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Staring Down the Musket at the Tennessee Volunteers

A wild football game appears! Terry Lambert from Rocky Top Talk helps answer some questions about the Vols.

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Through the wilderness.

Simple Gifts stuck in your head.

Q&A column

What has Jeremy Pruitt’s first impression in Knoxville been like, and what gives Vol fans hope that he won’t be next in line of failed Saban Lites in the SEC?

Tennessee fans immediately took to his no-nonsense, simple man attitude. And man — that’s exactly what this program needed. The Vols are now free from Butch Jones, who was terrible on the field and even worse at the podium. Pruitt has been recruiting like a maniac so far and currently has Tennessee in the top ten in the 2019 class rankings. He’s won the offseason, now he just needs to some some sort of pulse on the field to rebound from a 4-8 season.

I think there’s long-term confidence in Pruitt, simply based on recruiting. He’s already improved this program and filled a few needs. In fact, 11 new faces appeared in Tennessee’s two deep depth chart on Monday. He’s quickly transforming the culture and getting his guys in and ready to go early on. I have no idea what the end result will be, but he seems to be a fantastic fit so far. Of course, he still has to prove it on the field.

I know that Pruitt has kept a heavy lockdown in camp so far, but what are your thoughts on how he’ll distribute QB snaps between Guarantano and Chryst right off the bat?

This is Jarrett Guarantano’s show. I’d be shocked if we saw Chryst at all on Saturday, barring injury. He had the advantage of going through spring practice and getting a head start with the playbook and Chryst has yet to catch up. It’s going to be interesting to see how far Guarantano has come this offseason after looking completely dreadful in 2017.

Tennessee is probably going to try to eastablish a slow tempo to keep West Virginia’s offense on the sidelines. Can you give me a quick breakdown on offensive line and running back and who WVU fans should be looking out for?

Suddenly, the offensive line looks like a strength for this team. Freshman All-American Trey Smith — Tennessee’s most talented player — will kick outside to left tackle. Alabama transfer Brandon Kennedy will get the start at center and provide a huge upgrade. The other three spots are still up for grabs. Overall, the offensive line should be pretty good. It may take a few games to figure out the correct combination, but the Vols have decent talent up front.

Sophomore Ty Chandler is the guy to pay attention to here. He’s smaller, but he’s the guy that can hit the homerun. Tim Jordan and Madre London offer a little bit more size, which is what the staff seems to value. Expect to see all three backs on Saturday. Just going off of the spring game, look for Tennessee to establish the run, then take some shots off play-action over the top.

How do you think Pruitt’s defense is going to fare against what should be one of the best offenses in the country, and who has to have an A+ game to slow down Will Grier and his skill player corps.

Not well.

I’m more confident in the offense than the defense, which is weird considering Pruitt’s background and just how bad the Tennessee offense was last season. I just don’t think Pruitt has the pieces to play the defense he wants yet, particularly up front. Tennessee is undersized on the defensive line (for what Pruitt wants) and doesn’t have an established pass rusher on the roster. To make matters even more cloudy, they will probably be starting one, maybe two freshmen at cornerback.

I think safety Nigel Warrior is the guy that has to play lights out for the Vols to have a shot. He’s probably the most talented piece that Tennessee has in the secondary right now. He’s expected to play all over the field for Pruitt, who has an incredible track record of developing defensive backs.

How terrible is it that this isn’t in Morgantown or Knoxville?

It’s a tragedy. Two of the best college towns in America…. meeting in Charlotte..? It would have been awesome to get a home and home out of this.

Finally, how do you see this shaking out?

I think Tennessee is going to be able to run the ball and control the clock. The only problem is that they’re probably going to be starting a couple of freshman cornerbacks and have no proven pass rush. I fully expect Tennessee to be able to score some points in this one, I just think West Virginia has too much ability through the air.

Final: West Virginia 38, Tennessee 30

Thanks again to Terry Lambert of Rocky Top Talk for joining us for Staring Down the Musket.