The Vols have some obvious budding stars on their roster heading into the 2017 season. Players like linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr. or receiver Jauan Jennings will be headliners for Tennessee this year. But who are some players not currently in the spotlight who could surprise some people?
Athlon Sports listed off “wild card” players for all 14 SEC teams in a recent article. To them, a wild card player is someone who isn’t projected to be a first-round pick or an All-SEC performer right now. These players are, according to Athlon, “those who fly slightly under the radar.”
“Sure, they may eventually be NFL-bound, too,” Athlon writes, “but not everyone is a five-star recruit, or a guy coming off an All-American season.”
Athlon chose a player on offense and defense for each SEC team, and their choices for the Vols were junior quarterback Quinten Dormady and sophomore safety Nigel Warrior.
Dormady is in the middle of a battle for the starting quarterback role for Tennessee with redshirt freshman Jarrett Guarantano and may not even be the starter come fall. But that didn’t stop Athlon from picking him.
“Dormady had a terrific spring game, completing all 10 of his pass attempts for 120 yards and two touchdowns,” Athlon stated. “And, of course, he’s the older player — and when competitions like this one seem too close to call, the veteran always has the upper hand.
“Whoever the quarterback is, the pressure will be on him to deliver in a crucial year for Butch Jones and Co.”
As a junior, Dormady enters this season with very little playing time in his first two seasons with the Vols. In seven game appearances, Dormady has completed 24 of his 39 passes for 357 yards and one touchdown. Dormady was a four-star quarterback out of Texas coming out of high school.
The other wild card Vol, Nigel Warrior, played more as a freshman last year than many anticipated, and Athlon believes he could be in for a big 2017 season and beyond.
“Warrior made an immediate impact last year as a freshman, tallying 22 tackles and seeing extensive playing time in the secondary when others were hurt,” writes Athlon. “The son of Vols legend Dale Carter, the awesomely named Warrior made an impact on special teams as well.”
Warrior was the Vols’ highest-rated player in their 2016 class according to the 247Sports Composite rankings. He was rated as a four-star safety and the No. 59 player in the country. Warrior mostly played on special teams last season, but as injuries piled up in the secondary for Tennessee, Warrior played more and more. He made his first career start as a Vol in Tennessee’s game against Missouri, matching his career high with seven tackles in that game.
The Vols will be relying on several new starters this fall. Dormady and Warrior may be two of those. But even if one or both of them aren’t starting for Tennessee this season, Athlon still thinks both of them have the potential to be quality players down the line.