If you missed the underclassmen breakout piece, check it out here.
So now that we’ve gone over the younger portion of the roster, we will now focus on the older portion.
I know, it seems a bit strange to label a junior or senior as a “breakout candidate”. One would hope that a player has found their way onto the field in some effective capacity, but not everyone is the same.
Some players take longer to develop. Some players have to sit behind others and wait their turn. There are all different types of reasons and scenarios as to why a player holds the current status they hold.
Who are the three upperclassmen poised to breakout in 2019?
Well, I’m glad you asked.
1) OL Brandon Kennedy - Redshirt Senior
This is a prime example of what I was referring to in the introduction.
Kennedy’s path to Tennessee is unique. He was a backup at the University of Alabama his entire career, playing sparingly until he graduated in 2018. Thinking that a transfer would be his best shot at getting to play before he left school, Kennedy applied to do just that.
Well, Nick Saban didn’t like the thought of one his players leaving the program under these circumstances and attempted to block Kennedy’s transfer. Ultimately, Kennedy got his way and left for Knoxville.
He won the starting job at center and was listed as such on opening day against West Virginia, but tore his ACL a few days after the game in practice. Obviously, Kennedy’s season was over.
But he still has one more shot to get back on the field and he should get that shot this year. If this kid was hungry to play before, just imagine how hot that fire inside is burning right now.
Despite adding Wanya Morris and Darnell Wright, Tennessee’s offensive line is still awfully suspect and could use a senior like Kennedy to lead them into battle.
2) DL Aubrey Solomon - Junior*
Like Kennedy, Solomon himself transferred to Tennessee, but not for the same exact reasons.
After playing in eight games his freshman season, an injury limited his 2018 campaign and led to his eventual transfer from Michigan.
But the Vols still haven’t received word of whether or not Solomon will be granted immediate eligibility to play in 2019. If he isn’t allowed to play, then he still has a redshirt to burn, which would give him two more years of eligibility left.
The 6-foot-5, 305-pound behemoth was a 5-star recruit coming out of high school and was ranked as the No. 2 defensive tackle in the country, according to 247’s Composite Rankings. He would instantly upgrade a defensive line that not only underperformed in 2018, but lost a lot of key players that made up for many, many deficiencies.
Tennessee has stated that it feels confident in Solomon’s availability for 2019, but won’t know until the final word is passed down.
3) WR Jordan Murphy - Junior
Murphy’s speed and explosiveness alone make him the most dynamic receiver on the team - outside of Marquez Callaway’s ability to corral anything with one hand.
New offensive coordinator Jim Chaney should be able to find plenty of ways to deploy Murphy a la Mecole Hardeman last year with Georgia. Pairing him up with either Josh Palmer or Marquez Callaway on either side of the field could really open up the underneath passing game.
Our own Terry Lambert wrote an excellent piece arguing why the Vols need to get Murphy more involved in the game plan this season. For the sake of monotony, check it out here.
Murphy’s talent is undeniable and there’s no reason to think this coaching staff can’t find a way to get him on the field more.
And once they do figure it out, the Vols may have an official deep threat for the first time in a very long while.
As mentioned in the underclassmen article, the Vols are going to be relying on a lot of youth this season, so it’s imperative that they get contributions from the upperclassmen outside of your usual playmakers.
But if these three can step it up, each would offer a unique stepping stone that could help the Vols get back on the path to glory.