The transfer portal clearly hit Tennessee football harder than any other program. Numbers tell the story on that front, and for one college football analyst known for making accurate predictions, it’s a reason for concern.
According to Austin Nivison of 247Sports, analyst Phil Steele said on Paul Finebaum’s radio show Wednesday that Rocky Top is the SEC team he is most concerned about. The changes to the roster and among the coaches were named as the big reasons for the concern.
Steele noted that the Vols lead the nation in players hitting the transfer portal, and that’s a pretty valid reason as to why he had Tennessee football at the top of his worried list. Here’s a bit of what he said in his explanation.
"“Twenty-five have hit the portal this year, you’ve got new schemes on offense and defense, a new head coach. I think it’s going to be tough for Tennessee to stay near the top, the middle of the pack or the upper half.”"
Obviously, this has been a huge reason for concern. However, it’s hard to gauge how much of a concern the roster turnover is when you have a coaching change. Theoretically, even if you had all returning starters, the new scheme and new coaching would work the same.
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However, nobody has seen anything like what happened to Rocky Top this past year, so it’ll be interesting to see if that has an added affect on a program going through a coaching and schematic change. Given the level of change facing Big Orange Country, it’s possible.
On the other hand, UT lucked out with a bit of an easier schedule this year. They get all four non-conference games at home, and their one Power Five non-conference opponent is the Pittsburgh Panthers. Then they get to host the Vanderbilt Commodores and South Carolina Gamecocks, two teams they beat and finished ahead of last year who are also undergoing coaching changes.
That’s already a path to six wins, and you have to think that maybe they could steal another one either at home against the Ole Miss Rebels or at the Kentucky Wildcats. Heck, maybe they have an opportunity to upset the Missouri Tigers. The Florida Gators, Georgia Bulldogs and Alabama Crimson Tide are sure losses.
Overall, Tennessee football has lots of things working against it, and Steele didn’t even mention the affect the NCAA investigation could have on the mentality of the program. However, there is still some excitement brewing in Knoxville, Tenn., and there are certain positives. As a result, the Vols could pleasantly surprise fans just like they could collapse.