Josh Heupel’s third year on Rocky Top will see Tennessee Football have to replace a lot of key talent and one key coach. Ironically, they replace the most talent at wide receiver, but that’s the one area that nobody is worried about. Here are the top five concerns surrounding the Vols entering this season.
5. Change in Tennessee Football offensive coordinator
Heupel is the main guy running the offense, and new offensive coordinator Joey Halzle did prove what he could do in the Vols’ Orange Bowl win over the Clemson Tigers. However, that’s a limited sample size. Losing Alex Golesh to the South Florida Bulls was still a huge deal, so until the season starts, Halzle has a lot to prove.
4. What type of pass rush can Tennessee Football generate?
Byron Young and stunts with Jeremy Banks were at the heart of the pass rush Tennessee Football generated last year. Both are gone. How can the Vols replace that? Keenan Pili at linebacker and then Tyler Baron and Roman Harrison should provide enough firepower, but nobody’s proven just yet. Without a pass rush, Tim Banks’ defense is in trouble.
3. Offensive line
UT lost a top 10 draft pick in right tackle Darnell Wright, and they lost left guard Jerome Carvin. Moving Jeremiah Crawford over to right tackle means three starting spots are being replaced and there will be at least two new starters on the line in general. The line was a huge part of the Vols’ success last year, so can they replicate that with all these changes?
2. Joe Milton III accuracy and decision-making
He lost the starting job to Hendon Hooker to begin with partially because of an injury but also because he kept missing wide open throws. Then he panicked against the Ole Miss Rebels and ran out of bounds as time expired. Joe Milton III stayed, though, and is the starting Tennessee Football quarterback once again. The Orange Bowl alone is unconvincing. Has he improved these issues? If not, UT is in trouble.
Although the pass defense was underrated last year, it was still an issue. With Trevon Flowers gone, Tennessee Football has even more to work out here. Do the Vols have any answer at cornerback? Are things going to get even worse given Jaylen McCollough’s legal trouble? If that happens, then the offense maintaining its rhythm will mean nothing.