Phil Steele, just like other college football analysts, know that change can be a good thing when it comes to college football head coaches. Such is the case, as he sees it, at Tennessee.

“Because there’s been a lot of controversy about the head coach and ‘will he be there?’ going on the last couple years,” Steele told WNML’s Josh Ward on the Rocky Talk Podcast this week. “So I think it’s good to get into a fresh start.”

And apparently the cupboard isn’t all that bare. At least not as bare as it could be.

“Generally a first-year head coach, when he comes in, it’s a little bit of a learning curve,” Steele said. “They have to learn the players’ strengths and weaknesses, players have to learn new systems.

“But there is talent that Tennessee has this year.”

Talent that apparently wasn’t used last season while the Vols produced the worst overall record (4-8) and Southeastern Conference record (0-8) in program history.

The end result was the end of the Butch Jones era just short of five years and Jeremy Pruitt taking over, hired away from Alabama where he served as the Crimson Tide’s defensive coordinator.

“In fact,” Steele noted of Tennessee’s roster, “it’s unusual for a team to have four wins the previous year and rank in my top units in four of the position categories, which Tennessee does on my defensive line, linebacker and (defensive back), as well as wide receiver.”

With the hiring of Pruitt, Tennessee switches from a 4-3 defense previously ran by former defensive coordinator Bob Shoop to Pruitt’s 3-4.

The likes of Kyle Phillips, Shy Tuttle, Alexis Johnson and other return up front. Jonathan Kongbo moved to outside linebacker, joining a group that returns Darrell Taylor, Deandre Johnson, Daniel Bituli, Quart'e Sapp and Darrin Kirkland among others.

Nigel Warrior, Baylen Buchanan, Shawn Shamburger and Marquill Osborne all return in the secondary.

“Decent talent at Tennessee,” Steele said. “Tough start to the schedule. But November, it could be a November to remember. I think if the Volunteers are going to get back to winning records and bowl games, you’re going to have to have a big November this year.”

Steele said he liked the addition of Keller Chryst at quarterback and has Tennessee’s wide receivers as one of his “top units.”

“The offensive line wasn’t great last year,” he added, “and they only had 13 offensive linemen in for the spring with 11 on scholarships, but I think the offensive can only improve.”

The way he described it, though, it’s going to come back to defense.

“Anytime you have a decent defense, like Tennessee does, that’s where I really think it’s going to be good,” Steele said. “Keep in mind, last year despite the 4-8 record, they did only allow 413 yards per game. They’re decent yardage wise.

“They’re my No. 37 defense coming in.”