It’s no secret that Butch Jones is coaching for his job this season. After a humiliating 41-0 home loss to Georgia, Jones’ seat has never been hotter. With South Carolina coming off their best performance of the 2017 season, Jones’ fate could be sealed as soon as Saturday afternoon.
Head Coach: Butch Jones. Fifth season 33-23 (14-20).
Record: 3-2 (0-2)
Last Week: Bye week following 41-0 loss to Georgia.
Offensive playmaker: RB John Kelly
Top Defender: LB Colton Jumper
Weakness: QB play
The biggest news prior to kick-off in Neyland Stadium is that the Vols will be sending out a new quarterback. After completing just five passes with two INTs against Georgia, Quinten Dormady has been shown the bench by Jones. Jarrett Guarantano has been given the keys to the offense as the (RS) Freshman will make his first start against South Carolina. Guarantano has seen action in three games this year, completing 12 of 24 passes for 75 yards and a touchdown. According to ESPN, Guarantano was a 4-star dual-threat QB recruit out of New Jersey. He had a long list of schools to offer him, including Alabama, Auburn, Clemson and Ohio State, before signing with the Vols. In his first career start, he will be tasked with trying to improve the nations 110th ranked offense (in terms of yards).
Guarantano will have some help on the offense. The Vols offensive line has only given up five sacks through their first five games. RB John Kelly will be the biggest help for the first-time starter. Kelly enters the game averaging five yards per carry with 494 yards and six scores on the ground. He also is the Vols leading receiver, catching 22 passes for 229 yards. A pair of sophomore wide-outs will be Guarantano’s primary targets on the outside. Brandon Johnson enters the game with 18 catches for 205 yards and a score while Marquez Callaway leads the Vols with three touchdown receptions.
The Tennessee defense has had two weeks off since getting ran over by Georgia. The Vols gave up 294 on the ground to Nick Chubb and the rest of the Bulldog rushing attack. Tennessee’s top player on defense so far this season has been Senior LB Colton Jumper. He currently ranks third in tackles for the Vols but leads the team in tackles for loss (7) and sacks (4.5).
This game is obviously huge for both programs. For South Carolina, a win Saturday would be only their third ever in Knoxville and first since 2011. It also give the Gamecocks a great shot for an 8-9 win season. For Tennessee, a home-loss to USC would send them to 3-3 on the year and 0-3 in league play with trips to Alabama and Kentucky to finish October. Change would certainly be coming to Knoxville.