on all season to fill a void of size in this lineup. A lot of John’s finest moments come as the acting glue guy for UT. His defensive rotations and ability to erase shots make him so important for this team.

Yves Pons finally cooled off in terms of scoring, but his athletic presence was still felt all night with pungent blocks and 4 strong rebounds. It’s also worth noting that newcomer, Josiah-Jordan James, hit double figure rebounds for the second consecutive game. He finished with 11 rebounds while only logging 23 minutes of action. James has an incredible amount of potential with his length, on ball defense, and ball handling ability. With vet, Lamonte Turner, dominating ball handling duties, James seems to be in between roles a bit. I expect he’ll take huge strides in the off season and be a huge part of the 2020 campaign.

The ability to get production out of the front court will dictate how successful this 2019-20 team will be. It’s extremely early, but I could see this team being as high as a four seed in the NCAA tournament if they play up to their potential. Any injuries of big minute players would be absolutely detrimental to this team’s cause. Durability will be an important factor to keep an eye on in the coming months.

Tennessee eyes a match-up with Florida State on Friday in the Emerald Coast Classic. The Seminoles are 5-1 with their only loss coming to Pitt in the first game of their season. Their most notable win on the season is against in-state rival Florida a few short weeks ago. This will be Tennessee’s second big test of the year, following a dominant win over #20 Washington in Toronto. Size and ability to be effective in the paint will decide who wins this game.

Tennessee hopes to keep up their winning ways as they continue to rise up the AP poll. The team also hopes to keep up their home winning streak, which was extended to 30 games with the victory over the Mocs. Rick Barnes has a lot to iron out in film before Friday, but a win is a win.

Turner and Bowden both reach 1,000 points as UT dominates Alabama State

Tennessee defeated Alabama State Wednesday night by the score of 76-41. Seniors, Jordan Bowden & Lamonte Turner, became the 51st & 52nd players in UT basketball history to reach the 1,000 point club as the Vols dominated the Hornets from the tip.

The Vols were able to get the majority of the bench on the floor for meaningful minutes in the second half. And the young guys provided valuable evidence that, with the addition of three top 40 recruits next year, there is much to be excited about in the future.

Knoxville native, Drew Pember, was the most exciting youngin’ to hit the hardwood for the orange & white as he provided great spark as a forward-wing hybrid. He crashed the glass effectively, especially on the offensive side, finishing with 8 points and 5 boards on the night in eight minutes played. His size and ability to move will have him finding more & more minutes in this lineup devoid of a ton of size.

Davonte Gaines & Olivier Nkamhoua provided valuable efforts off the bench as both recorded 6 boards on the evening. Gaines leaked out after a UT steal and showed a little of his athleticism while throwing down a big slam in transition. Nkamhoua played solid defense and showed a few nice post moves, finishing the night with 8 points.

John Fulkerson, Yves Pons, and Josiah Jordan James provided solid games while playing second fiddle to Bowden & Turner for the evening. James finished with a game high 12 rebounds while providing for others all night to the tune of 5 assists. Yves showed his athleticism once again with 11 points and a highlight reel alley-oop slam early in the second half. It was just another day at the office for Fulkerson as he finished with 10 points and 5 boards while holding down the post.

Lamonte Turner and Jordan Bowden both helped cement their legacies as both surpassed the 1,000 point mark with baskets from the floor. Bowden finished with 16 points on the night, while being lethal from three as usual. Turner finished the evening with 13 points and 6 assists. His average of 9.3 assists a game will take a small hit but will most certainly still be good for best in the SEC. At this point, it’s safe to say these guys are the definitive leaders.

This game was never in question, but these tuneup games always provide valuable insight on the mindset and quality of a team’s bench. Tennessee looks to be very focused early on and it seems like Rick Barnes has officially built a program here in Knoxville. Every night this team hits the floor there is an expectation of quality basketball being played and the team constantly lives up to that.

The media voted Tennessee to finish fifth in the talented SEC. But after UT’s gutsy win over #20 Washington, and dominating lesser opponents, I’m feeling more and more confident this team will surprise some people.

The Vols look forward to a match-up with UTC on Monday.

Tennessee’s vets use experience to fuel comfortable team win over #20 Washington

Lamonte Turner & Jordan Bowden lead the way on Saturday afternoon as the Vols defeated #20 ranked Washington in Toronto 75-62. UT jumped out to a 16-7 lead early in the first half and never looked back.

Bowden had 16 of his 18 points in the first half while firing jumpers with success all around the arch. Turner had an extraordinary game in his own right, finishing with 16 points, 7 boards, and 8 assists. Which was impressive enough to be named the player of the game for the James Naismith Classic.

Tennessee played a tight rotation throughout the night with only seven players making it into the box score. Freshman Olivier Nkamhoua provided a nice defensive spurt off the bench when John Fulkerson needed a break. The other four Tennessee starters played 35 minutes or more which is absolutely insane in terms of conditioning.

With that being said, UT was sharper than they’ve been all season playing this tight knit group. Yves Pons continues to absolutely dazzle with his development. His athleticism is now being matched with a lovely lefty shooting touch that is extremely consistent. He punished Washington all night as the free throw line extended cutter against the 2-3 zone. He also met Jay Z’s nephew, Nahziah Carter, at the rim for a huge blocked dunk in classic Yves fashion in the first half.

Vet John Fulkerson banged with Washington’s big men in the paint and had success. He finished the game with 14 points and 6 boards in 29 minutes played. His glue guy mentality cannot be put into numerical value, but he really plays the role of Draymond Green for this team. It’s not always pretty, but it sure is effective. He looks to be the guy stepping up as UT is still devoid of a true center.

Josiah Jordan James continues to become comfortable in the orange & white and showed flashes of a really special talent in Scotiabank Arena. He finished with only 9 points, but they were all big league moves. With one bucket being a catch and shoot three, while another was a pull up off the dribble. He also recorded a nice dunk after UT was able to break down Washington’s press look. James could become a really special player for this Volunteer team in time.

It felt like a big time game from the tip, and it was evident that Tennessee’s guys were just used to being there. Just another day in the office, no big deal. Lamonte Turner controlled the pace of the game the entire night, hypnotizing the Huskies into playing at UT’s pace. Bowden provided the Chris Lofton mentality of “you better not leave me open” while scoring at will.

I’ve written this at least five times it feels like now, but these guys are the heart & soul of this team. On Saturday night, Tennessee looked like they could compete with anybody in the country with Rick Barnes at the helm and the two seniors keeping everyone in check.

Tennessee has two tune-up games against Alabama State & UTC before a big match-up with Florida State on November 29th. The Seminoles have already defeated preseason top 10 team Florida earlier in the season, so one could expect a battle of power five conference schools.

UT is rounding into form early on in the season. With the loss of three key starters to the NBA following last season, many weren’t sure what to expect from this team. It feels as if there is a massive chip on this team’s shoulders to prove they’re still an elite college basketball team. Only time will tell, but I wouldn’t count these guys out. And I don’t think any inexperienced team in the country wants to play Tennessee..

Bowden and Pons lead a furious second half comeback as Vols trounce Murray State

Tennessee’s win streak of 27 games at home looked to be in danger Tuesday night after the first 20 minutes. Murray State shot the lights out in the first half and found themselves up nine points at the break by the score of 44-35. Rick Barnes must’ve had a few choice words with the men in white at halftime, because the Vols left the locker room for the second half and never looked back. Tennessee outscored Murray State 47-19 in the second half to win 82-63.

Yves Pons continues to impress and surprise as he kept the Vols close in the first half by knocking down three point shots at a high clip. Pons is being asked to play a lot of post because of his sheer size and he’s holding his own. His leaping ability helped him to erase four shots on the night as well as grabbing four boards. With the lack of certainty on the offensive side of the ball, Yves will need to continue to take strides on becoming more of a scoring threat.

Jordan Bowden dropped 26 points in only 26 minutes. 19 of those came in the second half when Tennessee needed him the most. Bowden is a lethal scorer, and when he takes the reigns, can take this UT team to new heights. He’s arguably the most gifted player on Tennessee’s roster and he feels like the x-factor guy who will decide how far this team will go.

UT’s huge run in the second half masked a lot of the flaws that were extremely apparent in the first half. It’s hard not to notice how much trouble Tennessee has on the boards in spurts. With Plavsic’s eligibility still up in the air, the Vols are devoid of a true center. Murray State’s Darnell Cowart, a bench big man, highlighted what a quick footed big can do to UT’s stretch line-up. Cowart had nine points & five boards in only eighteen minutes, but he may have given a blueprint on how to hurt UT.

UT has a nice mix of experience and youth throughout the roster. Lamonte Turner and Jordan Bowden are the seasoned vets. Fulkerson & Pons have been around but will have to grow into much larger roles. One would hope five star recruit Josiah Jordan James will get an opportunity to assert himself soon. While youngsters Jalen Johnson and Davonte Gains will both have the opportunity to pick up scoring slack throughout the season.

It feels as if UT is walking a high-wire, when everything is going well it’s wondrous to watch. But when the wind blows too hard they seem to fall, and fast. Obviously, matching last year’s 31 win season may be far fetched. But with a few starters returning from last season, UT should be able to shoot for at least a NCAA Tournament birth.

Tennessee knocks on the door of bowl eligibility with win against Kentucky

On 4th & Goal with 1:24 left in the game, Tennessee’s defense snuffed out an option look by the Wildcats to regain possession with a 17-13 lead. On a pivotal 3rd down, veteran QB Jarrett Guarantano rolled out and rushed for the four yards needed for a first down. UT took a couple knees and the clock struck zero. Just like that, one of the worst starts to a season in school history had evolved into a 5-5 start with bowl eligibility firmly in sight.

Credit Kentucky in this one. They jumped all over the Volunteers to the tune of 13-0 lead early in the game. They implemented a wishbone look that was tough to stop before UT was able to adapt and slow down the rush heavy offense. They finished the game with 302 rushing yards as a team, but only 25 in the air with an interception in only seven attempts.

The real heroes for the Vols came on the defensive side of the ball. UT gave up 13 points in the first quarter only to pitch a shutout the rest of the way. Early on, the game had the same feel as the terrible loss to Georgia State. Kentucky’s offensive line was having their way and Kentucky was able to methodically move the ball down the field while burning large chunks of clock. After the first quarter, UT seemed to become comfortable with stopping the option offense.

Brian Maurer got the nod as the starting QB on Saturday, but the offensive unit as a whole couldn’t find their footing. They were only able to muster three points in the entire first half. Jeremy Pruitt shocked most as he openly stated he was going to Guarantano after the halftime break. JG came out firing and led an immediate touchdown drive culminating in a jump ball to Marquez Callaway in the endzone to make the score 13-10 Kentucky.

The UT defense stood tall directly after the score and were able to to give the ball back to JG and the offense. Guarantano led another nice drive that ended with a beautiful catch by Josh Palmer in the endzone for a touchdown to push the Vols up 17-13. That would ultimately be the final score as both defenses bent but didn’t break for the final quarter and a half.

Tennessee is staring a possible 7-5 season square in the face. Which is absolutely positively insane considering the week 1 & 2 losses to Georgia State and BYU. It hurts fans everywhere to imagine a nine win season would be in play if the team wouldn’t have been upset, but that’s neither here or there at this point in the season.

UT has a match-up with bumbling Missouri in two weeks following a bye week. This should be a game very similar to Kentucky in that both teams will be starving for a win. I expect Kelly Bryant to be back taking snaps for the Tigers which should make things even more interesting. Missouri is currently 5-4 with a meeting against Florida standing in the way of themselves and Tennessee.

Tennessee’s final game of the season comes against Vanderbilt who is reeling after being shutout by Florida 56-0. Many would hope Tennessee can at least pull this one out against their in state rival who currently sit at 2-7 overall for the year. But as the last few years have proven, nothing is guaranteed in that rivalry.

Bowl eligibility seemed like an afterthought following UT’s 1-4 start with plenty of quality opponents left on the schedule. Credit has to go to Jeremy Pruitt and his coaching staff. They trimmed the fat and found the guys who were bought into the idea of winning as a team. Tennessee could possibly be looking at an eight win season, and there isn’t a fan in the Knoxville area that is upset with that.

Question marks arise all across the floor as Vols win 78-63

Tennessee kicked off their 2019-20 hoops campaign with a 78-63 victory over UNC Asheville on Tuesday night. The halftime deficit was only eight points after the Bulldogs put together a nice run in the final minute of the first half. Tennessee was clearly the more talented team, but at times the Bulldogs and Vols looked like they were evenly matched in everything but athleticism.

As usual with Rick Barnes coached teams, team defense was clearly the mantra going into this match-up. UT supplied a heaping of pressure perimeter defense as well as blocked shots, but the game tape raises question marks. Tennessee is devoid of a true center after Uros Plavsic’s transfer waiver was denied by the NCAA this week.

Forwards Yves Pons & John Fulkerson look to be Tennessee’s best inside options in terms of matching up with the opposing team’s big men. Which against a lower level team like UNC Asheville will fly, but with a meeting against Memphis and #1 overall recruit James Wiseman upcoming, that could spell trouble for the Vols. Fulkerson is a scrappy player who would thrive at the four spot. But if he’s asked to beat and bang with the fives, I really don’t know how he would fair. As for Pons, he is listed as a guard on most box scores I’ve come across. Asking him to fill that position may be unrealistic.

Seniors Lamonte Turner & Jordan Bowden will be the barometer for how far this team will go. Both will be relied upon to score at will and use their experience to keep Tennessee’s opponents on their heels. It was just the first game of the season, but at times UT had trouble scoring points consistently. Bowden seems to disappear into the crowd at times on offense. He finished last night with 10 points on 5/10 shooting. Admiral, Grant, and Kyle aren’t going to come walking out of the tunnel anytime soon. This team needs to find it’s identity and fast.

If I have one critique of Barnes’ system, it’s that at times it feels as if his Spurs style of basketball cripples some of the more talented offensive players by putting them in handcuffs. Vol Nation was absolutely ecstatic to add five star recruit Josiah-Jordan James to the mix after key departures in the offseason. Last night, he was given no individual opportunities to make himself comfortable in orange & white.

James is obviously a playmaker with a pass first mentality. He looks to be a true point guard who should be leading the break, making plays off the pick & roll, etc. Yet, for most of the night, the ball was taken out of his hands as he was forced to act as a cutter and screener. He finished the night with only two points while playing 25 minutes. Last night’s game was the perfect opportunity to let him loose against a lesser opponent and it seemed to be completely wasted. Lamonte shot 7/17 from the field while handling primary ball handling duties.

The most pleasant surprise for Tennessee was the emergence of Yves Pons. Pons has clearly been working hard to develop his game, and a different level of aggressiveness was displayed last night. Yves looked comfortable stepping out to the three point line and shooting in rhythm. He also displayed his shot blocking ability by meeting Asheville’s Jude at the rim roughly halfway through the first half for a blocked dunk. He even hit back to the basket fades at a high clip. If Pons can consistently play at his French National Team level, he could be a leader on this team.

It was just game one, but with the amount of talent residing in the SEC this season, the performance was enough to make me nervous. Offensively, the Vols don’t look to have an identity. Hopefully they’ll find one quickly or it could be a long season. Rick Barnes has a knack for banding a team together and this team will need that as they set out into their non-conference schedule.

Anthony Davis drops 40 and 20 as the Lakers demolish Memphis

Anthony Davis became the first Lakers player since Shaq in 2003 to have a 40 point 20 rebound game as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers. Oh, and he did it in just three quarters. I made a claim on this very site that one could argue New Orleans won the AD trade by collecting a king’s ransom of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, and three first round picks last June. After last night’s performance, I retract that previous statement wholeheartedly.

The Memphis Grizzlies had zero answer for the big fella the entire evening. Memphis is a young team with talented big men in Jonas Valanciunas and lottery pick Jaren Jackson Jr. but they both looked lost in Davis’ web last night. AD dominated the boards, including eight offensive rebounds. He also set a Lakers franchise record for 26 made free throws on only 27 attempts.

He joined elite company with the likes of Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, George Mikan, and the aforementioned “Big Aristotle” as the only Lakers ever with a 40 & 20 game. He also became the quickest to reach the feat since the 1954-1955 season by doing so in just 31 minutes played.

Looking at the stats can tell a story, but the game tape gives the God’s eye view. Simply put, no one could handle this man last night. During the third quarter, the Lakers went on a showtime level run to put the Grizzlies to sleep. Headlined by alley-oops and physicality galore. The team defense by LA when AD, LeBron, Danny Green, and Dwight Howard were on the floor together was lock down. The interior presence was staggering with the amount of blocked shots and rebounds recorded.

Staying healthy has been a concern for Davis in his career, but if he can hold it together for a full season we could be looking at a potential title contender. Not to mention, LeBron James is knocking off the rust quickly and is currently averaging 9.5 assists a game. Perimeter shooting has been added to the mix as well with the addition of Quinn Cook and NBA champion Danny Green.

It’s been a decade since the Lakers were anywhere close to a powerhouse with the likes of Kobe & Pau and those great Finals series against the Celtics. Anthony Davis and LeBron James have the opportunity to take the purple & gold back to a place where their fan base has long salivated to return to.

Jennings and Bituli lead Tennessee to a 41-21 win over South Carolina

Will Muschamp’s reign over the Tennessee Volunteers officially ended on Saturday. The coach was 7-0 against the Vols lifetime with three wins as the coach at Florida and four as South Carolina’s. Both teams were itching for a win to keep their bowl hopes alive, and the second half performance by the Vols confirmed the boys in orange aren’t dead yet.

The Gamecocks took the first play from scrimmage to the house in the form of a 75 yard touchdown by Shi Smith. Tennessee responded by starting Knoxville’s Batman, Jauan Jennings, at QB with a wildcat look on the first play. Freshman QB J.T. Shrout then took the reigns and lead the Vols down field for a successful field goal try by Brent Cimaglia to make it 7-3.

Both offenses were stagnant for the remainder of the first quarter. Then, Marquez Callaway ignited the home crowd in Neyland Stadium with a 64 yard punt return for a touchdown with 10 minutes left in the second quarter. South Carolina responded with a long drive of their own, which resulted in a one yard touchdown run on 4th & goal by Mon Denson to make the score 14-10.

Jauan Jennings caught two long balls the next drive, the second being a gutsy broken tackle filled 48 yard touchdown reception to push the Vols back out front 17-14. Ryan Hilinski of SC lead a two minute drill down the field, culminated by possibly the catch of the year by Bryan Edwards at the goal line. South Carolina finished off the first half with a touchdown making the score 21-17 at the break.

I don’t know if Michael Jordan was waiting in the locker room with his secret stuff or what, but the Vols were a completely different team in the second half. On the first play of the second half, Jarrett Guarantano found Marquez Callaway on a deep post for an immediate red zone opportunity. The Vols stalled and settled for a missed field goal. But after an immediate stop by the defense, Guarantano found Jauan Jennings in the back of the endzone on 3rd & 14 for his second touchdown of the day making the score 24-21. After that moment, Tennessee never looked back.

Shrout took back control under center after an injury to Guarantano and found Marquez Callaway in stride for a 56 yard touchdown the very next drive. The top had officially popped in Neyland, and the nowhere near capacity crowd re-energized the team to a point that hadn’t been reached in ages. The Tennessee defense knocked down a Hilinski pass on 4th & 2 to retake possession as the fourth quarter began.

Shrout found Jauan Jennings again down the left sideline for a huge play following the turnover on downs, giving the Vols another redzone opportunity. The drive stalled and Brent Cimaglia came on for another successful field goal making the score 34-21. Tennessee proceeded to force another 3 & out which resulted in a blocked punt by Daniel Bituli who also recovered the ball in the endzone for a UT touchdown. The late score made the count 41-21, which in the end would be the final.

Jauan Jennings & Daniel Bituli were absolutely magnificent and cemented themselves in the hearts of Vol fans for life. Jennings had 7 receptions for 174 yards & 2 touchdowns while also taking wildcat snaps all night. Bituli had 15 tackles, a TFL, a blocked punt, and a touchdown. The two gave the fans two of the best single player performances by Volunteers in ages. They were both rewarded with SEC Offensive & Defensive players of the week, respectively.

UT played three players at QB on Saturday and it actually worked in their favor. Tennessee had a season high 351 yards passing as a team. Jarrett Guarantano accounted for 229 of the yards, while J.T. Shrout threw for 122 of his own on seven completions. JG made a lot of the right throws bringing fan and coach confidence way up from the depths it fell to after the Alabama debacle. Shrout announced himself as a real deal college player, making the Vols QB outlook much better than it had been in previous weeks.

The special teams deserves a huge shout out as well as they accounted for two touchdowns on Saturday. Jeremy Pruitt chooses to play a lot of starters on his special team units and on game day we found out why. The return for a touchdown by Marquez Callaway and the blocked punt by Bituli were arguably the two largest plays of the game and locked in the win for Tennessee.

As expected, the offense continues to build on each week and Jim Chaney has everyone believing this team can score points on a consistent basis. The Volunteers threw the ball all over the yard regardless of who was taking the snaps, and the run game is finally setting a foundation weekly with Jordan, Chandler, and Gray sharing carries. One starts looking at Tennessee’s recent performances, and there’s a very strong possibility this football team is turning a corner.

The fact of the matter is this, Tennessee lost 4 of their first 5. With losses against Georgia State & BYU. UT was primed for an absolutely putrid season, possibly the worst in school history. But after wins against Mississippi State and South Carolina, and the level of effort being shown weekly, a bowl game and maybe even a seven win regular season is totally obtainable. Tennessee’s remaining games are against UAB, Kentucky, Missouri, and Vanderbilt. All four of those teams are completely and utterly beatable, and don’t offer nearly the challenge the front half of UT’s schedule has thrown at them.

Jeremy Pruitt seems to have this entire team bought into his rugged mindset. This team is tough and the defense is playing with a nasty attitude. Only time will tell where this team will finish, but I would be surprised if the Vols aren’t playing postseason football in a couple months.

Guarantano or Shrout? Jeremy Pruitt’s Biggest Decision to Date

Jeremy Pruitt confirmed Wednesday that Redshirt Freshman QB, J.T. Shrout, will at least have an opportunity to play Saturday against South Carolina. Most of the fan base has expressed their outright feelings that they’re ready to move on from Jarrett Guarantano. And, honestly, the game tape tells the same story.

Guarantano appeared in 12 games last season as the starter and threw only 12 total touchdowns. He’s thrown eight TD’s thus far this season in seven games. To put that in perspective, LSU QB, Joe Burrow has already thrown 29 touchdowns through seven games this season. Tennessee is no where near the quality of team that LSU is, but that discrepancy is enough to see his play style may not fit what UT is looking for.

Shrout was a three-star prospect out of Santa Clarita, California in the 2017 class. He took his team to the state quarterfinals while throwing for 3,064 yards and 27 touchdowns in his senior campaign. High School stats don’t hold much weight when transferring to the college level, but it’s nice to know the kid has a gunslinger mentality.

Tennessee is coming off a strong effort against Alabama that was squandered by a goal line fumble early in the 4th quarter by Guarantano. It was a night in which penalties had more of an effect than plays made on the field. And that’s something South Carolina can relate to wholeheartedly.

USC dropped last week’s game as a result of missed calls, specifically a hold and an offensive pass interference that both resulted in touchdowns. Tavien Feaster did the majority of the damage for the Gamecocks with 25 carries resulting in 175 yards and a touchdown. But in the end, Florida proved to be too strong with the final score being in favor of the Gators 38-27.

Tennessee is 2-5 while South Carolina is cruising at 3-4. Both teams need a victory terribly. South Carolina will most likely make a bowl game regardless, but the Vols really need this game to have any chance of making it there. Another concussion to new starter Brian Maurer leaves UT in quite a predicament, though.

Will HC Jeremy Pruitt choose experience in Guarantano? Or will he elect to go with youth and potential in the young Shrout? As a fan of the team watching from the rafters, I hope he elects to go with Shrout and diverge to Guarantano if there is a disaster early.

The fan base that keeps filling the stadium for a 2-5 team is hungry for a winner. The team’s effort has been outstanding the last few weeks, and a good performance here could turn the season around entirely. Jeremy Pruitt has a big decision to make, likely the biggest of his career to date.