1. Paxton Brooks (Kickoff specialist, holder)
Over the past three years, even when he became the full-time punter, Paxton Brooks was Tennessee football’s full-time kickoff specialist and holder. He’ll resume both roles this year, as his ability as a holder played a huge role in helping UT have an elite kicking game to begin with.
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On kickoffs, Brooks was 17th nationally with an 67.5 percent of them going for touchbacks, and his 64.1 kickoff average was top 15 in the nation. He’s the perfect type of kickoff specialist, and he proved in the Gator Bowl to close the 2019 season that he can execute an onside kick. As a result, he’s clearly the top at each of these positions, but we have a backup for both as well.
2. Chase McGrath (Kickoff specialist)
Obviously, as the other main kicker, Chase McGrath would be in the running as a kickoff specialist. In 2017, he was the main kickoff specialist for the USC Trojans, and 19 of his 57 kickoffs went for touchbacks. Meanwhile, he had a kickoff average of 61.5. This was before the significant kickoff rules changes, but at least he has key experience in this role.
3. J.T. Carver (Holder)
Probably the Vols’ likely star kicker after McGrath leaves, J.T. Carver could get experience in the role as the backup holder this year. The 5’11” 190-pound freshman comes in with a lot of hype. This position is likely irrelevant, as Brooks will hold onto the job unless some crazy injury happens, but it does mean Carver could see the field.
Obviously, Tennessee football has lots of questions to answer, but if you look at the arriving transfers and returning starters, there is plenty of experience on this roster. How Josh Heupel manages it remains to be seen, but this depth chart isn’t terrible. The potential exists.