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Tennessee Football: The top ten most important players of 2017

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A full rundown.

NCAA Football: Tennessee-Practice Knoxville News Sentinel-USA TODAY Sports

Over the weekend, our countdown for the most important Tennessee Volunteers wrapped up. Here’s a look at our list with links to each individual player’s breakdown, including commentary from each of our writers.


10. Trey Smith

The freshman offensive lineman is set to start at guard for the Volunteers this season. The former number one overall recruit should provide a big boost to an already experienced group.

9. Jashon Robertson

We don’t know where Robertson will play, but we do know that he will be a pillar of the offensive line once again. The senior could play at both center and guard for Tennessee in 2017.

8. Shaq Wiggins

A graduate transfer, Wiggins will look to make the most of his final year of eligibility. The former Georgia Bulldog and Louisville Cardinal should be a starter for Tennessee this season and replace the void that Cam Sutton left.

7. Shy Tuttle

Shy has had terrible luck with injuries to this point in his career. Tennessee could really use a healthy year from big number two in 2017. The Vols have to be better in the trenches this season — Tuttle is a huge part of that.

6. Jonathan Kongbo

We’ve talked about it a lot, but Kongbo has some big shoes to fill following Derek Barnett. The former five star recruit has to be a force off the edge for Tennessee.

5. Todd Kelly Jr.

The senior safety led the team in tackles in 2016. He’s a force in the box and should provide some senior leadership for a defensive unit that could really use it.

4. Darrin Kirkland Jr.

Speaking of leadership, Kirkland has grown into that role. The junior will be a mainstay for Tennessee’s rush defense, which missed him badly when he missed time in 2016. He’s another guy that needs to put 13 games together.

3. Jauan Jennings

There’s no doubt about who Tennessee’s number one target will be in 2017. It’s Jauan Jennings. He’s already at legend status on campus, thanks to his hail mary catch to beat Georgia. Let’s see if he can add to that legacy this season.

2. The quarterback

We don’t know who it’s going to be, but either Jarrett Guarantano or Quinten Dormady will be a huge part of the offense this season. It may even be both. If they can simply take care of the football and let the running game work, Tennessee should be just fine offensively.

1. John Kelly

Speaking of the run game, it all begins with John Kelly. He’s going to be the bell-cow for the Volunteers in 2017. I’d expect Kelly to be the driving force of the offense, running behind a talented and experienced offensive line.


So there you have it. Have any problems with our rankings? Anyone get left out? Let us know in the comments!