The guard position, along with the entire offensive line, is one of the most important positions in the game of football. Their work protecting the quarterback in the pocket and creating holes for running backs to do their magic is mandatory for all successful football teams at any level. In other words, when a team has a solid offensive line, they usually have a solid team.

According to ESPN analyst Cole Cubelic, Tennessee’s Trey Smith is a very valuable piece in creating an elite offensive line, as he projects that Smith will be the SEC’s top guard during the 2020-21 College Football season — beating out Alabama’s Deonte Brown, Georgia’s Ben Cleveland, LSU’s Ed Ingram, and South Carolina’s Sadarius Hutcherson for the top spot in the conference.

Standing at 6’6’’ and weighing in at 325 Ibs, the Jackson, Tennessee native is a former consensus 5-star recruit. ESPN rated Smith as the No. 1 overall prospect in the nation, and he was heavily recruited by Alabama, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Ole Miss, and Clemson in addition to the volunteers back during the 2016 recruiting cycle. Smith signed with the Vols back on December 6, 2016, and only succeeded on the field from there.

Smith dominated competition for the Vols, as he terrified opposing SEC defensive linemen. It seemed as if all was well, and that Smith was adjusting perfectly to life in the SEC, before a heart-wrenching revelation came to light. In the summer of 2018, Smith was diagnosed with blood clots in his lungs. Although it was an extremely serious condition, he was able to overcome all odds to become eligible to start for Tennessee in their season opener against West Virginia.

However, about halfway through Jeremy Pruitt’s first season in Knoxville, the blood clots reemerged — ending Smith’s season. For a while, it seemed as though Smith’s career would come to an end due to his condition, but he was focused on getting back into Neyland Stadium and helping his team.

After a long offseason, Smith was able to achieve his goal, and played in all 13 games for Tennessee last season. Smith’s success was so impressive that he had the opportunity to enter the NFL Draft, although he ultimately decided to return to Tennessee for his senior season in hopes of improving his draft stock.

While Smith’s story is one of the best you’ll ever hear, Cubelic is also high on other players along the Vols’ offensive line, such as Cade Mays — who recently made the decision to transfer from Georgia to Tennessee, joining his brother, Cooper, on Rocky Top.

With Tennessee’s offensive line becoming more and more impressive, it is certainly going to be interesting to watch how much they’ve grown since Jeremy Pruitt first took over as Tennessee’s head coach in 2018. If they can take things to the next level, it could just lead to another successful season for the Vols, as they take another step in their long path back to national relevance.