Vol News, New Faces, and What to Expect

Aubrey is here. Trey is back. It’s Football Time in Tennessee. almost.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. The college football landscape is ripe with hope, opportunity and possibilities for the upcoming season. There is no doubt that the players and the staff have lofty expectations for this upcoming season, despite coming off of a 5-7 season. Jeremy Pruitt will have his team believing that they can win every game that they play in this year. The talent is beginning to match that expectation, though we are not there yet. The Vols have had a chaotic few days, indefinitely losing an important starter and picking up another in a position of need this week alone.

The addition of Aubrey Solomon may prove to be paramount for this upcoming season, if the player can live up to his billing as a five-star defensive tackle. The Michigan transfer was declared to be immediately eligible Tuesday by the NCAA. The news had been long awaited by all. The news comes on the heels of the Volunteers losing their most experienced returning player at the position, Emmit Gooden, for the season with an ACL tear. Tennessee was thin at the defensive tackle position before Gooden’s injury. Solomon’s eligibility will give the position group a much needed boost in talent, experience, and leadership going forward. Look for him to be the best defensive tackle on our roster this season. Our staff features six of Aubrey Solomon’s lead recruiters before his initial decision to go to Ann Arbor in 2017. The strength of relationships and ties that he had to the program was said to be the primary factor bringing him to Knoxville. He was heralded as the number two defensive tackle in the class, and is the highest regarded defensive line prospect to play for the Volunteers since Kahlil McKenzie.

In other news, Bryce Thompson was arrested this week and has been indefinitely suspended from the team pending the findings of an on-going investigation.  If Pruitt handles team discipline in a similar manner to Nick Saban or Mark Richt, fans can expect to see Thompson retained but given a short leash going forward. The good news for Vol fans is that this will give newcomer Warren Burrell a chance to get some reps at the college level. The reports out of summer camp are that he looks the part of an SEC-level cornerback. The BYU game should be a good initial test for the young player, as Thompson should not expect to be back before the Florida game.

It was announced earlier today that Trey Smith is ready and plans to play in the season opener. Vol fans will hope he is able to replicate his play from his Freshman season at UT. Trey Smith was one of the best players in his class coming out of high school and has largely lived up to his billing as one of the nations best underclassmen lineman. Blood clots kept him off the field for most of last season, but it seems his off-season treatment program has been a success. If Trey can remain healthy, Tennessee could have the best offensive line it’s had in the last half decade.


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New Faces

One of the exciting aspects of the direction of the program is the number of new faces anticipated to make an impact in this upcoming season. The Volunteers should expect to see a large number of new contributors, but here are three that are likely to influence the season in big ways.
Wanya Morris is an early enrollee freshman and one of the Crown Jewels of this class. The five star offensive tackle shows flashes of athleticism and strength rarely seen together for someone his size. With the entire spring to acclimate himself to the offense and the nuances of college football, Wanya figures to feature as a tackle either on the right or left. He will likely be a cornerstone for this offensive line for years to come.
Eric Gray is a 3-time Mr. Tennessee award winner from Memphis. He is another early enrollee and has drawn rave reviews in regards to the discipline and maturity he has shown from the jump. There have been rumors coming out of camp comparing him to a young Alvin Kamara. While it is unlikely that the Volunteers have unearthed another gem as rare as Kamara, the comparisons can only mean good things for the player’s future.
Henry To’oto’o was one of the nation’s top linebackers coming out high school last year. While the player has not had the spring to learn the defense, he has been complimented on how quickly he has learned and picked up on the schemes. His toughness cannot be questioned as he played his state championship game on a broken ankle with football factory De La Salle in California. With the recent injury to Daniel Bituli, Henry will likely see significant minutes early on in the season and will continue to contribute as the year wears on.

What To Expect

Tennessee returns a lot of talent and the second year with a new head coach often sees a large jump in production. It’s reasonable to expect seven regular season wins for this season, barring major injuries. Tennessee could certainly be better, but the team cannot afford to lose many along the defensive line and needs to be able to put pressure on the quarterback to remain competitive in this league. With a health defensive lines and big contributions from guys like Darrell Taylor and Aubrey Solomon among others, the Volunteers may just win eight plus a bowl game. Drain the Swamp and Go Vols.