When I first learned that Tennessee Vols offensive lineman Trey Smith would hold a press conference to announce his 2020 plans, there was a small part of me that thought he might pull a Peyton Manning and stay at UT for his senior season.

But that thought quickly faded. High profile players haven’t stayed at Tennessee in recent years for their final season of eligibility.

In fact, plenty of players who would’ve benefited from staying another year have went to the NFL over the last decade, only to not hear their name called on draft day.

Tyler Bray, Darrington Sentimore, Quart’e Sapp and Kahlil McKenzie (drafted, but not until the late rounds), among others, all probably could’ve benefited from another season on Rocky Top.

But because of the seemingly never ending turmoil on Rocky Top, players, at times, have been eager to leave.

(And that’s not to mention the litany of players that have left Tennessee to attend a different school in recent years.)

Former Vols wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, who was a first round draft pick in 2013, told a draft scout after declaring “I didn’t expect to be a one-year-and-done, but we had the coaching change and everything was getting a little crazy, so I wanted to get out of there.”

Comments like those aren’t unique. It’s been a constant state of crazy at Tennessee over the last 10 years.

Jeremy Pruitt, however, is finally bringing some stability to Knoxville. And I think Trey Smith’s decision to stay on Thursday is a testament to that stability.

Smith said one of the main reasons he’s returning to Tennessee in 2020 (aside from honoring his late mother, which is the biggest reason) is to improve his draft stock.

The Jackson, TN native told reporters on Thursday “I think I left some money on the field”. Smith believes that returning to UT and playing under Pruitt and his staff can help him become a better football player.

Smith also knows Tennessee is on the verge of turning the corner in a big way — and he wants to be a part of it, saying “We’re building something special here at Tennessee. I believe in this coaching staff.”

The former five-star recruit added “I believe in the players we have coming….we have unfinished business this next season.”

Smith is not only gambling on himself by returning, he’s gambling on Pruitt taking the Vols to the next level in 2020. The amount of trust that Smith is showing in Pruitt and his staff (and the medical staff at UT) is simply incredible. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen this kind of trust on Rocky Top.

Trey Smith’s decision to return to Tennessee is a clear sign that Jeremy Pruitt has completely changed the culture in Knoxville.

From a dumpster fire to a destination program, it’s pretty incredible what Pruitt has done in just two years.

Imagine what he can do in two more years?

Featured image via Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

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