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Projected depth chart: Offense

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How will Tennessee line up against Bowling Green?

Syndication: The Knoxville News-Sentinel Brianna Paciorka/News Sentinel via Imagn Content Services, LLC

We’re a little over a week from kicking off Tennessee’s 2021 football season. The Josh Heupel era will begin next Thursday night with a non-conference matchup against Bowling Green.

Before that, we’ll get our first look at Tennessee’s depth chart at some point next week. The long awaited announcement of the starting quarterback will (likely) be made, and we’ll see how the new staff treats their depth chart announcement — which is still likely to be filled with plenty of -OR- designations.

Ahead of all that, we’ll take our own stab at it. Here’s what I came up with after following Tennessee through fall camp.


Quarterback

1. Joe Milton

2A: Harrison Bailey

2B: Hendon Hooker

It seems like the staff is delaying the inevitable here by not announcing Milton as the starter, but I get it. The real question left is who the primary backup will be. Bailey and Hooker couldn’t be any different, and it’s possible that both would be used if Milton were to miss time.

Alex Golesh also floated the idea of using multiple quarterbacks in a game, which doesn’t sound like a bad idea to put in place against Bowling Green. After that, you probably want to have one guy, and it seems like that guy will be Milton.


Running Back

1. Jabari Small or Tiyon Evans

2. Jaylen Wright

3. Tee Hodge

4. Dee Beckwith

5. Len’Neth Whitehead

The top two backs are clear — Jabari Small and Tiyon Evans will split time and each see significant work all year long. After that, it seems like the speed of Jaylen Wright has emerged as a third option behind them.

What happens after those three? Honestly, it’s tough to get a real good feel. Will Tennessee play this far down on the depth chart in competitive games? Probably not, but it’s important to develop depth here. Expect to see the bottom half of this group a little bit against Bowling Green, where we should learn more.


Wide Receiver

Outside

1. Jalin Hyatt

2. Jimmy Calloway

3. Ramel Keyton

Outside

1. Cedric Tillman

2. JaVonta Payton

3. Andison Coby

4. Jimmy Holiday

Slot

1. Velus Jones Jr.

2. Walker Merrill

Don’t write these positions in sharpie yet — we expect the offensive staff to move someone like Velus Jones Jr. all over the field. But we do feel confident about the top tier of this room. Jones, Hyatt, Tillman, Payton and Calloway have seemingly separated from the rest and each should be in the rotation to start the season.


Tight End

1. Princeton Fant

2. Jacob Warren

3. Miles Campbell

4. Hunter Salmon

5. Julian Nixon

This is a really interesting position that took a big hit when Austin Pope retired this summer. That once again leaves Tennessee with Princeton Fant and Jacob Warren, who weren’t involved in the passing game last year. Does that change this season? How many snaps can true freshman Miles Campbell steal? Plenty of unknowns here.

Here’s a deeper dive on the tight end position.


Offensive Line

LT: Darnell Wright

LG: Jerome Carvin

C: Cooper Mays

RG: Javontez Spraggins

RT: Cade Mays

Utility: Dayne Davis

This starting five seems locked in at this point, with Davis being that sixth guy that could rep at either guard or tackle. Tennessee lost K’Rojhn Calbert during camp to a biceps injury, obviously hurting the overall depth and versatility of the group. That leaves Jeremiah Crawford, RJ Perry, Kingston Harris, Ollie Lane, Chris Akporoghene and Jackson Lampley behind Davis.