Although Tennessee football has Paxton Brooks, Jeremy Pruitt added graduate transfer punter Brett Graham, who joins the Volunteers from the UConn Huskies.
On paper, it seems odd. Why would Brett Graham, a punter with the UConn Huskies, transferring to Tennessee football be a major story? Even with Joe Doyle transferring, the Vols already have Paxton Brooks, who will be a junior this year, locked in as the starter, while Brent Cimaglia is the place-kicker. There’s no room for Graham, who won’t be on the roster past 2020.
However, there’s a bigger story here, and it comes to another half of kicking a punting: snapping and holding. The Vols lost long-snapper Riley Lovingood, who once earned SEC Special Teams Player of the Week honors. But with Doyle, they lost a holder.
Snapping and holding have a huge effect on place-kicking. Two of Cimaglia’s four misses last year came against the Missouri Tigers, and both were due to that. This is where Graham is a huge pickup. He has been a proven holder for three years for the Huskies.
As a result, Jeremy Pruitt has now offset one major concern when it comes to Tennessee football’s ability to maintain its special teams advantage. Graham being able to offset the departure of Doyle as the holder on field goals.
That issue is not done, however. Rocky Top still has to find a long snapper. Two-star offensive lineman Will Albright, of Greeneville, Tenn., could fill that void when he arrives later this year. However, we won’t know for sure if he’s capable of filling that time.
For now, though, Vol Nation should be happy about the other half of that equation being solved, at least for 2020. Tennessee football could suffer a significant drop-off in its place-kicking advantage without a proper holder, and Pruitt knew that.
It’s also worth noting that a bit of competition for Brooks never hurts. After all, Doyle only transferred after Brooks took his job last year. The play of punters can change from season to season, which is why Graham, who once had a 61-yard punt, can be a great addition.