It's time for the 3-2-1 report. Three observations, two questions and a prediction as the Vols prepare for a pivotal game against South Carolina.
Three things we've learned since the Vols loss to UGA:
1. Not much about the Vol offense – Saturday will show what kind of improvements the offense has or hasn't made. To date, head coach Butch Jones hasn't announced any changes to his offense. Jones has said his quarterbacks are competing everyday. Jones has said that his offensive line needs continuity, but during the open date they didn't have what is thought to be their starting five on the practice field together last week.
2. The unrest is at an all-time high – From random rumors to what seemed like almost hourly love affairs with other teams' coaches on Saturday, to say the Tennessee fanbase is unhappy is an understatement. Thurday on the practice field there was an altercation between Trey Smith and Darrell Taylor. Players have drawn national attention for “liking” negative tweets about Jones. That unrest has created plenty of unknowns about this team.
3. The Gamecocks defense was offensive – South Carolina did find an offensive rhythm Saturday against Arkansas, as Jake Bentley threw for three touchdowns and they rushed for 159 yards as a team. But the story from Saturday was a Gamecock defense that scored 21 points and forced four total turnovers. The Gamecocks were good against the run, giving up on 105 yards on the ground. Tennessee has struggled with turnovers in conference games, throwing five interceptions and losing a fumble.
Two questions heading into South Carolina week:
1 – What's the locker room really like?
Tight end Ethan Wolf says that everything is fine with the locker room.
“We have been in this position before and it's not a fun position to be in, but we have never had any type of conflict in the locker room in the past and we don't now. Everyone is on the same page,” Wolf said.
But the question is are they really on the same page? There's plenty of evidence to suggest otherwise with random tweets and obviously Thursday's altercation. Now altercations happen on the practice field, but the story on this altercation makes you wonder about frustration level, as well as team chemistry.
Leadership questions continue for a team that's struggling on the field and seems to be in serious need of leadership.
2 – How different does the offense look?
Assuming there's a change at quarterback, will there be a difference offensively with Jarrett Guarantano than Quintin Dormady? Would there be more quarterback runs? Will the passing game change? There's certainly lots of questions if there is a new signal-caller.
Regardless of what they do at the quarterback position how different is the offense after a week off and two weeks removed from being shutout for the first time since 1994. What tweaks have been made? Have the receivers made some improvements? What are the adjustments to play calling and offensive tempo?
No one expects the offense to look the same this week compared to the UGA game, but what changes have been made.
One prediction: No one knows what to expect
It's a noon game in what everyone sees as a must win. And there's lots of unknowns. What does this offense look like particularly if Jarrett Guarantano gets the start? More importantly, where is this team mentally? We know it's been a long few days following the shutout loss. We know and they know how much unrest and discussion there is regarding the future of Butch Jones.
How much does the fan unrest show itself Saturday? What's the atmosphere like? How many empty seats are there?
The bottom line is no one is sure what to expect from anyone on Saturday.