Josh Heupel is building his Tennessee program from the ground up. If you need anymore evidence of that, just check out the Athlon Sports All-SEC teams. The Volunteers placed five on the list — two of which were for special teams roles. That number is tied for second to last in the conference entering the 2021 season.
With Heupel’s high-flying offense capable of producing big numbers, more names could certainly appear on the postseason version of this list, but for now things are pretty lean.
Here are the five Volunteers that appeared on the top four teams.
First Team Kick Returner: Velus Jones Jr.
Second Team Offensive Line: Cade Mays
Second Team Punter: Paxton Brooks
Third Team Defensive Line: Matthew Butler
Fourth Team Wide Receiver: Jalin Hyatt
It’s worth noting that Henry To’o To’o appeared on the second team All-SEC defense following his transfer to Alabama. Eric Gray and Wanya Morris were two more that would have more than likely appeared on this list, but they’ve moved on to Oklahoma.
Alabama and Georgia placed 15 players on the list, leading the way by a large margin. LSU was next with nine, while Auburn, Mississippi State, Kentucky and Ole Miss placed eight players on the top four teams.
There isn’t much to argue here from a Tennessee perspective. Heupel’s staff is going to be leaning on a ton of unproven, young talent in 2021 and it should be fascinating to see how guys take to their system, considering it’s a near polar opposite of the last regime.