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Tennessee Football: What happened with Savion Williams?

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A sign of hope, then a mystery.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 14 Chattanooga at Tennessee Photo by Bryan Lynn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

On Wednesday, we started a series called Bust Watch 2020, where we look at which players on Tennessee’s roster need to improve, and fast. The sport of college football dictates that if you don’t perform to your best ability, there’s always someone right behind you ready to take your spot. More than a few Tennessee players qualify.

We first examined the highly touted player with a dramatic recruiting plotline in linebacker J.J. Peterson. Next up is defensive lineman Savion Williams and his bizarre 2019 season recap.

DL Savion Williams

I was probably one of Savion Williams’ biggest fans back in the 2019 cycle. When I watched his tape, I saw a violent defensive lineman with a great first punch. I saw a player that was going to contribute right away on the 2019 line. Other services seemed to agree, since Williams ended up as the No. 1 JUCO defensive tackle and the 14th overall JUCO prospect. That was good enough to tab him as a 4-star in the 247Sport Composite Ranking.

Williams did end up contributing right away, with seven tackles in the first two games against Georgia State and BYU. From there on out, Williams did not record another stat and was essentially forgotten by the end of the season. He participated in seven games total.

What happened? Truthfully, it’s up in the air. Other defensive linemen on the team started to make their presence known, and no one would make the argument that Williams deserved to be starting over any of them. He came to campus as a high floor/low ceiling prospect. If the staff believe other players were surpassing him, there probably wasn’t much he could do.

Yet the missing impact, even as a backup option, is concerning.

Some JUCO players do take more time to adjust to a major college program, and it wouldn’t be the first time that someone simply got lapped by better players. The hope is that Williams learned from the experience, and is able to understand what’s needed to compete at a higher level.

It’s going to be a tough hill to climb. With the vast majority of Tennessee’s defensive line production returning, Williams’ challenge is a lot harder going into 2020 than it was 2019. Forget beating out a starter—Williams will need to find a way to insert himself into the rotation and stay there.

He doesn’t have much time to do so either. Williams had three years to play three seasons at Tennessee, and one of those has already gone by. If 2020 is the year he makes an impact, his one shot at starting is likely in 2021 after Tennessee loses Emmit Gooden, Aubrey Solomon, LaTrell Bumphus, and Matthew Butler.

That’s not the worst case. But considering that Tennessee just signed four blue-chip defensive linemen, the pressure builds a little bit more.

Williams doesn’t need to start to be a success, of course. But he will need to improve and truly contribute.