It’s (almost) football time in Tennessee.
Well, sort of.
The Vols are set to open spring practice on March 7. There will be 15 practices which will culminate with the Orange and White game on April 13 (5 PM CT/6 PM ET on the SEC Network).
— Tennessee Football (@Vol_Football) February 11, 2019
This will be our first look at Tennessee’s 10 early enrollees, minus any injuries of course.
Obviously a lot of things will change between now and the end of spring practice. Some players will shine, some players will struggle. While it’s tough to predict how new players will react to a college practice, or how returning players will fare after a full year under Jeremy Pruitt, we’ll have a clearer picture of the Vols’ depth chart on April 13.
But for now, here’s how I see Tennessee’s depth chart shaping up, followed by some brief thoughts.
Starters in bold
QB: Jarrett Guarantano (JT Shrout)
RB: Ty Chandler (Tim Jordan)
WR: Marquez Callaway (Tyler Byrd)
WR: Jauan Jennings (Ramel Keyton)
WR: Josh Palmer (Jordan Murphy)
TE: Dominick Wood-Anderson (LaTrell Bumphus)
LT: Wanya Morris (TBD)
LG: Jahmir Johnson (Nathan Niehaus)
C: Brandon Kennedy (Ryan Johnson)
RG: Jerom Carvin (Nathan Niehaus)
RT: Marcus Tatum (TBD)
I’m sure there will be an open competition for every spot this spring/fall, which includes quarterback. But I think Jarrett Guarantano is expected by the staff to be the guy in 2019.
Wide receiver and running back positions are fairly set. I think Ramel Keyton will get a lot of early playing time as a true freshman. I also think Eric Gray will get a lot of playing time at running back as a true freshman. Gray is a player who could quickly rise up the depth chart.
As far as the offensive line, I think you can pencil in Wanya Morris as a starter. I also think you can pencil in Darnell Wright as a stater at the other tackle position this fall. Brandon Kennedy should absolutely be the starting center, which leaves the two guard positions. We’ll see a lot of competition for those two spots, which should extend into the fall.
DE: John Mincey (Kurrott Garland)
DE: Matthew Butler (Greg Emerson)
DT: Emmit Gooden (Kingston Harris)
OLB: Darrell Taylor (Quavaris Crouch)
OLB: Deandre Johnson (Jordan Allen)
ILB: Darin Kirkland Jr (JJ Peterson)
ILB: Daniel Bituli (Will Ignont)
S: Nigel Warror (Theo Jackson)
S: Trevon Flowers (Shawn Shamburger)
CB: Alontae Taylor (Tyus Fields)
CB: Bryce Thompson (Baylen Buchanan)
Star/nickel cornerback (when applicable): Baylen Buchanan
A lot of this depth chart will change by the time fall rolls around. I expect junior college transfers Darrel Middleton and Savion Williams to start, in some capacity, on the defensive line. I also wouldn’t be surprised if Quavaris Crouch or Henry To’oto’o (who will arrive this summer) fights for a starting linebacker spot this fall.
We’ve already seen that Jeremy Pruitt isn’t afraid to start a true freshman cornerback. Putting Tyus Fields near the top of the depth chart might seem a bit ambitious, but he could end up being the best option to be the Vols’ top backup cornerback.
Featured image via Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports