The Tennessee secondary has pretty clearly been the weakest part of the roster through four games. As the coaching staff searches for answers, we’ve got some good news and some bad news.
First things first, Warren Burrell is out for the season after suffering an injury against Pittsburgh. The veteran defensive back notably struggled against Purdue in the bowl game, and wasn’t off to a great start in 2022. However, his absence leaves Tennessee with little to no experience at cornerback going forward. Christian Charles, who played safety last season, started in his place against Akron and Florida alongside of Kamal Hadden.
And let’s face it, the Hadden-Charles duo was flat out wrecked by Anthony Richardson and Florida’s subpar passing attack. If there’s a hole you can poke in Tennessee to this point, it’s the secondary.
Now for the good news.
Highly-touted JUCO prospect Dee Williams sounds like he’s ready to make his season debut this weekend against LSU. Williams was a big pickup for Tennessee in last year’s class, with a clear path to playing time early on. However, an injury has held him out to this point. He went through warm-ups with the team two weeks ago against Florida, but was ultimately held out.
“We’ve kind of continued to build him up in what we’re doing since the start of the season. Medical staff and strength staff have done a really good job with injuries sustained. Just being able to continue to progress. Felt like he had an opportunity to play last week. Felt like one more week of preparation was probably needed for him.
“He’s excited. He’s looked really good and will be a huge part of the game for us.”
Williams picked off 13 passes in three seasons of JUCO ball. He was ranked as the No. 3 junior college cornerback in the class, per 247Sports. Williams also made a big impact in the return game, scoring a touchdown on both a punt and kick return during his career. He was listed as a co-starter at punt returner on the initial depth chart, for what it’s worth.
The question now becomes, how quickly do you turn him loose? Williams went through spring practice with the team, so he’s not exactly starting from scratch here. Tennessee needs a shot in the arm at cornerback, and it’s probably important to get him some action ahead of a stiffer test next week against Bryce Young and Alabama.
Williams will wear No. 3. Tennessee and LSU are set for a Noon ET kickoff on ESPN on Saturday.