How to measure a successful 2018 Tennessee season beyond wins, losses
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“What is the mark of success for Tennessee in 2018? I’m thinking 8-5?” Chase M. (email)
I broke down what I thought a solid win total would be in 2018 about a month ago. With how thin the roster is at spots, six or seven regular-season wins will be pretty good.
The win/loss record will be what is most remembered, of course, about coach Jeremy Pruitt’s first season. It’s how he’ll ultimately be judged.
There are other ways to measure success, especially for a first-time head coach, I think Tennessee fans will be keeping an eye on throughout the season. These three factors can help signal a successful season for the Vols.
Fans grew tired of the players seemingly stagnate under Butch Jones. If the players get better over the course of the season then I think this will win over a lot of fans heading into 2019.
The Vols will be young in a lot of spots across the roster in 2018. Some need to show they can carry an SEC workload as a starter.
The good news for Pruitt is the schedule is front-heavy, which makes for many winnable games in the second half of the season.
Tennessee closes with South Carolina, Charlotte, Kentucky, Missouri and Vanderbilt. Going 4-1 down the stretch and making a bowl game would show the team had improved over the season.
It mostly got lost in the shuffle of the coaching search, but Tennessee missed out on about a month of extra practices by missing a bowl in 2017. The bowl practices will go a long way in developing this roster for 2019.
Tennessee’s offense struggled to produce plays. It only got worse when Jarrett Guarantano and Will McBride began to start games after Quinten Dormady got injured.
Both played well at times, but showed struggles in their games, as well.
The Vols brought in Stanford grad-transfer Keller Chryst to compete for the starting job. He won’t arrive until the summer, but he has more experience in a pro-style which Tennessee is switching to.
Offensive coordinator Tyson Helton has said he wants a “field general” under center who can control the game and make plays with his arm.
The quarterback race is open heading into 2018.
Settling on the right quarterback before the season will go a long way in making 2018 a successful season.
Immediate defensive improvement
Pruitt comes to Tennessee with the reputation of being a great defensive coach. Rightfully so, Alabama had the best scoring defense in the past two seasons with Pruitt as the defensive coordinator, according to cfbstats.com.
Georgia jumped from 79th in scoring defense in 2013 to 16th in Pruitt’s first year coaching the defense in 2014.
Tennessee allowed 29.1 points per game last season which ranked 83rd in 2017. The defense allowed the second most rushing yards in the Power 5 at 251.25 per game.
It’s fair to expect at least a mild jump in production from the defense in 2018 under Pruitt. A stalwart defense which can allow the offense to go through some growing pains might be the key to a successful 2018 campaign.
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