We are just a week removed from the NFL Draft, which saw the Tennessee Volunteers return to form in a big way. Derek Barnett headlined a loaded class, landing 14th overall to the Philadelphia Eagles. Alvin Kamara, Cam Sutton, Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Josh Malone and Josh Dobbs followed on days two and three.
These six players will leave some holes on the roster, but Tennessee has plenty of talent left in the stables. After a few down years in the post-Derek Dooley era, the Vols have returned to being an NFL pipeline. Here are a few names that the NFL will have their eyes on this Fall.
Let’s start with some seniors.
Todd Kelly Jr. may be able to fill a strong safety role in the league. I’m not sure if he has NFL range, but he’s a physical tackler that averaged six stops a game last season. His eight career picks should open some eyes, too.
Ethan Wolf is a guy that’s yet to really put it all together. He’s probably more talented than his stats suggest. Just 67 career grabs for 752 yards and 4 touchdowns is nothing to write home about, but Wolf has NFL size. 6-6, 245 pounds will catch the NFL’s eye. Hopefully Wolf gets a better shot to showcase his skills this season.
Evan Berry has yet to really find a home on defense, but he’s been an absolute game breaker in the return game. The NFL is always looking for quality special teamers. It doesn’t hurt that he’s the little brother of Eric Berry, either. It’s hard to believe he’s a senior already, but Evan likely has a home as at least a return man on an NFL roster next year.
Trevor Daniel will continue the Tennessee legacy of sending punters into the league. Daniel is a magician with the football and a true weapon for the Vols. I’d be shocked if he’s not punting for an NFL team in 2018.
Senior offensive linemen Jashon Robertson, Coleman Thomas and Brett Kendrick will have chances at the league. Juniors Jack Jones and Chance Hall are also on NFL radars.
Jauan Jennings is probably the guy that NFL scouts will be the most interested in. The former quarterback and rising junior broke out last season for 580 yards and 7 touchdowns. Tennessee’s offense hasn’t been generous to production out of receivers to this point, but Jennings is going to be the lead guy this year. If Quinten Dormady’s Orange and White Game performance is any indication, Jennings could see a big spike in production this season. His 6-3, 205 pound frame and “my-ball” mentality should be very enticing to scouts visiting this fall. We may even see an early declaration after this season if all goes well.
Shy Tuttle and Khalil McKenzie came into Knoxville with a lot of hype, but have been derailed by injuries to this point. These guys have yet to really blossom, but the talent is there. Tennessee badly needs these guys to live up to their talent. If they do, both could potentially be high draft picks.
Two of my favorites — Micah Abernathy and Rashaan Gaulden — have chances to grow into top prospects down the road. These guys really popped last year, seeing their first extended action of their careers. I would expect both to grow into legitimate prospects down the road as they become leaders for the Vols this season.
Running back John Kelly exploded onto the scene last year when Jalen Hurd left the program. Kelly was a really nice surprise, running hard with explosion and balance. In a much larger role this year, the entire country should get to know Kelly pretty quickly. I think he’s got an NFL future to him.
Say what you want about Butch Jones, but he and his staff have at the very least restored talent to the football program. Last weekend was a welcomed site after embarrassing showings in the previous two NFL Drafts. Turning that talent into wins is a different story, but at least the talent is coming through Knoxville once again.