3. Potential standouts in the trenches
Jeremy Pruitt noted that Tennessee football has to replace all three of its defensive linemen. He also touted the increase in size and improved conditioning on the offensive line along with his recruiting class to show that unit is improved.
However, no names were dropped. And yes, that’s a major question going forward. Pruitt said when he took the job that his focus would be dominating the line of scrimmage. We know nothing about his plans to do that entering his second year after SEC Media Days.
All Pruitt said about the defensive line was that the Vols have a senior and a junior. The senior is obviously Emmit Gooden. Assuming Matthew Butler is the junior he’s referring to since Aubrey Solomon was a transfer, we still don’t know much.
Does this mean Gooden and Butler have starting jobs locked up? What about other names, including the junior college transfers and incoming recruits, most notably four-star defensive tackle Savion Williams but also Darel Middleton and Elijah Simmons?
Meanwhile, on the offensive side, who are the names on the line? Pruitt said the number of 300-pounders on the Vols increased from two to 15 this offseason, and he was clearly implying that the focus there was on the offensive line. But what was his point? Who were the linemen?
With the retirements of Chance Hall and Eric Crosby and the transfer of Drew Richmond, there are numerous questions about who plays up front. Pruitt noted the return of Brandon Kennedy at center but didn’t say he’d start. So all the spots are open as guys like Marcus Tatum, Riley Locklear, Ryan Johnson are returning and K’Rojhn Calbert stood out in the spring.
Meanwhile, there are young guys like Jerome Carvin and new recruits such as Wanya Morris, a four-star who stood out in the spring. Another four-star, Chris Akporoghene, was also an early enrollee. Five-star Darnell Wright brings a ton of hype, and Jackson Lampley is a third four-star in the class.
Simply put, with all these names, we have no idea where Tennessee football is going to turn in the trenches this year, and Pruitt did not reveal anything at SEC Media Days. So that remains an unanswered question.