Not all that long ago, Tennessee’s offensive line couldn’t block a soul. A lack of overall talent and virtually no depth after a rash of injuries doomed the 2017 team, helping force Butch Jones out of a job. The 2018 group for Jeremy Pruitt wasn’t much better.
Now entering 2020, just two years later, one analyst thinks Tennessee has the second best offensive line in the SEC.
That’s quite the turnaround, right?
Cole Cubelic of the SEC Network ranked the Volunteers just behind the Alabama Crimson Tide in his offensive line rankings, which were published on Friday. Kentucky, Georgia and Florida followed Tennessee in his top five.
Jeremy Pruitt added two five-star prospects during the 2019 offseason, grabbing Wanya Morris and Darnell Wright. He was able to bring in Brandon Kennedy from Alabama in 2018, who wasn’t able to make an impact until 2019 thanks to a knee injury. Perhaps most importantly, the Tennessee medical staff has been able to save the career of standout guard Trey Smith, who now seems to be back on track to be an early NFL Draft pick with one season of eligiblity left.
The cherry on top was getting former five-star prospect Cade Mays to transfer home — and away from the Georgia Bulldogs.
Now Tennessee has a potential juggernaut of a line, capable of playing with anyone in the country. Hopefully for the Vols, those days of an inconsistent push up front are done. Rising sophomore running back Eric Gray may be the man set to most benefit after a strong finish to his freshman season.
That potential rushing attack can only help Jarrett Guarantano, too. The fifth year senior quarterback has dealt with a number of issues during his time in Knoxville, including several coaching changes and flat out bad offensive lines. Now with what should be a strong rushing attack, Guarantano could have some pressure taken off of him in his final season. It will be interesting to see how that changes him as a player.
Tennessee is pursuing a waiver for Mays to play immediately. Assuming they get that, the offensive line will consist of four former five-star prospects and a former four-star prospect. Kennedy, Mays and Smith have just about seen it all at this point, while Wright and Morris should take another step forward as sophomores.
Riley Locklear, Jahmir Johnson, Cooper Mays, K’Rojhn Calbert, Jerome Carvin, Jackson Lampley and Chris Akporoghene will provide Tennessee with legitimate competitive depth, which is always a luxury.
For the first time in a while, you can confidently say that Tennessee looks the part of an SEC team. Now finally up to par in the trenches, it’s time to go win some football games.