Tennessee football: Trey Smith announces he’s returning for senior season with Vols

In a surprise move, Tennessee football All-SEC offensive lineman Trey Smith announced he would stay with the Volunteers for his senior season in 2020.

In a surprise move, Tennessee football offensive lineman Trey Smith announced in a press conference that he would be staying with the Vols for his senior year in 2020. Smith, a two-time All-SEC lineman, started every game in 2017 and 2019 and seven games in 2018 before missing the final part of the season.

Blood clots limited Smith’s participation in offseason practices in 2018 and 2019 while cutting short his 2018 season, but ahead of the 2019 season, he worked out a program with doctors to be able to play. Starting the final 11 games at left guard, he returned to being a star in the process. Throughout his career, Smith has been a versatile lineman, but guard has been his strength.

In making his decision to stay, Smith brought up his mother, who died in 2015 and whom he made a promise to that he would get his degree and play in the NFL. Then he channeled Peyton Manning with his announcement by preceding his decision with the phrase, “I’ve made up my mind and don’t expect to ever look back.” See the full video below.

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With Smith’s decision to stay, Tennessee football’s offensive line could be loaded next year. Brandon Kennedy is returning for a sixth year of eligibility at center. He and Smith starting next to each other after already having gelled for a year is a big deal.

Meanwhile, Darnell Wright and Wanya Morris came on strong as freshmen at the offensive tackle positions late in the year, so both could take huge leaps. They were five-star recruits on different services, with Wright being a unanimous five-star.

Then there’s Cade Mays. Once a five-star recruit from Knoxville, Mays decommitted from Tennessee football back in 2017 and went to the Georgia Bulldogs. But he is now transferring from Georgia, after starting 11 games this past year with them, and heading back to the Vols, where his brother just committed and his father played in the early 1990s.

Mays could earn an eligibility waiver since his father is locked in a lawsuit with the university, his offensive line coach left for the Arkansas Razorbacks, and Jim Chaney is his former offensive coordinator. If that happens, Smith and Mays at guard with Kennedy at center and Wright and Morris on the outside could make for an epic line.

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All of a sudden, the Vols could be in the national picture coming off an 8-5 season. They are certainly in line to be great up front on offense, and it’s worth noting their entire defensive line will be back as well with Emmit Gooden returning to health. So it looks like Jeremy Pruitt has shored up the trenches.