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Tennessee Football: Which position group should Vol fans have the most confidence in this season?

Tennessee is in the middle of summer workouts preparing for the 2023 football season.

Players are in their final offseason stage working to improve ahead of fall camp.

Competition carries over from the spring, especially at positions where starting positions and playing time are still up for grabs.

Which position group for Tennessee should fans have the most confidence in this season?

Let’s take a look.

Defensive backs

I want to be more confident in Tennessee’s defensive backfield.

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And there are reasons to believe the potential for the secondary is greater than it was a year ago.

Transfer Gabe Jeudy-Lally should help at corner.

A bunch of freshmen arrived in the spring with high accolades from the recruiting process.

And the amount of players returning creates depth and competition.

Still, veterans returning have to show us they’ve improved. Coaches have to show they’re willing to play unproven freshmen.

The defensive backfield has depth and lot of upside.

But it needs to make a big jump from last year.

Special Teams

Tennessee has upgraded its speed and should have plenty of talented players to choose from on kick coverage units.

Dee Williams could be one of the nation’s top punt returners.

And Mike Ekeler has done an impressive job coaching special teams the last two seasons.

The concern lies in Tennessee having to replace both its placekicker and punter.

Charles Campbell transferring from Indiana helps at the placekicker spot. How will he handle the pressure of the SEC?

Jackson Ross could work out just fine as the punter.

Until we see how Tennessee’s kickers handle the big spots in an SEC game, confidence will remain lower than other position groups.

Offensive line

Darnell Wright might be the most difficult player to replace from last year’s team.

I recognize the magnitude of that statement with the losses of Hendon Hooker and Jalin Hyatt.

Wright’s absence, along with the departure of left guard Jerome Carvin, leaves some concern with this year’s offensive line.

It helps that John Campbell transferred from Miami to play left tackle.

Cooper Mays at center and Javontez Spraggins at right guard will lead the offensive line.

And offensive line coach Glen Elarbee has earned a benefit of the doubt that he’ll get the most out of his position group.

So there’s no reason to panic about Tennessee’s O-line. It shouldn’t have the same problems it did in 2021 when the Vols allowed the most sacks in the SEC.

But is Tennessee ready to hold off the conference’s elite pass rushers like last year?

That will be a big question entering the fall.

Vols newcomer class, combining recruits and transfers, ranked No. 16


Tennessee has to replace Jeremy Banks.

But the Vols will do so with Aaron Beasley, who was a man possessed in the Orange Bowl, and Keenan Pili, an experienced linebacker who transferred from BYU.

Add in second-year linebackers Elijah Herring and Kalib Perry to go along with highly-touted freshman Arion Carter, and Tennessee’s linebacker play should improve from last year.

Beasley will be one of Tennessee’s top leaders on defense. Pili will help lead as well despite being a newcomer to the program.

The Vols want to play aggressively on defense. This group of linebackers will help make that happen.


There is an obvious question at quarterback: Is Joe Milton III ready to be THE guy?

His performance against Clemson helped create confidence that the answer is yes.

Milton has shown the required leadership qualities this offseason. (And a lot of people at Tennessee say he showed it last year as a backup.)

Milton has all of the tools he needs to be successful and now he has more experience in Josh Heupel’s offense.

Will freshman Nico Iamaleava be ready if he’s needed to play this fall?

That’s another question that we can’t answer until we see him have to do it.

But his talent is obvious and coaches have raved about his work ethic.

Depth is a question with only two scholarship quarterbacks, although Gaston Moore is more impressive than the typical walk-on quarterback.

It’s a big prove-it year for Milton. Tennessee fans should be confident that he’ll prove plenty.

Running backs

The overall collection of talent has the running back position ranked high on this list.

Veterans Jabari Small and Jaylen Wright have proven they can make plays in the SEC.

Can they stay healthy?

Well, Tennessee has reinforcements if they can’t.

Sophomore Dylan Sampson showed flashes of his talent last year and carried that over to a big spring.

Freshman Cameron Seldon looks the part of a future playmaker in Tennessee’s backfield.

That should give Tennessee four running backs Tennessee’s coaches can confidently rely on this fall.

Throw in two other freshman, DeSean Bishop and Khalifa Keith, and Tennessee has some real numbers to work with at running back.

This offense always rely on the running game. The Vols will have more running backs to rely on this season.

Defensive line

Is there an All-SEC player on Tennessee’s defensive line?

That’s difficult to say. But there are a lot of players Tennessee will count on under coach Rodney Garner’s leadership.

And that’s the biggest key here: the number of defensive linemen Tennessee can count on.

Depth and the ability to rotate up front on defense matters so much.

Omari Thomas will help lead the way.

Transfer Omarr Norman-Lott will help improve the depth.

And young edge rushers Joshua Josephs, James Pearce and Caleb Herring will help raise the ceiling of the defensive line’s potential.

Tennessee needs more players who can rush the passer.

Have confidence that the Vols will be more disruptive this year thanks to the development of the defensive line.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

Tennessee’s wide receivers had plenty of questions entering last season.

Was Jalin Hyatt ready to step up after a disappointing season?

Would Bru McCoy make an immediate impact like everyone hoped?

How much depth did the Vols really have behind Cedric Tillman?

The answers were better than anyone could have hoped.

Now Tennessee has a proven McCoy and Ramel Keyton returning to play on the outside.

Squirrel White has already shown his ability against quality competition.

And newcomer Dont’e Thornton has experience from playing at Oregon and a skillset that fits perfectly with Josh Heupel’s offense.

Throw in tight end Jacob Warren, another experienced receiver, and Milton will have plenty of options to choose from.

Have no fear with Tennessee’s receivers.

Their ability and the Vols’ offensive system should create plenty of optimism.

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