Joe Keeler likely had no plans to ever play one snap for Tennessee football his first two years in the program. But after a rash of injuries decimated the group down the stretch of last season, he was able to get onto the field once Butch Jones was fired.
They were both losses, but Keeler was able to play against the LSU Tigers and Vanderbilt Commodores. And by the way, he was a freshman. So he saw action over other walk-ons who have experience. That has to mean something, and it’s why we have Keeler on our list as an important walk-on as well.
At 6’5″ 290 pounds, Jeremy Pruitt and offensive line coach Will Friend clearly value Keeler as well. After all, last year he was only 279 pounds, so they focused on beefing him up this offseason. They want to have him as an option if they have to.
Keeler was playing in the spring game as well, and yes, that could be a red flag since the second-team offense was atrocious. But that wasn’t really the fault of the offensive line, so there’s no reason to think he can’t be useful.
Simply put, you can’t overvalue that in-game experience. And Keeler, by coming in for Jashon Robertson against LSU last year, gained just that. Add in his size and the complete level of uncertainty when it comes to offensive line depth, and he’s definitely worth keeping an eye on. So don’t sleep on his potential with Rocky Top.