[title_box title=”An early look at Tennessee’s depth chart in 2016″]
It is one of the saddest times of the year right now, and no, not just because the cold makes your eyes water when you step outside or because everything is covered in ice. That hurts, but now that the Super Bowl is over, we have to wait almost seven months for football to come back.
Not to worry though, because it is never too early to look ahead to the next season. So, without further ado, take a look at this projected depth chart for the 2016 Volunteers and start looking for hotels in Tampa—it is going to be a wild ride.
DE: Derek Barnett; Dimarya Mixon
DT: Kendal Vickers; Kahlil McKenzie
DT: Shy Tuttle; Danny O’Brien
DE: Jonathan Kongbo; Corey Vereen
Not too many surprises here. Barnett and Vickers are regular starters who, barring any injuries or other unforeseen circumstances, will keep their respective roles. Tuttle had a big year his freshman season until it was cut short due to injury, and he looks to be the favorite to replace Owen Williams. Kongbo, the highest rated JUCO defensive end in the nation this year, has the skill set to be a day one starter. The duo of Barnett and Kongbo coming around the edge will surely be a terrifying combination for opposing offenses.
OLB: Jalen Reeves-Maybin; Cortez McDowell
ILB: Darrin Kirkland Jr.; Colton Jumper/Daniel Bituli
OLB: Kenny Bynum; Austin Smith
Again, this one will likely not surprise anyone. Reeves-Maybin is the heart of the defense. Kirkland took over the starting role of middle linebacker midway through the 2015 season and showed some incredible promise. Bynum also started at outside linebacker this past season, so he will likely keep that role.
CB: Cameron Sutton; Emmanuel Moseley
CB: Tyler Byrd; Justin Martin
Safety: Todd Kelly Jr.; Evan Berry
Safety/Nickel: Rashaan Gaulden; Malik Foreman
Sutton and Kelly Jr. are no-brainers in the secondary. However, Tennessee had some problems at cornerback during the 2015 season. Moseley was the starter most of the season, but with Byrd, the top-rated athlete in the nation, flipping his commitment to Tennessee the day before signing day, he could come in and create a dangerous no-fly zone with Sutton on the edges. Gaulden was penciled in to start at nickel last year before a season-ending foot injury, so look for him to pick up right where he left off.
Offensive Line/Tight End:
LT: Chance Hall; Dontavius Blair
LG: Jashon Robertson; Charles Mosley
C: Coleman Thomas; Ray Raulerson
RG: Dylan Wiseman; Jack Jones
RT: Brett Kendrick; Drew Richmond
TE: Ethan Wolf; Neiko Creamer
Most recognize that 2014 was one of the worst years in recent memory as far as the offensive line goes. However, the vast majority of those players were either freshmen or sophomores. Now, as primarily juniors and seniors, the Vols could have one of the best offensive lines in the country. With a couple young players entering into the rotation, such as Jones and Hall, both of whom stepped up big time as freshmen, the depth is manageable.
Wolf has made an impact since day one on Rocky Top at tight end. More youth might be added to this lineup as the season goes on, but the Vols have some strong protection up front.
WR: Josh Smith; Jauan Jennings
WR: Preston Williams; Jeff George
WR: Josh Malone; Jason Croom
Last season, things did not go as expected for Tennessee in the receiving category. “Wide Receiver U,” as Tennessee is sometimes referred to as, relied primarily on the run game. Malone and Smith saw multiple starts a year ago and should be poised to play bigger roles. Williams, a five-star recruit in the class of 2015, was a little banged up all season and didn’t see as much playing time as he may have liked. But he should be completely healed up and ready to go this fall. With junior Marquez North declaring early for the NFL Draft, Williams has the height to pick up nicely where North left off.
RB: Jalen Hurd; Alvin Kamara
QB: Joshua Dobbs; Quinten Dormady
UT should see zero changes in the backfield. The trio of Kamara, Hurd, and Dobbs proved to be an incredible combination in 2015. Since Kamara decided to stay at Tennessee one more year, they should do a lot of the same in 2016. The three players rushed for over 2,600 yards and 30 touchdowns on the season. Behind a veteran offensive line, the Vols’ run game will be very hard to contain.
P: Trevor Daniel
PK: Aaron Medley
PR: Cam Sutton; Alvin Kamara
KR: Evan Berry
The specialists for Tennessee in 2015 produced some of the highest of highs as well as some of the lowest of lows. The Vols’ return game was the best in the nation with Sutton and Kamara returning punts and Berry returning kickoffs. Tennessee had six special teams touchdowns.
The kicking game was inconsistent. After missing a potential game-winning 55-yard field goal try at Florida and going 0-for-3 at Alabama, Medley really got it together and was exceptional the rest of the year. At Missouri, he made his first four field goals and is the main reason the Vols won that game.
Daniel came out of nowhere to earn the starting job at punter after Matt Darr graduated. He has a cannon of a leg, and as was evident against Georgia, can punt the ball on a dime and pin teams deep in their own territory. The Vols shouldn’t see many changes at special teams.
Featured image by Ben Moser
Edited by Cody McClure