KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT)— It is hard to believe, but here we are back in the throngs of SEC Football coverage. The League’s annual preseason spectacle where coaches, players and media members gather to talk football is upon us. Your WVLT Sports team will be among over a thousand credentialed media members taking part in the discussion about SEC Football for 2019. So we might as well start the discussion right now with our list of 8 things we’ll be looking to talk about this week in Hoover, Alabama:
8. AREAS OF IMPROVEMENT FOR TENNESSEE FOOTBALL: First order of business for UT coaches is to strengthen the offensive line either with returning players or some key additions through recruiting. All eyes will be on assistant coach Will Friend and his ability to develop that unit. Trench warfare will also be a key on the defensive side of the ball which is the Vols’ greatest area of need. It’s the unit which has had the most turnover from last season, but one which does return SEC sack specialist Darrell Taylor.
7. MISSOURI’S POSTSEASON BAN: Especially with the addition of QB transfer Kelly Bryant, Missouri — one of Tennessee’s opponents this season — is expected to be one of the better tams in the SEC East. Question is, how will the ban affect the Tigers on the field? Missouri is appealing the decision.
6. FLORIDA’S OFFSEASON ISSUES: Despite coming off a 10 win season, his first in Gainesville, head coach Dan Mullen will more than likely be fielding questions from SEC media members about an offseason littered with arrests , accusations and transfers by key recruits. The Vols do visit the Swamp in September.
5. PLAYERS PROFITING FROM IMAGE AND LIKENESS: An NCAA committee is studying a proposal which would allow athletes to profit from the use of the likeness and image. The NCAA currently does not allow this.
4. SEC COORDINATOR CAROUSEL: There are no new head coaches in the league this season, which is why the discussion could shift to coordinators who are making the transition to new schools and not all of them are at new institutions — like Tennessee’s Jim Chaney, who’s entering his second stint at UT. He’s one of 11 new coordinators across the SEC. Jeremy Pruitt was anxious to lure Chaney away from Jeremy Pruitt. The move will no doubt prompt questions to Kirby Smart, whose Dogs are the favorite once again to win the SEC East.
3. HEALTH OF TREY SMITH AND JAUAN JENNINGS: A pair key contributors for this Tennessee football freak have been Offensive Tackle Trey Smith and Wide Receiver Jauan Jennings. Entering his final season, Jennings is recovering from a knee injury he suffered during the offseason. When healthy, Jennings provides this Tennessee team with a leader and reliable pass catcher. As for Smith, a recurring blood clot condition forced him to shut down his season for the second-straight year. A Freshman All-American, Smith’s presence would no doubt bolster an offensive line looking to make great strides.
2. NINE QB’s TO REPRESENT SEC TEAMS AT MEDIA DAYS: Headlining the group of quarterbacks to make an appearance at SEC Media Days will be Alabama’s Tua Tagoviloa. Jarrett Guarantano will be the first UT QB at the event since Josh Dobbs back in 2016. Also headed to Hoover this week are Florida's Feleipe Franks, Georgia’s Jake Fromm, LSU's Joe Burrow, Mississippi's Matt Corral, Missouri's Kelly Bryant, South Carolina’s Jake Bentley and Texas A&M's Kellen Mond.
1. GUARANTANO’S BREAKOUT SEASON? The Vols’ offense behind quarterback Jarrett Guarantano showed potential in wins over Auburn (30 points, 396 total yards) and against Kentucky (24 points, 412 total yards), but was mostly inept throughout the SEC schedule. Much of the problem centered around porous play up-front giving Guarantano little time to adjust. If the line play does improve in 2019, everyone will be watching to see if Jarrett Guarantano can take the next step in his quest to become an elite quarterback.