RTI contributor Murphy Carlton is the author of this article
Four Tennessee Volunteer football players received All-SEC honors from Phil Steele in his College Football Preview magazine this week.
Outside linebacker Darrell Taylor, the Vols’ senior pass rusher, leads the group that was recognized, as he was named to the First-Team preseason All-SEC team as well as the Fourth-Team preseason All-American squad.
Senior wide receiver Marquez Callaway (fourth-team wide receiver, fourth-team punt returner), senior safety Nigel Warrior (third-team defensive back), and sophomore Bryce Thompson (third-team defensive back) also received preseason All-SEC honors from Phil Steele.
The 2018 season was a breakout campaign for Taylor. The 6-4, 255-pound linebacker had three games with three or more tackles for loss, and he had two games with three or more sacks. Taylor racked up three sacks against Georgia in Tennessee’s road loss to the Bulldogs, and he tied a school record with four sacks against Kentucky in the Vols’ home upset victory over the Wildcats. He also had three tackles for loss and a sack in the Vols’ season finale against Vanderbilt.
In total, Taylor had a career-high 36 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, eight sacks, three forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries as a redshirt junior last season.
More consistent dominance from Taylor in this upcoming season will go a long way in helping the Vols have a much improved season, and the first-team selection shows Steele’s faith in Taylor’s ability to do just that.
Senior safety Nigel Warrior had a strong junior campaign, recording 64 total tackles, a tackle for loss, and a pass defended. He had the second-most tackles on UT’s team last season. He also had a 41-yard kick-off return.
Bryce Thompson had a standout freshman season for UT, earning Freshman All-American honors from the Football Writers Association. His three interceptions and 10 passes defended ranked first among freshman in the SEC. He also totaled 34 tackles, four tackles for loss, a sack, and a forced fumble.
Both Warrior and Thompson will be key contributors for the Vols’ secondary in 2019 as they both look to build off of solid performances from the prior season.
Senior wide receiver Marquez Callaway had his best season yet last year as a junior. Callaway led the way in the receiver room, reeling in career-highs in catches (37) and receiving yards (592). He only caught two touchdowns on the season, but he averaged 16 yards per catch for the second consecutive year, showing off his deep threat ability.
As the Vols’ punt returner, Callaway came in third in the SEC and thirteenth in the nation in punt return average (11.9 yards). He returned a punt 82 yards for a touchdown against Charlotte, giving him his second punt return score of his career at Tennessee.