6’6″ 195 pounds
While Cade Mays is the safest starter on offense or defense, the safest starter on the whole team belongs in the kicking game. Paxton Brooks is continuing the tradition of Punter U that exists with Tennessee football and doesn’t just involve the Colquitt family.
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Brooks replaced Joe Doyle midway through the 2019 season and hasn’t lost the job since. Although he was Doyle’s backup in 2018 and the first half of 2019, him not losing the job alone would have him here. However, Doyle has since transferred to the Memphis Tigers, so there truly is no competition for Brooks at the position.
In fact, the only other player listed as a punter on the roster is true freshman Kolby Morgan. It’s safe to say nobody is going to compete with Brooks for this job, and honestly, if he goes down, there is no real proven person to replace him.
There’s a reason Brooks is on the 2021 Ray Guy Award Preseason Watch List and is a Preseason All-SEC punter. Expectations for him are through the roof after he was fourth in the SEC last year in averaging 43.6 yards per punt while also pinning 17 of his 49 punts inside the 20-yard-line and sending 13 50 yards or more, including one that went 61 yards.
We should note that Brooks is also safe to play since he was Tennessee football’s kickoff specialist throughout all of the last three years, even when he backed up Doyle as punter. However, his role as punter stands out more, and he’s beyond safe there.