The Tennessee Vols will be expecting several players to step up in 2018 and have huge years.
In fact, if the Vols are going to be successful, it’s imperative these players have a big season.
Part of the reason Tennessee wasn’t very successful last season is because many of their players weren’t put in the best position to succeed. If you have talented players, you have to put them in a position that best suits their talent. That could mean a different offensive/defensive scheme, or maybe a different position altogether.
Fortunately for Vol fans, Tennessee’s new coaching staff has a history of getting the most out of their players — on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.
With that in mind, here are five players that I think are primed for a big year in 2018.
Ty Chandler, Running Back: Over the last few years, Tennessee (well, Butch Jones) has developed a reputation for under-using their ridiculously talented running backs. That will change, however, under new head coach Jeremy Pruitt and offensive coordinator Tyson Helton. Last week, Helton said the Vols have to be a team that runs the ball effectively to win. He even took it a step further by saying “At some point in time, you’ve to put the ball down and everybody knows you’re running the rock”. Chandler will be the Vols’ top running back in 2018. The Nashville native rushed for 305 yards as a freshman in 2017 playing behind John Kelly. He showed flashes of greatness in limited playing time last season (his kickoff return against Indiana State, or his 30 yard rush against South Carolina). Chandler will be a focal point of Tennessee’s offense next season.
Nigel Warrior, Safety: Warrior will likely step into the “star” position in Jeremy Pruitt’s defense (basically what Minkah Fitzpatrick played at Alabama last year). That means he’ll be asked to play close to the line of scrimmage at times. He’ll also be asked to cover receivers in the slot, or tight ends. Warrior is similar in size to Fitzpatrick, and he’s fast and physical. He could have a huge year as a junior in 2018.
Marquez Callaway, Wide Receiver: Vol fans were incredibly excited after watching Callaway catch four passes for 115 yards and two touchdowns in last season’s season-opener against Georgia Tech. But Tennessee failed to utilize Callaway’s elite playmaking ability after the win against the Yellow Jackets. His best game the rest of he season was against LSU when he caught two passes for 72 yards. Callaway finished the season with 24 catches for 406 yards. Fortunately, he’ll be a key part of the Vols’ offense in 2018. Offensive coordinator Tyson Helton recently said Tennessee plans to push the ball down the field in the passing game, saying “We want the whole stadium to stand up and hold their breath on deep balls”.
Tyler Byrd, Cornerback: Tyler Byrd is officially switching to cornerback in 2018, which is a move Vol fans begged for during the entire 2017 season. Byrd had a decent freshman season in 2016, catching 15 passes for 209 yards in limited opportunities. But in 2017, the Florida native was barely used, catching only two passes for 27 yards. Coming out of high school, Byrd was rated as the No. 9 cornerback in the nation. Considering the Vols’ lack of depth at the cornerback position, it’s a no-brainer to move Byrd to the defensive side of the ball. He should have a much greater impact there.
Dominick Wood-Anderson, Tight End: Wood-Anderson was a big get for the Volunteers during the 2018 recruiting cycle. The California native is rated as the No. 1 junior college tight end in the nation. He should immediately contribute in 2018. Wood-Anderson has great size (6-foot-5) and speed, which means he should be a tough mismatch for opposing defenses. Tennessee hasn’t utilized their tight end much in recent years, but that could change in 2018.
Featured image via Tri Cities Sports