4. Best player gone from secondary that already had problems
Last year, Tennessee football’s secondary took a big hit in two ways. First, the Vols had to replace Nigel Warrior, their anchor at safety from 2019. Then they only had Shawn Shamburger, their nickel from 2019, for three games, and he wasn’t even fully healthy then. Shamburger was actually their highest graded returning player in 2020.
This year, UT will be without Shamburger again, as he entered the transfer portal. But to make matters worse, their best defensive back from last year, cornerback Bryce Thompson, is now gone. He left early for the pros.
The Vols had major issues in pass defense last year without Shamburger and Warrior. How are they going to handle the loss of Thompson on top of that? Combine that with Josh Heupel’s system focusing on offense, and it’s hard to see any positives.
Now, to be fair, the Vols get lots of talent back. Also, two key players who played hurt last year are fully healthy in Alontae Taylor and Kenneth George Jr., and Heupel added Auburn Tigers transfer Kamal Hadden and Alabama Crimson Tide transfer Brandon Turnage. Add in Tim Banks’ new scheme, and this could be overcome. However, on paper, it’s still a major concern right now.