A hallmark of any successful team, even those as great as the Alabama Crimson Tide, is a group of players who become key to its wins who were not highly touted recruits. Tennessee football will have to rely on more players than usual on that front, as many of the elite recruits over the past few classes have transferred out to other schools or left for the pros.
The good news for the Vols is Josh Heupel has a history of maximizing players’ talents, at least on the offensive side of the ball. His schemes can often times be more important than the players. Other good news for them, though, is that there are players who have proven themselves.
In this post, we’re going to rank those players. To make this list, they have to be overlooked recruits who are returning to the system. Being overlooked means they didn’t earn anything above a three-star on any major recruiting service. This is based on their talent, their production and what’s expected of them. These are Tennessee football’s top five three-stars for 2021.
6’2″ 240 pounds; Hometown: Nashville, Tenn.
It came down to Princeton Fant and Theo Jackson for this fifth spot. Jackson’s versatility and the departure of Shawn Shamburger at nickel made us almost choose him. However, the forced retirement of Austin Pope due to medical issues means Fant will see a larger role at this position, so he made the list instead.
Last year, Fant caught 12 passes for 103 yards and a touchdown. It was his first year seeing significant action at tight end, a position he converted to the year before. Now, in a system more friendly to receiving tight ends, he should thrive.
While being recruited by Butch Jones’ staff out of LaVergne High School in Rutherford County, Fant was actually a three-star athlete across the board who was expected to play running back. He hasn’t overachieved his three-star billing yet, but all signs point to him doing that for Tennessee football this year, so he made the list.