National Analyst Predicts Tennessee Will Have One of the Nation’s Top Offensive Lines
Volunteer Country Staff
Just a few short years ago, hope was scarce around Rocky Top. Tennessee had just finished its 2017 football season, a year which would forever be recalled as the worst season in the history of Volunteer Football. The 2017 Vols, lead by then-head coach Butch Jones, had done what no other team in Tennessee history had done: lose 8 football games in a single season. There were a multitude of reasons why the team had fallen flat on its face, but one of the main ones was its abysmal offensive line.
In College Football, especially in the SEC, the offensive line is one of (if not the) most important positions. The battle upfront could mean the difference in a touchdown pass or a pick six when it comes to quarterbacks who struggle under pressure, and the running back position is almost entirely dependent on how powerful the big guys up front are. Regardless, it was pretty much a consensus that Tennessee’s 2017 offensive line was not only one of the worst in the SEC, but competed for being one of the worst in the entire country.
In fact, the offensive line was in such bad shape that newly hired Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt had to stress his goals for improving the team up front during his introductory press conference. “We are going to walk up to the line of scrimmage and challenge our opponents,” said the former Alabama defensive coordinator. “Every inch that the other team gets is going to be challenged.”
Pruitt’s words turned out to be more true than most Tennessee fans could have ever imagined, as he and his staff transformed the once lackluster offensive line into one of the best squads that College Football had to offer. According to Cole Cubelic, a national analyst for ESPN, the Vols will have the No. 4 top offensive line in the nation next season; only trailing Alabama, Ohio State, and Notre Dame. Cueblic also predicted that Tennessee’s Trey Smith would be the top offensive guard in the SEC for the 2020-21 season.
Next season, Tennessee returns Trey Smith, who elected to come back for his final year of eligibility instead of entering the 2020 NFL Draft, in addition to sophomore duo Wanya Morris and Darnell Wright, who look to have breakthrough years after adjusting to the SEC during their freshman seasons. Center Brandon Kennedy, one of the most experienced offensive linemen in the entire nation, will also return for the Vols after earning a medical redshirt.
The Volunteers will also add Cade Mays, a former 5-star legacy recruit who decided to transfer from Georgia back to Knoxville, reuniting with his brother Cooper in the process. Although the elder Mays had not yet received his transfer waiver from the NCAA, it seems probable that he will soon.
The effects of having an elite offensive line will be seen across the entire offense, from Jarrett Guarantano having more time to make a read, to Ty Chandler and Eric Gray having more holes to work their magic — Tennessee’s offense is bound to see positive impacts due to Jeremy Pruitt’s hard work on the big guys up front. With one of the best lines in the nation, the Vols could find themselves not only dominating the line of scrimmage next season, but also their opponents as they look to make some major improvements entering Jeremy Pruitt’s third season as the head coach on Rocky Top.