Editor’s note: This is the ninth of a 12-part series on each of Kentucky’s 12 opponents this season.
By KEITH TAYLOR, Kentucky Today
GAME 9: Tennessee at Kentucky, Saturday, Nov. 9, TBA
LAST YEAR: Tennessee 24, Kentucky 7.
COACH: Jeremy Pruitt, second season. Record at school: 5-7.
LOOKING BACK: The Volunteers stepped into more of a routine following a coaching search that resembled a circus act until former football coach Phil Fulmer calmed the chaos and brought in former Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, who went 5-7 in his first season, including wins over Kentucky and Auburn. Although a rebuilding season, the Volunteers kept their edge over the Wildcats and limited Kentucky to just seven points in Knoxville. Kentucky has recorded two wins over the Volunteers — both in Lexington — during the past eight years.
LOOKING AHEAD: The Volunteers win just two games in the conference last season, including back-to-back setbacks to Missouri and Vanderbilt respectively to end any hopes of reaching bowl eligibility. Back for Tennessee is veteran Jarrett Guarantano, who threw for 1,907 yards and 12 touchdowns last year. The veteran signal caller will work with this third offensive coordinator as Jim Chaney returns for a second stint with the Volunteers. A more-experienced offensive line, coupled with veteran wide receiver Marquez Callaway and running back Ty Chandler gives Guarantano more tools to work with this season. Overall, eight starters are back for the Vols on offense.
The defensive line will be a concern for Pruitt and his staff as Tennessee adjusts to a 3-4 alignment. The secondary is solid, led by safety Nigel Warrior and a host of experienced players.
Pruitt welcomed former Tennessee quarterback Tee Martin to the staff, who will led the wide receivers and is excited to have Chaney on the staff.
“Jim’s a guy that, you know, he’s a very good communicator. He’s a great teacher. He’s a good evaluator. He works well with people. Having a chance just to listen to him talk to our coaches and our players, he’s very personable, really good teacher. You know, he’s done it in the SEC a bunch of different ways, whether it was the last few years at Georgia where they ran the ball a lot, or at Tennessee before where they had a lot of balance, or even when he was at Purdue when they threw the ball 50 or 60 times,” Pruitt said.
“Jim’s a guy that figures out who his best players are and he finds a way to get him the ball. We’re excited to have him. I know he’s the guy that really helped me in the last six months, so I’m looking forward this season.”
CONFERENCE: The Volunteers are projected to finish fifth in the SEC East.
COACH QUOTE: “When you talk about comparing Tennessee now to like me and you know it at – when I was growing up, Tennessee was one of the premier programs in the country, and that’s still the expectations of the fans, the – everybody associated with the athletic department, our coaching staff and our players. … We got to do our part. And we have a plan as a staff. You know, we’ve got to execute the plan. Our players, they believe in our vision and the kids that we’re recruiting. And it takes a lot that goes into it, and we’re continuing to work our plan.”