Yes, the Tennessee football freshman most likely to see the field this year is Paxton Brooks. This isn’t necessarily about him, though. It’s about the Vols’ situation at punter. Either way, he’s the one freshman we actually project to be a starter outright. And that’s why he’s at the top of this list.
Brooks is an elite punter who was a member of the Vols’ 2018 recruiting class. With the departure of Trevor Daniel, he is now tasked with continuing the tradition of Punter U on Rocky Top. Fortunately for him, there’s not much competition in this field.
Brent Cimaglia and Ryan Tice are actually in a competition at place-kicker. Brooks, meanwhile, is just competing with Joe Doyle and Grayson Pontius. Both players are walk-ons, although Pontius does have some experience coming from East Mississippi Community College.
Still, Brooks was an Under Armor All-American in high school. He’s ranked the No. 2 overall punter for 2018 by Kohl’s Kicking Online. The expectations are through the roof with this guy, so it would actually be an incredible shock if he doesn’t play.
Now, to be fair, there is precedent for punters being shocked in Knoxville. Daniel himself was a walk-on. He beat fifth-year senior transfer Nate Renfro, who was a proven college punter, and and another high school All-American, Tommy Townsend, back in 2015. That was a huge shock, as Townsend had more hype then than Brooks has now. Simply put, the job is not a sure thing.
However, it’s unlikely that this situation happens in consecutive starting punter battles. As a result, we’re still going to stick with Brooks as the overwhelming favorite to win the starting job. He worked with the first team back in the spring. And it’s why he’s our top Tennessee football freshman who will see the field this year.