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Tennessee Position Preview: Secondary

Justin Martin Cam Sutton-1

Gone: Ladarrell McNeil (graduation), Brian Randolph (graduation), Max Arnold (graduation), Darrell Miller (transfer)

Returning: Cam Sutton (Sr.), Justin Martin (Jr.), Rashaan Gaulden (RS Soph.), Todd Kelly (Jr.), Evan Berry (Jr.), Emmanuel Moseley (Jr.), Malik Foreman (Sr.), Micah Abernathy (Soph.), Stephen Griffin (Soph.)

Newcomers: Nigel Warrior (No. 44 overall prospect in 2016 class), Marquill Osbourne (No. 17 CB in 2016 class), DJ Henderson (Jr., No. 78 JUCO prospect in 2016 class), Baylen Buchanan (No. 64 overall prospect in 2016 class of Georgia)

Outlook:

Many different members of this group will be asked to play multiple positions. Players like Rashaan Gaulden, Nigel Warrior and Malik Foreman will play the nickel spot, or back at safety or perhaps even corner in the dime package.

Sutton, Moseley, Justin Martin and possibly Baylen Buchanan are all players you could see at corner positions on the outside, while Todd Kelly looks to be a formidable contributor at strong safety. From there, the Vols will rotate a lot. Evan Berry, Nigel Warrior and Rashaan Gaulden can all step back and play free safety, while Malik Foreman and Gaulden will see most of the snaps at nickel.

Bob Shoop will have this group blitzing a lot. Specifically, look for Gaulden to make an impact blitzing off the edge from the third safety position when UT is in the 4-2-5. Newcomer Nigel Warrior should be rotated in from the start. Look for him to be a big time contributor, ideally by the end of the season.

By the Numbers:

  • 32: Cam Sutton’s number of passes defended in his career (T-4th in UT history)
  • 12: Tennessee’s interception total last season
  • 5: Returning players in the secondary with at least one career start

Projected Depth Chart:

When Tennessee’s week one depth chart was released, many were surprised to see how things fell in the secondary. Micah Abernathy gets the start at free safety and Emmanuel Moseley will start over Justin Martin at corner.

Butch Jones gave the nod to experience over youth across the board for week one. With the exceptions of Kelly and Sutton, every position in the secondary will be contested by multiple players.

Redshirt Watch:

This position is a tricky one to predict, redshirt wise. Newcomers Nigel Warrior and Baylen Buchanan should make some kind of immediate impact. Those two were the first couple of players to have their helmet stripes removed. With Marquill Osbourne listed as “2B” in the depth chart, the only player not listed on the two-deep is JUCO transfer DJ Henderson.

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