We get you ready for the start of spring practice for Tennessee’s football team with our position preview series. Up next is a look at the Vols’ tight ends. You can read our preview of the Vols’ offensive line here.
Seniors: Dominick Wood-Anderson
Juniors: Austin Pope (RS), LaTrell Bumphus
Sophomores: James Brown (RS)
Freshmen: Jacob Warren (RS), Jackson Lowe
The departure of Eli Wolf as a transfer to SEC rival Georgia hurts the depth of Tennessee’s tight end group heading into 2019. But the Vols do welcome in two new additions to this group, and one of them joins UT as an early enrollee.
Four-star tight end Jackson Lowe will get to go through spring practices with the Vols this year, and he’ll look to battle for playing time early in a group that doesn’t return a lot of on-field experience aside from projected starter Dominick Wood-Anderson.
Last year, Wood-Anderson — a former four-star JUCO player — led Tennessee’s tight end group in every receiving category, catching 17 passes for 140 yards and two scores. But aside from DWA’s production, the Vols got very little from their tight end group last season outside of using them as an extra blocker. Even then, they weren’t always effective.
Eli Wolf caught five passes for 30 yards and a touchdown, and the only other tight end to record any receiving stats was Austin Pope. He caught one pass for 55 yards against Florida, but he infamously fumbled the ball through the back of the end zone, resulting in a touchback and possession for the Gators.
With Wolf gone, Pope is the only other tight end on UT’s roster with any sort of meaningful playing experience. He’ll likely start out as the No. 2 tight end for spring, but he’s going to have some competition from Lowe and others as things progress.
LaTrell Bumphus is the biggest tight end on the roster, coming in at around 6-foot-3, 264 pounds. Some believe his highest ceiling is on defense, and there’s a chance he could move to that side of the ball depending on how spring goes. He was used primarily as a blocking tight end and on special teams last season.
James Brown has yet to appear in a game in his UT career, and Jacob Warren redshirted last season as a freshman. Warren does have great size, but he still needs to add more weight. He’s 6-foot-6, but he weighed in at around 224 pounds last season. If he can add another 15-20 pounds, he would fit in nicely as a pass-catching threat at the tight end position. He was a dangerous weapon on offense for Farragut in high school, and Jim Chaney would love to be able to use him in the future.
Speaking of Chaney, watching what he does with the tight end group this year will be interesting. Chaney has been able to get the most out of tight ends in the past. Just look at what he did with Mychal Rivera at Tennessee, Hunter Henry at Arkansas, and Manasseh Garner at Pitt. Dominick Wood-Anderson has to be very excited about what Chaney can do for him and the rest of his teammates at his position.
The Vols don’t have a lot of options at tight end this year, and that’s why Jeremy Pruitt and his staff attacked the position so hard in recruiting in the 2019 class and are still going after several tight ends in the 2020 cycle.
One of those members of the 2019 class is Jackson Lowe. The true freshman has a real chance to earn immediate playing time, and that’ll start with what he does this spring. He already has better size than a lot of UT’s current tight ends at 6-foot-5, 235 pounds, and he proved in high school to be effective as a blocker and receiver both. The Vols also welcome in three-star Sean brown into the mix for the fall, but there’s a belief that the 6-foot-5, 250-pound Brown may end up moving to defense at some point.
Tennessee has a legit talented starter at tight end in Dominick Wood-Anderson, but there are a lot of questions about the depth behind him. Those other players behind Wood-Anderson will get a chance to show what they can do starting this week.