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Red Cup Quick Hits: Tennessee and Missouri

Are the Vols back? Will Mizzou regret its coaching change?

NCAA Football: Georgia at Tennessee Bryan Lynn-USA TODAY Sports

The first and only team in our hearts is the Ole Miss Rebels, but we have to always look around the conference to see what everyone else is cooking. Red Cup Quick Hits will take fans through the SEC leading up to season kick-off, so fans will know enough just to survive in the office every day with that other team’s fan that annoys them.

The original idea of this series was one team, one day. We are running out of days and we here at the Cup simply do not care about these teams—nor do the Rebels play them this season.

Mizzou brings in Eliah Drinkwitz, the youngest coach in the SEC at 37 years old and entering just his second season as head coach. He’s got roots in this area—he coached under Gus Malzahn at Springdale High in Arkansas, before following him to Auburn and later to Arkansas State. Drinkwitz is a cerebral coach, and how he reacts to the intensity of recruiting in the SEC should be interesting to watch.

Things go from 0-to-100 right out of the shoot for the SEC Eastern division Tigers. Alabama travels to Columbia, followed by trips to Knoxville and Baton Rouge. They get a de facto bye week before traveling to Florida, then hosting Kentucky and Georgia. If they can get through that stretch with just two wins, it’ll be a big confidence boost before finishing with South Carolina, Arkansas, and Mississippi State. A .500 season likely isn’t in the books, but a softer end to the season could help going into 2021.

Tennessee’s schedule starts off nicely. They open with a pair of winnable games at South Carolina and home to Missouri. Then they’ll travel to Georgia and two weeks later host Alabama. Few expect the Vols to win either of those games—the season will come down to a run of games vs. Texas A&M, at Auburn, bye (at Vanderbilt), and Florida.

Whether the VAWLS R BACK will depend on those three games.

Players to watch

Missouri

QB Shawn Robinson - 6-foot-2, 220-pounds

Drinkwitz released a depth chart on Tuesday and wouldn’t confirm a starter—the other option redshirt freshman Connor Bazelak—but most expect the TCU transfer to win the job. He was on the 2019 roster but was forced to sit out, and while his 2018 numbers weren’t all that impressive, he showed flashes during his time in Fort Worth.

He threw for 1,334 yards with just a 9:8 TD:INT ratio, but he added 288 yards on the ground and will hope to improve on his decision making in 2020.

S Joshuah Bledsoe - 6-foot-0, 200-pounds

With names like Eliah leading the team and Joshuah on the roster, this is potentially an All-Old Testament award for Mizzou. Bledsoe led the team with 10 passes broken up, and added a forced fumble and four run stuffs. The Tigers return 8-of-11 starters on the defensive side and will need to keep them in games while the offense meshes.

Tennessee

QB Jarrett Guarantano - 6-foot-4, 230-pounds

Jeremy Pruitt didn’t settle on a quarterback until Brian Maurer’s injuries did it for him, but Guarantano held the reins steady and guided the Vols to six straight wins to end the season, including a comeback victory in the Gator Bowl over Indiana. He completed 59.1 percent of his passes and had a 16:8 TD:INT ratio, including 7.4 air yards per attempt. That was with standout wide receivers Jauan Jennings, Marquez Callaway, and tight end Dominick Wood-Anderson.

Things won’t be as was this season, with just three total receiving touchdowns return, but the Vols may have the most experience on the offensive line in the conference with 126 returning starts (Cade Mays from Georgia is immediately eligible and is 18 of those).

ILB Henry To’o To’o - 6-foot-2, 225-pounds

As a freshman, To’o To’o recorded 52.5 tackles, five tackles for a loss, two passes broken up, and 10 run stuffs. As a freshman. The former No. 1 LB in the 2019 class, he’s going to be a problem for years to come, and with his size and speed, the Volunteers have a true superstar in the making on defense.

They’ll also return every snap along the defensive line and all but Nigel Warrior in the secondary.

Two stats to worry about

Mizzou returns 70 percent of their tackles last season (including 80 percent of linebacker snaps), while Tennessee returns just 29 percent of their total wide receiver yards.

Season hinges on these games

Mizzou

October 31st vs Kentucky

November 21st at South Carolina

November 28th vs Arkansas

Tennessee

October 10th at Georgia

November 14th vs Texas A&M

December 5th vs Florida