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Trey Smith’s decision to return couldn’t have come at a better time for the Vols

The Vols will need all hands on deck if they want to take a step forward in 2019.

NCAA Football: Tennessee at West Virginia
Trey Smith will continue his legacy at Tennessee through 2020.
Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

I’ll admit: I thought Trey Smith was a goner.

Especially after hearing the news that the Vols would obtain Georgia transfer Cade Mays via the transfer portal. Mays is a starting-caliber offensive lineman in the SEC and is a former 5-star recruit. In fact, he was supposed to come to Tennessee in 2018, but understandably decided to go another route after the garbage fire of a 2017 season.

But nope. Smith, being the rockstar that he is, decided to forego the NFL Draft - where he certainly would’ve been drafted - and come back for his senior season.

First off, kudos to Smith. What a kid. Actually, I don’t even know if you could call him a kid anymore. This is a man’s decision and is definitely the hardest decision of the two. There is so much risk involved from injury, to his medical issue cropping back up, to a down year in play, etc. that could bring down his draft stock and make life harder in 2021. He doesn’t care, though. He loves the University of Tennessee and is willing to give his all for the Vols.

It was a selfless decision and it is a decision that will dramatically help his team in 2020. When you add in the fact that this is the most crucial year under head coach Jeremy Pruitt’s tenure, it’s easy to see why this was such a big moment for Tennessee football.

The Vols are looking to take the next step in 2020 after finishing 8-5 in 2019. No one really knows what that means record-wise just yet, but in terms of competing on the field and continuing to build a foundation, it means the entire world.

Smith’s return now gives the Vols four five-star offensive linemen (Smith, Mays, Darnell Wright, and Wanya Morris) and one sixth-year four-star center in Brandon Kennedy. Instead of searching for someone to fill that massive void that Smith would’ve left behind, the Vols instead have their entire starting offensive line coming back for a second year in a row.

Think about the depth now created by Smith’s decision, too. If Mays is eligible to play in 2020, then that kicks your Jerome Carvins, K’Rojhn Calberts, and Riley Locklears - all players who either started or saw game action in 2019 - down a notch to second-string. It will also allow those guys to continue to develop and they’ll also develop behind ultra-talented players who also know how to get the job done.

Plus, the offensive line is going to be the main artery of this offense. Sure, we all know that quarterback play will ultimately decide how effective the offense is, but the offensive line is what will make everything go. Smith’s return sets Jim Chaney and the offense up in a great spot in 2020.

2020 just got a whole lot more interesting, and I’m here for it.