Believe it or not, spring football is right around the corner. Practice will fire up on March 7th, giving us our first look at Tennessee’s early enrollees. It will also be our first look at Jim Chaney’s offense, along with Derrick Ansley calling the shots of defense. Spring practice will finish up with the Orange and White Game on Saturday, April 13th.
Heading into the spring period, here’s my best guess at an offensive depth chart.
Starter: Jarrett Guarantano
Depth: JT Shrout, Brian Maurer
Nothing much should change here. Keller Chryst has moved on, pushing out Guarantano’s main competition for the job. For the first time in his Tennessee career, Guarantano is walking into spring with the job firmly in hand. The development of Shrout will be fun to watch over the spring, simply because we haven’t seen much from him yet.
Starter(s): Ty Chandler, Tim Jordan
Depth: Eric Gray, Jeremy Banks (?), Carlin Fils-aime, Princeton Fant
The Tennessee backfield should look really close to what we saw in 2018. Ty Chandler and Tim Jordan should see most of the touches once again, building off of strong showings last year. Four-star prospect Eric Gray enters the mix and adds another dynamic option for Jim Chaney.
With Madre London out of the picture, we’ll see if they move Jeremy Banks back to running back. Banks got work at linebacker late in 2018, but the additions of Quavaris Crouch and Henry To’oto’o may force Banks back to the offensive side. Tennessee used London as a short-yardage guy last season, could Banks be that back in 2019? It’s possible, but he would have to fix his fumbling issues first.
Starters: Marquez Callaway, Jauan Jennings, Josh Palmer
Depth: Brandon Johnson, Jordan Murphy, Tyler Byrd, Cedric Tillman, Ramel Keyton, Jerrod Means
Probably the most cut and dry position on the roster, Tennessee has experience and talent returning to the receiver depth chart in 2019. If Jarrett Guarantano can get some protection, he’s proven capable of pushing the ball down the field to Callaway and Palmer. The top three spots are set here, but I’ll be watching to see if guys like Jordan Murphy and Cedric Tillman can take the next step forward. Each of them found playing time late in 2018.
Elsewhere, what’s the plan for Ramel Keyton? The highly-rated receiver prospect enters a crowded room this year that will clear out somewhat next year after Jennings and Callaway graduate. A redshirt season makes sense, but the 6-3 receiver will enroll early and has a chance to make some noise right off the bat.
Starters: Dominick Wood-Anderson, Jackson Lowe
Depth: LaTrell Bumphus, Austin Pope, Jacob Warren, Sean Brown
Losing Eli Wolf opens the door for four-star early enrollee Jackson Lowe to earn some early playing time. It’s a golden opportunity for Lowe, who has virtually nothing proven ahead of him on the depth chart. Tennessee will rely heavily on Dominick Wood-Anderson once again in 2019. We’ll see it he gets more involved offensively with Jim Chaney calling the shots.
Left Tackle: Wanya Morris, Marcus Tatum, Chris Akporoghene
Left Guard: Jahmir Johnson, Jerome Carvin, Jackson Lampley, Melvin McBride
Center: Brandon Kennedy, Ryan Johnson, Jerome Carvin
Right Guard: Nathan Niehaus, Jerome Carvin, Jackson Lampley, Melvin McBride
Right Tackle: Darnell Wright, Marcus Tatum, Chris Akporoghene
Tennessee lost some veteran depth with the retirement of Chance Hall and transfer of Drew Richmond. The Vols will survive though, thanks to the fact that they brought in the best offensive line class in the country. Those highly-rated prospects are going to be forced to play early. Wright and Morris manning each tackle position makes sense, but it will be interesting to see if they get any work at guard during the spring.
Jahmir Johnson, Jerome Carvin, Ryan Johnson and Nathan Niehaus may have a bit of a battle this offseason for the guard positions, which is a spot where Tennessee has gotten more competitive this offseason. Freshmen Jackson Lampley and Melvin McBride should push those veterans in the fall.