Note: This story was updated on Sept. 23 to correct the hiring date of Mike Bobo.
Tennessee is opening its 2020 college football season Saturday night against South Carolina inside Williams-Brice Stadium, so why is tape of Alabama, Colorado State and Georgia being studied so intently?
It's all about the background.
Georgia's 2014 team in Mark Richt's next-to-last year as head coach went 10-3 and finished No. 9 in the Associated Press poll. The Bulldogs had Todd Gurley, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel in their backfield, and they also had Mike Bobo as offensive coordinator and Jeremy Pruitt as defensive coordinator.
Bobo left Athens in December 2014 to become head coach at Colorado State but returned to the Southeastern Conference last December as the offensive coordinator for Gamecocks head coach Will Muschamp. Bobo's first task will be trying to top Pruitt, who is in his third season of guiding the Volunteers.
"Mike's a competitor, whether it's playing against him in college, coaching against him, coaching against him every day in practice, playing golf against him or shooting pool," Pruitt said this week. "He wants to win in everything that he does. He's going to have a great game plan. His kids are going to play hard.
"They'll play together, so it will be a challenge for us."
Bobo's last three offenses at Georgia set program records for total yards (6,547 in 2012), yards per game (484.2 in 2013) and points per game (41.3 in 2014). That success helped him parlay a head-coaching opportunity with the Rams of the Mountain West Conference.
The first big hire Bobo made with CSU was taking Georgia offensive line coach Will Friend and tabbing him as offensive coordinator and line coach. Friend, however, played with Pruitt at Alabama and reunited with him in Knoxville in 2018.
Pruitt left Georgia after a far more turbulent 10-3 season in 2015 to become Alabama's defensive coordinator. He replaced Kirby Smart, who had been hired as the head coach of the Bulldogs.
"We played against Jeremy when I was at Colorado State and he was at Alabama (a 41-23 Crimson Tide win in 2017), and there was the year at Georgia when we went against each other every day in practice," Bobo said. "There is obviously familiarity. We lived in the same neighborhood — me, Coach Pruitt and Coach Friend. We all lived in the same neighborhood, and all the families are close.
"I went on vacation this summer with Coach Friend and his family. That's part of the business. You develop relationships."
South Carolina entered this preseason with Ryan Hilinski, an 11-game starter for the Gamecocks a year ago, and Collin Hill, a CSU graduate transfer, vying for starting quarterback. Hill won the job last week and looks to cap a career of perseverance that includes 3,323 passing yards, 18 appearances, 11 starts and torn ACLs in 2016, 2018 and 2019.
"He's been the most consistent on a daily basis," Bobo said.
Pruitt and Vols defensive coordinator Derrick Ansley have surely worn out the Colorado State tape by now, but there can be a risk in delving too much into backgrounds of opposing coaches, even if they are the closest of friends.
"There are some things that they'll look at that we did during our time together and what we obviously did at Colorado State," Bobo said. "There will be things that I look at that Jeremy did at the University of Georgia and that he did at Alabama and what he's doing at Tennessee. At the same time, you've got to be careful that you don't chase too many ghosts."
A seventh heaven?
Tennessee senior center Brandon Kennedy announced in January that he had received a sixth season of eligibility from the NCAA. Would he be up for a seventh now that the governing body is restoring a year of eligibility for all student-athletes amid the coronavirus?
"Right now, I'm kind of focusing on this season, and whatever happens after this season is kind of up to chance," Kennedy said Tuesday on a Zoom call. "I'm just kind of taking it day by day as far as this sixth year that I have."
Depth chart revealed
Tennessee released its depth chart for Saturday's game, and it included multiple "OR" references, including the backup quarterback spot behind Jarrett Guarantano.
Jerome Carvin and Riley Locklear were listed as the top two at right guard, which could be the home for Cade Mays should the transfer from Georgia get cleared by the SEC before kickoff in Columbia.
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.