Tennessee Volunteers vs. Georgia State Panthers
Neyland Stadium – Knoxville, TN
Kickoff: 3:30 PM ET on ESPNU
The Tennessee Volunteers will kick off their 2019 season against the Georgia State Panthers. The two teams have had just one previous meeting. In 2012, the Vols defeated the Panthers, then an FCS program, 51-13 in Neyland Stadium. Junior quarterback Tyler Bray threw for 310 yards and four touchdowns with a 90% completion rate. Justin Hunter added to the stat-fest with three receiving touchdowns. With kickoff just days away, we preview Tennessee’s week one match-up against the Panthers.
This seasons meeting between the two schools should be no different than in 2012. Tennessee enters the game with an experienced roster full of returning starters. However, the Volunteers will be without a few key players. They will be without defensive lineman Emmit Gooden who tore his ACL at the beginning of fall camp. Cornerback Bryce Thompson will also be inactive as a result of an indefinite suspension stemming from his arrest over the weekend. Trey Smith has been medically cleared and should be ready to go. The program did receive the NCAA’s ruling Tuesday evening that made Michigan transfer Aubrey Solomon immediately eligible.
Entering his fourth year in the program, Jarrett Guarantano will lead the Vols on offense. After an efficient 2018 season and a promising off-season, many expect Guarantano to take a major leap as a redshirt junior. Guarantano should be able to showcase his improvements against a Georgia State defense that allowed 240 passing yards per game last season. The success of the offense will rely heavily on the performance of the offensive line. Injuries tore through the front-five last season but the coaching staff has added depth and talent to help avoid a similar situation in 2019.
The strongest positions for Tennessee on offense will be at wide receiver and running back. Tennessee should have the ability to give every receiver on the depth chart playing time on Saturday. Unless it is a close game in the second half, Jauan Jennings and Marquez Callaway will likely see limited playing time. The backfield for the Volunteers has the biggest opportunity to put up big numbers. The Panthers allowed over 250 yards and three touchdowns per game on the ground last season. Like the receivers, the running backs will split the majority of snaps between Ty Chandler, Tim Jordan, Jeremy Banks, and Eric Gray. Lastly, Georgia State allows the Tennessee coaching staff to evaluate the offensive line, in particular, Darnell Wright and Wanya Morris, to see who the starting five will be in week 2 against BYU.
The Volunteers will have major holes to fill in week one. Luckily, they will be facing a Panther offense that ranked 105th in the country in scoring last season. Like Tennessee, Georgia State will field an experienced offense. Starting quarterback, Dan Ellington, led the Panthers’ in passing and rushing yards in 2018. The Volunteers has struggled the past few years when facing mobile quarterbacks but showed improvement against Kentucky’s Terry Wilson towards the end of last season. The coaching staff looks to continue the success against mobile quarterbacks as they will face multiple throughout the upcoming season.
Week one will be a big opportunity to see who will fill the void left by the absence of Gooden. Aubrey Solomon will likely get the start but the remainder of the defensive line rotation remains a question. The linebacker corps will enter the game as the strongest group on the defensive side. Freshmen Henry To’oto’o and Quavaris Crouch will see major playing time as they look to solidify their roles within the deep linebacker group. With the Thompson situation looming, the secondary must take on a “next man up” mentality. The good news for Tennessee is that they have both experience and talent to fill the position. Freshmen Warren Burrell and Tyus Fields look to show their abilities and secure their spot in Thompson’s absence. Senior Baylen Buchanan should have an impressive game as he locks down the corner spot opposite of Alontae Taylor.
Andrew Rose: Tennessee rushes for 300+ yards and 4 touchdowns.
Dylan Dozier: Eric Gray leads Tennessee in YPC; Warren Burrell claims cornerback spot in Bryce Thompson’s absence.
Andrew Rose: Tennessee 51, Georgia State 13
Dylan Dozier: Tennessee 45, Georgia State 13
Following Saturday’s game against Georgia State, and every game this season, fellow Tennessee contributor Dylan Dozier will provide post-game analysis and an in-depth look on the performance of the Tennessee Volunteers. Check us out on LastWordonCollegeFootball.com and our social media accounts @AndrewRoseLWOS and @ddozier89.