The transfer portal made things tough enough for Tennessee football. As Josh Heupel tries to throw together a team with a wave of new transfers and all of his players learning a brand new system, the last thing he needs is a bunch of injuries piling up. Already things are rough with offensive lineman K’Rojhn Calbert being out early on due to an injury.
Beyond Calbert, there are plenty of players whose absence could wreck UT in 2021. Some of them will be missed because of their talent, others because of the lack of depth behind them. There are even some players whose versatility make them more valuable.
As we get set to rank the players the Vols must have throughout the year, we’ll take all of those factors into account. There is a surprise amount of depth at some places, but much of it is unproven, and even if you take into account unproven depth, many spots are still thin. With that in mind, these are the 10 players Tennessee football can least afford to lose this season.
6’2″ 203 pounds; Hometown: Nashville, Tenn.
Starting off our list is a guy whose versatility makes him valuable. The Vols have some talent in the secondary, but given the fact that Tim Banks wants to be flexible with his scheme, he’ll need a guy who can fit in anywhere. Theo Jackson is that player. If Banks sticks with his most common scheme, a nickel-heavy 4-3 base, Jackson will be even more crucial.
Last year, the Vols took a hit in the secondary not just due to the departure of Nigel Warrior but because Shawn Shamburger, their highest graded returning player, only appeared in three games. Shamburger is now gone, leaving nickel wide open.
Without Shamburger and Baylen Buchanan, the in-state graduate of Davidson County’s Overton High School all of a sudden is more crucial than ever for Tennessee football. Jackson started six games last year and appeared in all 10. He has an interception each of the past two years. Amidst all the questions, UT just can’t afford to lose his versatility and experience.