Safety is one of the few spots where Tennessee football is pretty set with its first-team rotation. Nigel Warrior is one starter. The other spot comes down to Todd Kelly Jr. and Micah Abernathy. Guys like Theo Jackson have potential there.
But after that, there’s really nobody. The Vols could turn to Trevon Flowers, who may become a star. He’s still a true freshman, though. And the depth here is going to be necessary. So if somebody could jump in and make an impact against all odd, that person would be MaLeik Gatewood.
The redshirt junior has experience playing in the program, which Jeremy Pruitt has to love. On top of that, he was part of the Orange defense in the spring game. And remember, that second-team defense shut down the second-team passing offense. So maybe he has something we don’t know about.
At 5’10” 190 pounds, Gatewood appears to have enough physicality to play at this level if he has to. Coming from MUS in Memphis, he has probably been coached well too. And finally, he does have some experience playing for the Vols. Although it was in garbage time, Gatewood did come in against Tennessee Tech and record a tackle back in 2016.
Simply put, the guy has decent size, he has experience, and he is at a position that could use some depth. It’s hard to completely write him off as a result. Will he become a regular everyday player? Almost certainly not. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a chance to make an impact.