Tennessee will be missing on of its 14 participants during senior day festivities on Saturday afternoon, but he’s got a good reason for skipping. Center Brandon Kennedy is going after his sixth year of eligibility, announcing today that he will try to return to the program for the 2020 season.
Kennedy left that door open several weeks ago. Today he’s made his final decision.
The former four-star prospect transferred to Tennessee from Alabama during the 2018 offseason. He was a key addition for Jeremy Pruitt in year one, fixing a position of immediate need with some experience. However, Kennedy suffered a season ending injury during a week two practice, forcing Tennessee to shuffle the offensive line rotation for the rest of the year.
Kennedy returned to full strength this season, starting every game and really growing into an impact player for the Vols. This has been his first chance to put a full season together during his college career, so it’s not a huge surprise that he will pursue another year of eligibility.
He has a pretty solid case to present to the NCAA, but as we’ve seen, take nothing for granted with that group. Kennedy never missed a full season due to injury, but he was only able to appear in one game in 2018. An injury took a near full season from him during his time at Alabama, also.
Kennedy’s potential return would be huge for continuity reasons. Tennessee could return an entire starting five (or in this case, a starting six or seven) depending on the NFL decision of Trey Smith, who has returned to his dominant form. Wanya Morris, Darnell Wright, K’Rojhn Calbert, Ryan Johnson, Riley Locklear, Jahmir Johnson and Marcus Tatum should all return in 2020. Younger guys like Chris Akporoghene and Jackson Lampley will have a chance to make some noise as well.
It’s been a long time coming, but the offensive line just might actually turn out to be a strength in 2020.
If successful, Kennedy will join four other seniors that will be sticking around for another year in Knoxville. Receiver Brandon Johnson redshirted and will have a chance to start next season opposite of Josh Palmer. Running Back Carlin Fils-Aime also took a redshirt. Defensive back Baylen Buchanan tried to fight back from a spine issue, but ultimately lost his entire 2019 season. He, along with defensive tackle Emmit Gooden, who tore his ACL in camp, will return for 2020.
I’d say it says quite a bit about this program and coaching staff that those five guys are sticking around.