A slew of transfers, both in and out of the program, and a new head coach on both sides of the ball leaves the door wide open for all Tennessee football players to step up this year. Among those players is a group of returning contributors from last year who saw limited or no action but could be in line to explode onto the scene this year.
Our list ranking the players most likely to emerge this year takes lots of things into account. What’s clear, though, is that all of them could help Josh Heupel have a successful first season as head coach on Rocky Top.
Whether it’s because of the lack of depth at their position, how the new schemes will benefit them or just the fact that they have another year of experience, the Vols need some of these players to become household names. Let’s break down who they are. These are the top 10 breakout candidates for Tennessee football this year.
6’2″ 215 pounds; Hometown: Lakeland, Fla.
One of the highly touted edge rushers in the Vols’ 2020 recruiting class, Morven Joseph was supposed to be a permanent fixture at outside linebacker in Jeremy Pruitt’s 3-4 scheme. Now, with Tim Banks focusing more on being multiple, Joseph’s playing time could depend on what scheme Banks decides to go with, which still isn’t clear.
If Banks goes with the nickel-heavy 4-3 he has been running, Joseph should emerge as a situational edge rusher who comes in when the Vols do use three linebackers. Regardless of the scheme, though, he should see more action.
The graduate of Polk County’s Lake Gibson High School in the Tampa Bay area of Florida only appeared in three games last year and finished with an assist on a tackle for a loss and two total tackles, one of which was solo. This year, he could take a major step forward for Tennessee football, even if he won’t be a full-time starter.