We’ve talked throughout this whole list about the help Tennessee football needs at defensive back. Well, like Bryce Thompson, Alontae Taylor is another four-star athlete that Jeremy Pruitt tried out on defense and has kept there most of the time.
As a result, we have to believe he’s going to keep Taylor there by this point. The guy, like Thompson, is drawing a ton of praise for his natural feel for the game. Add in his athleticism to be able to recover quickly, and he has as much of a chance as anybody to make an impact in the secondary this year.
Taylor was also an early enrollee. So he also gained a major leg up on many other players because of that experience. In fact, because of the new system, he basically has as much experience as anybody trying to play cornerback for the Vols this year, and he has more athleticism than most.
Because of that, he has really emerged this fall. You could almost consider him a non-dark horse candidate as a result, but he never was projected in any starting rotation the way Baylen Buchanan, Marquill Osborne and Shawn Shamburger were. So yes, he’s a dark-horse Vol.
On top of that, Taylor is a guy who could end up playing a lot in the return game. That’s going to be critical for the Vols, and it gives him the best chance of anybody on this list to become a breakout star as a freshman.
Jeremy Pruitt is looking for a lot of help for his first Tennessee football team. That gives numerous players who haven’t made a name for themselves yet to burst onto the scene. As a true freshman, Taylor fits that mold. He’s also playing the most wide open position looking for a starter, and he’s one of the best athletes there. The chance to be a returner gives him multiple ways to make an impact his first season on Rocky Top. And that’s why he’s our No. 1 dark-horse Vol for 2018.