Tennessee football could win these 5 games because of what happened to opponents in spring

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Some football games in the fall can be lost in the spring.

Tennessee tried to fix its issues in spring practice and the transfer portal just like every team.

But not everything went perfectly for the Vols' opponents. Star players entered the portal, position battles weren't decided and last season's problems persisted.

Here are spring developments for opponents that could lead to Vols’ wins in the 2022 season.

Pitt’s best player entered transfer portal

Pittsburgh wide receiver Jordan Addison (3) runs down field during a football game between the Tennessee Volunteers and the Pittsburgh Panthers in Neyland Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021.
Pittsburgh wide receiver Jordan Addison (3) runs down field during a football game between the Tennessee Volunteers and the Pittsburgh Panthers in Neyland Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021.

When UT makes a critical trip to Pittsburgh for a Sept. 10 game, it likely will still carry concerns about its secondary. Fortunately for the Vols, Jordan Addison, the best wide receiver in college football last season, entered the transfer portal after spring practice.

Addison, the reigning Biletnikoff Award winner, could still return to Pitt. But if he does not, it adds another layer of uncertainty to the Panthers’ offense, which lost quarterback Kenny Pickett to the NFL and offensive coordinator Mark Whipple to Nebraska.

Southern Cal transfer quarterback Kedon Slovis and Akron transfer wideout Konata Mumpfield helped reload Pitt. But if Addison is not in the lineup, it would be a gift to the Vols.

Billy Napier knows Florida is thin

Since UT has lost 16 of 17 games to Florida, it’s easy to forget that the Gators have issues. Dan Mullen left behind a team with chemistry problems and a depleted roster.

Billy Napier inherited a thin depth chart similar to the hand dealt to Josh Heupel at UT a year ago. The Gators are short at wide receiver, tight end, defensive tackle and other positions.

Napier spent most of spring practice pointing out those depth concerns. Players entered the transfer portal. Five walk-ons received scholarships. Injuries added to attrition. And practices were adjusted due to the lack of available players.

Florida is trying to hit the portal hard to rebuild the roster. That means new players could be in key spots when the Gators come to Neyland Stadium on Sept. 24. Napier may find impact players like Heupel did, but it’ll likely take time to mold the team.

TRANSFER PORTAL: Best options for Tennessee football roster with transfer portal closed to new entries

JOHN ADAMS: Ranking opponents on Tennessee football schedule 2022 in degree of difficulty

NIL: How new Tennessee law allows colleges to facilitate NIL payments to players

LSU doesn’t know its quarterback yet

Count on Brian Kelly developing a quarterback, but it might not happen immediately in his first season at LSU. Spring practice didn’t identify a starter, and Kelly said dividing reps made the competition “more difficult.”

Injury-plagued super senior Myles Brennan, 2021 fill-in starter Grant Nussmeier and Arizona State transfer Jayden Daniels will take a three-man battle into preseason practice. The longer that competition is unsettled, the better it is for the Vols.

LSU’s quarterbacks will be tested against Florida State at the Superdome (Sept. 4), Mississippi State at Tiger Stadium (Sept. 17) and at Auburn (Oct. 1) before hosting the Vols on Oct. 8.

Those early games could identify a surefire starter or expose quarterback as a lingering problem. UT hopes for the latter.

Missouri also has quarterback questions

If Missouri had a definite starting quarterback, coach Eliah Drinkwitz wouldn’t have tried to lure Georgia transfer J.T. Daniels, who instead chose West Virginia.

Either Brady Cook or Tyler Macon may become a star at Missouri, and four-star signee Sam Horn touts talent. But they’re not proven like most of the SEC East quarterbacks such as UT’s Hendon Hooker, South Carolina’s Spencer Rattler, Georgia’s Stetson Bennett, Florida’s Anthony Richardson and Kentucky’s Will Levis.

Last season, UT routed Missouri 62-24. The Vols were crisp and superb on offense, while Missouri was sloppy. When they play on Nov. 12, a contrast in quarterback play could yield a similar result.

South Carolina still has red-zone problems

Tennessee defensive back Trevon Flowers (1) tries to take down South Carolina running back Juju McDowell (21) during a NCAA football game between the Tennessee Volunteers and the South Carolina Gamecocks at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn. on Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021.
Tennessee defensive back Trevon Flowers (1) tries to take down South Carolina running back Juju McDowell (21) during a NCAA football game between the Tennessee Volunteers and the South Carolina Gamecocks at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn. on Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021.

Shane Beamer wasn’t satisfied with a 7-6 record in his first season at South Carolina.

And he’s drawn high praise for being aggressive in the transfer portal to upgrade the offense with Rattler (Oklahoma), Christian Beal-Smith (Wake Forest), tight end Austin Stogner (Oklahoma), running back Lovasea Carroll (Georgia) and wide receiver Antwane Wells (James Madison).

But for all those new skill players, South Carolina still had issues on the offensive line, particularly in the red zone, in its spring game.

Last season, the Gamecocks scored touchdowns in only 48.8% of their red-zone trips, worst in the SEC and No. 118 in FBS. And they were 2 of 4 in the red zone in a 45-20 loss to UT.

If Beamer can’t shore up his tackles — the major source of the problem — it could hinder the offense again. The Vols hope that’s still an issue when they play on Nov. 19.

Reach Adam Sparks at adam.sparks@knoxnews.com and on Twitter @AdamSparks.

This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: 5 games Tennessee football can win because of opponents' spring moves