Nigel Warrior continues our countdown of the most important Vols for the 2018 season. Check out the rest here.
The Vols have seen their fair share of talented defensive backs come through the program over the years. Players such as Eric Berry, Deon Grant, Bobby Majors, and Dale Carter highlight the list, with plenty more names following behind them.
Carter’s own son, Nigel Warrior, expects to add his name to that list once he’s done playing at the University of Tennessee - and 2018 will be his launching point.
After ranking second on the team in tackles for 2017, he’s been named to the watch list for the Bednarik Award and could head to the NFL if 2018 goes as planned. With a former college defensive back in head coach Jeremy Pruitt, the stars are aligned for Warrior.
Pruitt recruited Warrior when he was the defensive coordinator at Georgia and now Tennessee’s newly-minted shot-caller get his chance to mold Warrior into the vision he once had.
Warrior is aware of Pruitt’s experience at the position, as well as his desire to get the best out of his players, and it doesn’t phase Warrior one bit.
“It puts pressure (on defensive backs), but it’s a good thing. Everybody is pushing to become better than what they were.” - Nigel Warrior, via knoxnews.com
But that’s not the only reason why the Vols need a big year from Warrior. After watching Emmanuel Moseley, Justin Martin, and Rashaan Gaulden leave the program - the latter going to the NFL - Tennessee will rely on Warrior even more than they did last season.
Another fact that makes Warrior so crucial to Tennessee’s secondary is the fact that they plan on rolling out a wide receiver-to-cornerback convert in Alontae Taylor - who is also a true freshman.
While Taylor’s athletic ability and work ethic should provide an advantage, he will rely on the more experienced players such as Warrior to help guide him along.
Warrior played the most defensive snaps (822) out of any other player on the unit and graded out as the second best player on the defense behind Gaulden, per Pro Football Focus. The numbers and intangibles are there.
There are many questions on the Vols’ roster, but Warrior’s spot is not one of them.