Coming off of the worst season in Tennessee football history, there were very few bright spots. The one gem from the 2017 season was Jackson, TN native and true freshman offensive lineman Trey Smith.
The former five-star recruit in the 2017 class started every game for the Vols and was arguably their best offensive talent only behind running back John Kelly. Smith earned Freshman All-American honors as well as All-SEC honors in his debut season. Tennessee fans looked to the young offensive lineman to carry the Vols back to dominance during his career.
But as reported this weekend, Smith will not be participating in spring practice and football activities due to “a medical issue” that was discovered in a recent workout. A timetable for his return has not been set, and the medical condition has not been defined. Smith’s injury could shut down any hopes of a big bounce back season for Tennessee if he will not be able to play in his sophomore year.
The Tennessee offensive line is already too thin for SEC play, and Smith’s injury only adds to the stress on Jeremy Pruitt and his staff. The Vols roll into spring practice with just 10 scholarship offensive linemen, and many of them have never had live game experience. Tennessee only has one senior offensive lineman on the roster, and that’s Chance Hall. And he’s dealt with injuries in his Tennessee career and missed all of last season with injury.
Not counting Smith, the Vols will have eight returning offensive linemen and two early enrollees from their 2018 signing class. Of those 10 players, only one is a senior and only two are juniors. The rest are redshirt sophomores or younger.
If Smith cannot come back and play in 2018, Tennessee will have a near impossible uphill climb in Pruitt’s first season as head coach. Smith is not only the best lineman and offensive player on Tennessee’s roster, but he is also a leader that the team looks to even though he’s just a sophomore. With his presence on the field gone, the Vols’ young offensive talent will struggle even more this season.
The leadership role Smith brings to the team is just as valuable as his production on the field. In Smith’s freshman season, players looked to him even though he was one of the youngest and most inexperienced members of the team. It’s not just his stature that commands attention; his words and actions on and off the field speak loudly too.
The Tennessee faithful hope to see their star linemen back as soon as possible. But if his health is in jeopardy, then his football career gets moved to the back burner. But the Vols will certainly miss him if he can’t suit up once fall arrives.