College football and Tennessee Football fans love to make preseason predictions for the upcoming year. Record predictions. Bowl matchups. Conference title winners. The four College Football Playoff teams.
And individual honors.
Along with All-America and All-Conference honors, the season will finish with individual awards.
Last year, Tennessee Football produced its first Biletnikoff Award winner in school history when Jalin
Hyatt took home the honor of the nation’s best wide receiver.
Hendon Hooker contended for the Heisman Trophy before finishing fifth in voting.
Which players on Tennessee’s team could contend for awards at the end of this season?
Many of these picks are longshots. But remember: Hyatt wasn’t even the top Biletnikoff
candidate on his team entering last season.
So let’s take a look at 10 Tennessee players who could take home national awards at the end of
Cooper Mays: Rimington Trophy
We’ll start the list with one of Tennessee’s most important players.
Mays is a critical part of Tennessee’s offense, which projects to be one of the nation’s best.
So why wouldn’t Mays be a top candidate for the Rimington, which goes to the nation’s best
He won’t be favored to win the award.
But continuing his strong play on one of the nation’s best offenses will bring Mays more
attention as the year goes along.
Dee Williams: Jet Award
Williams turned on the jets last season after taking over the punt return position in the middle of
Williams has already received preseason All-SEC attention.
The national stage is next.
If Williams is able to take a couple of kicks to the house – and add an attention-grabbing
celebration as he did against Vanderbilt – he’ll have a strong case to be nation’s top return
Bru McCoy: Biletnikoff Award
Can Tennessee go back-to-back after winning its first ever Biletnikoff last season?
Let’s be honest: probably not.
But McCoy will have more opportunities this season after making a strong impact as a
newcomer in Tennessee’s offense in 2022.
McCoy’s total receptions, yards and touchdowns should all rise from last year.
The No. 1 receiver in Tennessee’s offense – if McCoy takes on that role – should always get a
mention for this award.
Dont’e Thornton: Biletnikoff Award
Thornton plays the Hyatt role in this discussion.
A year ago, Hyatt just needed to prove he belonged on the field as a starter.
He took off from there and won the award.
Now, Thornton wants to prove he belongs on the field after transferring from Oregon.
Thornton’s size (6-5, 205) and reported ability to run like Hyatt makes him an obvious candidate
to blow up this fall.
We’ve seen it happen once in Tennessee’s offense.
Why not again?
Aaron Beasley: Dick Butkus Award
Did you see Beasley in the Orange Bowl?
He was a tackling machine and made a strong case to win the MVP award in that game.
Expect Beasley to carry that level of play over to the 2023 season.
Will that be good enough to win the Butkus Award?
Big ask. But if Beasley can rack up tackles and Tennessee’s defense improves overall, he
should receive more attention.
The pace of Tennessee’s offense leaves a lot of plays for the Vols’ defense to run.
Go get those tackles, Aaron Beasley.
Omari Thomas: Outland Trophy
This is another award that will be tough to win.
But the same rule for Beasley can apply for Thomas: if the Vols’ defense improves – and the
team keeps winning – individual defenders should pick up some attention.
Thomas is a team leader and a really good player.
It takes a special kind of defensive lineman to win the Outland (think: John Henderson).
Let’s see if Thomas can take his game to the highest level.
Jaylen Wright: Doak Walker Award
A lot of the attention on Tennessee’s offense points to the passing game.
But Josh Heupel offenses run the ball.
This Tennessee offense will rely on the running game as Joe Milton settles in as the full-time
starter at quarterback.
Wright will have to battle competition at running back on his own team.
But a year ago, Wright led Tennessee with 875 rushing yards while averaging six yards a carry.
If he picks up a bigger workload and can add to his rushing numbers, watch out.
Wright scored 10 touchdowns last season. More trips to the end zone and more rushing yards
for the season could lead to national attention.
Doneiko Slaughter: Jim Thorpe Award
Admission: this is a tough sell.
That’s not to knock Slaughter. He’s a good player who has a chance to make a big impact this
It’s more about Tennessee’s defense and secondary as a whole.
But Slaughter is the pick here because of the way he plays.
He can make the big hit or make a big play on the football.
Tennessee’s defense will look to be more aggressive this fall.
If that leads to big plays – and a few SportsCenter highlights – for Slaughter, he might just throw
his name into the national discussion.
Charles Campbell: Lou Groza Award
Tennessee scores too many touchdowns for Campbell to have much of a shot here.
But if the Vols struggle on offense early in the season, at least by their standard, Campbell
could have more field goal opportunities.
He was reliable at Indiana and will score more points overall at Tennessee.
What if Campbell is consistent all season and nails a couple of game-winning kicks in the SEC?
Voters would have to take a look at Campbell as the nation’s best place-kicker.
Joe Milton III: Heisman Trophy
The entire list built up to this pick.
We could have gone conservative and said Davey O’Brien Award for Milton.
But why limit it to a QB award?
Tennessee has never produced a Heisman winner.
The school has come close several times.
For a time last season, Hooker had a real shot to win it.
So what a story it would be if Milton, who was once the Vols’ starter before relinquishing the role
to Hooker, ended up winning the award for the first time in Tennessee history?
Milton has the arm to make all the plays, and heplays in the offense to give him all the
opportunity he needs.
And he’s on a team that could win a bunch of games.
Milton’s a longshot to win the Heisman Trophy.
But you’d be crazy to count him out.