Vols Position Preview: Tight End

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    Photo credit: Mason Burgin/RTI

    Seniors: None
    Juniors: Eli Wolf
    Sophomores: Austin Pope, LaTrell Bumphus, Ja’Quain Blakely, James Brown
    Freshman: Jacob Warren

    Outlook:

    Ethan Wolf held down the starting role for the Vols at tight end for his entire four-year career, and his departure has left the tight end position with a lack of experience all around. Spring will be very important for this group, as they will try and get acclimated to a new offense and gain valuable experience. With Tyson Helton’s focus on a punishing run game, it is likely that Tennessee will line up in a two tight end set quite frequently. The ability to block will be of utmost importance for whomever takes over at the position.

    Eli Wolf is without a doubt the best returning player at the position. He has the most experience, and he started the season opener against Georgia Tech. Wolf is similar to his older brother, but he is a better blocker. At 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, you would like to see him put on a little more weight so he can really get inside the trenches and block stronger players.

    Austin Pope is the only other player at the position with any real experience. The Knoxville native played in several games as a redshirt freshman, and he started a game against Kentucky. He has a big frame and is a skilled receiver.

    LaTrell Bumphus generated a lot of buzz before the season last year during camp. People were raving about his athleticism and skill set, and there was talk of him seeing the field as a true freshman. Then the season started, and we never heard more about him, something that seemed to happen far too frequently with the previous coaching staff.

    This spring, the new coaching staff will be hoping to tap into that play-making ability from a year ago in the fall, and they will try to transform Bumphus into a valuable contributor come fall. This is a very important spring for Bumphus

    James Brown didn’t appear in a single game for the Vols last season, and it’s unknown what he will bring to the table. The 6-foot-3, 222 pound athlete was a capable receiver in high school but hasn’t contributed in college yet.

    Ja’Quain Blakely will be making the move from the defensive side of the ball to tight end this spring, adding much needed depth to the position. This move makes sense, as Blakely is a talented player that was stuck underneath some guys on the depth chart at linebacker. This spring will help him get acquainted to a new position, and hopefully he will find success there.

    Jacob Warren is an early enrollee that will be in Knoxville for the spring. He is far from game ready and will likely redshirt this year, but it will be important for him to make a good first impression come spring.

    Initial Projected Depth Chart:

    Eli Wolf is the likely starter here. When they go two tight end sets we will probably see Austin Pope as the second guy with plenty of Bumphus too. When JUCO tight end Dominick Wood-Anderson arrives this summer, it is likely that he wins the starting job. He is one of the best projected players on the offense.

    Check out our previous position preview piece on the Vols’ offensive line