Tennessee football 2020 preview by position: Special teams

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Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

Here is a look at the Tennessee football Volunteers kicking game for the 2020 season.

Nobody knows better than Tennessee football fans that a game can be won or lost based on place kicking. Back in their glory days, that aspect of the sport was the difference in quite a few championship, or potential championship seasons on Rocky Top.

Gen. Robert Neyland’s sixth game maxim makes it clear: Press the kicking game, for here’s where the breaks are made. UT has followed that philosophy by The General to a T, no pun intended, ever since then.

Known as Punter U thanks to the Colquitt family and a group of other elite punters in the NFL, Tennessee football has consistently enjoyed a major advantage in one aspect of this unit. However, in 2020, the Vols have major storylines in other areas, and that area could be a question.

A couple of key guys from last year’s unit are gone. Marquez Callaway, the Vols’ feature punt returner, is the program’s biggest loss. He had a punt return for a touchdown each of the past three years.

The threat of Callaway may have had a major role in UT blocking three punts for touchdowns the past two years as well, and two of the people responsible for that, Marquill Osborne and Daniel Bituli, are gone. Brandon Johnson, who also had a blocked punt touchdown, though, is back.

Anyway, beyond Callaway, punter Joe Doyle is gone. He was the feature punter for UT for all of 2018 and the first half of 2019. After a bit of a drop-off last year, though, he ended up splitting time and transferred in the offseason. That could be another issue.

As we get set to preview the Vols on special teams for 2020, those will be major focuses. Now, there is some hype behind the program when it comes to place kicking with the return of an All-SEC kicker, but replacing long snapper Riley Lovingood makes that tricky as well.

Simply put, there are a few questions that have to be answered despite solid reasons for hype. We’ll separate slides by the projected starting kicker and punter, projected starting returners and then projected starting specialists, such as snappers and holders.

After that, we’ll look at the projected backups in both fields as well. Finally, as usual, we’ll close with the biggest questions and a final take. So let’s go ahead and focus on this crucial unit. Here is our preview for Tennessee football on special teams heading into 2020.

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