Lots of seniors have a decision to make for Tennessee football now. Many can still take advantage of the COVID eligibility ruling and come back for a super-senior year despite playing four seasons without a redshirt or being part of the program for five years already.
On the offensive line, Cade Mays is likely gone no matter what given his elite status. However, the Vols running game depends on the other guys, and a huge decision by Jerome Carvin means that aspect of the game will be even better next year.
Carvin, who has appeared in every game since 2018, started at least a portion of every season since 2018 and started every game in 2021. decided he would come back for a fifth year. A 6’5″ 318-pound guard who can also play center, he announced his decision Sunday night on the Locker Room television show.
By far the Vols’ most versatile interior blocker, Carvin’s decision to return means UT will be loaded with experience on the offensive line. Cooper Mays and Javontez Spraggins were the other starters up front when everybody was healthy. Both are true sophomores, so they can’t leave. Ollie Lane also has experience.
On the outside, Mays may be gone, but Darnell Wright, who has been the main left tackle, is likely coming back. He could leave early for the NFL, but he hasn’t shown enough. One more year playing there could really improve his draft stock. Then there’s K’Rojhn Calbert, who missed most of this season. Given his redshirt in 2017, he has another year of eligibility as well.
Simply put, outside of Mays, the Vols should have every key contributor back on the line, and Carvin is the standout star of all of them. Taking that into account, their running game should be more lethal than it was even for most of this year.
Jabari Small and Jaylen Wright have blossomed into an elite duo. This is a huge reason Tiyon Evans entered the transfer portal. There are other elite running backs on the transfer market now too, so the weapons there could be crucial. The question was the offensive line.
Sure, Mays will still be a big loss, but he couldn’t play at 100 percent for lots of the season anyway. His departure shouldn’t affect the Vols’ run game as much as Carvin’s return should. If Cooper Mays can stay healthy next year, Carvin can become a superstar at guard.
Anybody who has followed Josh Heupel’s offense this year knows that Tennessee football’s elite passing attack is generally set up by the run. Next year, with or without Hendon Hooker, they should be able to do that again with Carvin back. His return is that crucial.