KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee football fans finally get a look at what they hope will be a new and improved Vols team at the Orange and White Game.
It will be hard not to follow the football, in the sense that first-year coach Jeremy Pruitt has split the team up in a manner that allows this to be an actual game.
The Orange is the first-team offense and second-team defense, the White is the first-team defense and second-team offense.
It doesn’t matter which team wins, but the performance of all of the players will be put under the microscope by Pruitt, who believes this to be a good test of who will show up on the grand stage of the Sept. 1 opener against West Virginia.
That said, the new head coach said that the depth chart will “absolutely” change again once the graduate transfers and incoming freshmen arrive this summer.
So where will the changes be? What are the key things to watch?
It’s hard not to think the battle between sophomores Jarrett Guarantano and Will McBride is for second place. Incoming Stanford graduate transfer Keller Chryst is 11-2 as a starter with four years in a pro-style offense.
Pruitt, however, said McBride and Guarantano have done their part in spring to make it a battle.
“It’s going to be open competition all the way until we figure out who our quarterback is,” Pruitt most recently said on Thursday on ESPNU Sirius XM radio. “I’ll say this, the guys who have been here this spring have done everything we’ve asked them to do. They have enough gear, enough talent to be good football players.”
Where are they? The offense and defense need some players to step up.
Safety Nigel Warrior, check. Tailback Ty Chandler, check. Who else?
Linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr., offensive lineman Trey Smith and receiver Jauan Jennings are all NFL talents and stars, but they are also sidelined.
Let’s sit back and see if anyone else jumps out.
3. New schemes
The 3-4 defense and pro-style offense — will take some getting used to after five years of the spread.
The guess here is that the reason the Vols defense has been a step behind this spring is because of the changeover to 3-4. Pruitt says it’s simple, but the players haven’t sounded so certain of that in the limited interviews they have given.
The offensive players seem to be adjusting much better to the pro-style attack, likely because they’re no longer playing at such a fast tempo.