Given all the transfers that happened during the transition from Jeremy Pruitt to Josh Heupel last year, you would think Tennessee football would have no choice but to rely on members of its 2021 recruiting class for success. However, en route to their 7-6 season, the Vols actually didn’t use them that much.
Of course, it wasn’t helped by three elite prospects being let out of their letter of intent after National Signing Day: Edge rusher, Dylan Brooks, defensive lineman KaTron Evans and running back Cody Brown. Meanwhile, elite quarterback Kaidon Salter was dismissed after two infractions in the summer, and defensive lineman Isaac Washington transferred during the spring.
Surprisingly, though, the Vols didn’t rely on other guys with potential. Kaemen Marley and Trinity Bell didn’t play, and Andison Coby had just one catch for five yards. They’re all now in the portal. So who did step up for Tennessee football in 2021. These are the five players who did so the most.
6’5″ 315 pounds
Three offensive linemen were in the Vols’ 2021 class: William Parker, Amari McNeill and Jeremiah Crawford. Parker was the most highly touted of the three, but Crawford, a junior college transfer out of Butler Community College in Kansas, had the most experience. He was also the only player in the class Josh Heupel specifically signed.
Well, Crawford, a three-star across the board, became the only one to play. He actually worked his way up to becoming Darnell Wright’s backup at left tackle, and he had a PFF regular season score of 78.8 on 104 plays. He was definitely a solid signing by Heupel to build depth.
Where the graduate of Goddard High School in Sedgwick County, Kan. goes from here is up in the air, but he was solid enough this past year to be in contention for a starting tackle position in 2022. Parker and McNeill still have potential to be valuable in this system, and there were some breakout linemen in 2021, but Crawford was the best of the ones in Tennessee football’s class.