Given all the transfers and newcomers throughout the offseason along with a new head coach, there were plenty of questions as to what Tennessee football’s first depth chart would look like for its Thursday opener against the Bowling Green Falcons. On Monday, Josh Heupel put a lot of that suspense to rest, as the Vols finally released it.
Some things were already known, including Alontae Taylor, Jaylen McCollough and Trevon Flowers starting in the secondary. Others, while not confirmed, were expected, including Joe Milton III winning the starting quarterback job, Warren Burrell winning the other starting cornerback job, Theo Jackson starting at nickel and Tiyon Evans and Jabari Small co-starting at running back.
However, there are other roster notes that stood out and nobody saw coming. In this post, we’re going to list those shockers. Our ranking will be based on how unexpected each revelation was, so let’s dive in. These are the five biggest surprises on Tennessee football’s first 2021 depth chart.
5. Cedric Tillman starting at wide receiver
We have this down here because it was always a possibility given how Cedric Tillman stood out in the spring. Heupel clearly needed one big, tall wideout with the departures of Josh Palmer and Brandon Johnson, and given his experience and his size at 6’3″ 215 pounds, the redshirt junior clearly could fill that role.
Still, this was somewhat shocking. The Vols have other wideouts on the roster. Ramel Keyton was a more highly-touted recruit than Tillman coming out of high school and has racked up more catches and yards than Tillman each of the past two years.
Then there were newcomers who could have made their way into that spot. Four-star freshman Kaemen Marley is a 6’3″ 195-pound athlete who started out at receiver. Junior college transfer Andison Coby stands at 6’2″ 180 pounds. Any of these guys could have made the list, so Tillman earning the role is a testament to his play and also a bit surprising.