Tennessee (2-2) hosts second-ranked Alabama (4-0) this weekend for a 3:30 ET kick-off on CBS. The Volunteers come into the contest with plenty of questions to answer following a demoralizing 34-7 defeat by Kentucky last weekend. In the wake of that loss, Jeremy Pruitt fired defensive line coach Jimmy Brumbaugh and faced multiple criticisms over his persistence to stick with Jarrett Guarantano at the quarterback position. Much like every week, Tennessee releases an unofficial depth chart, and we are going to break down some of the key positions
As you can see from the depth chart above, there is not much of a change at any of the positions, including quarterback, so let's start there.
From all accounts, it appears Guarantano will at least start the game against Alabama. He nursed an injury earlier in the week that limited him in practice, but he appears game-ready. The real question is how long of a leash does he have? Pruitt yanked Guarantano against the Wildcats, only to send him back in after an ill-advised throw from J.T. Shrout resulted in an interception. Sources have indicated that Harrison Bailey has received the most reps he has all of fall camp this week, but we believe the plan is to get Bailey two full weeks of prep before the Volunteers head to Arkansas on November 7th. However, That is not to say that he will not see time against Alabama, but it simply means not to expect him to start. The position is obviously of the most intrigue, as the Vols will face an offense in Alabama that is going to score points in a hurry, so they cannot afford untimely mistakes from their quarterback on Saturday.
At tight end, Tennessee has struggled to identify a pass catcher, with Jacob Warren and Princeton Fant receiving the majority of the work, with little contribution to the passing game. Teams have had significant success against Alabama with their tight end this year, so Tennessee will need to have success at the position to sustain drives on Saturday.
The Vols are struggling at this position currently. Wanya Morris left Tennessee's contest against Kentucky with an apparent lower leg injury, and he is "day-to-day", according to Jeremy Pruitt. Jahmir Johnson has been limited since South Carolina, which means it is likely that Cade Mays mans the position some on Saturday. K'jrohn Calbert also received time at the position on Saturday. Mays is slated to start at right tackle, but that seems likely to change if Morris is not at full health.
When the Vols are at their best upfront, Mays is able to start at right tackle or bounce in at right guard, but that is up in the air given some of Tennessee's injury. Jerome Carvin has been a key piece of Tennessee's offensive line, but he has missed time due to injury over the last two weeks. It appears he will be back this week, which means his listing as the starter at right guard likely holds true.
Jeremy Banks returned to the sideline without shoulder pads following a lower leg injury against Kentucky. It sounds like Banks will be able to go for the Vols, but he was in a walking boot following the contest. He was able to move without assistance, which is a great sign. Tennessee will need his depth against Alabama. Quavaris Crouch is listed as the starter, but Morven Joseph and Aaron Beasly could both see time behind him if Banks isn't ready to go.
Alontae Taylor was in street clothes on Saturday against Kentucky, and his status remains unclear heading into Alabama, as Jeremy Pruitt says he will be a game-time decision. He has been nursing a hamstring injury for some time, and it is unclear if he will be at 100 percent to run with Alabama's talented receivers. Kenneth George Jr. has received plenty of in-game reps to this point, and despite some struggles, he will be Taylor's replacement again.
The Vols will look to break a 13-game losing streak to the Crimson Tide on Saturday. Tennessee enters the contest as a heavy underdog.