When the All-SEC teams were released from SEC Media Days on Friday morning, not a single Vol was on the first, second, or third team offense or defense.
Junior wide receiver Marquez Callaway did make the All-SEC second team as a return specialist, but he’d had rather had made it as a wide receiver and not via his second role on the football field.
The most notable names who didn’t make the All-SEC teams were senior outside linebacker Darrell Taylor and sophomore corner Bryce Thompson.
At the end of the day, however, it’s more important to make the All-SEC teams at the end of the season rather than at SEC Media Days before the season begins.
Here’s a look at seven Vols who could perform well enough to make the All-SEC teams at the end of the season.
QB Jarrett Guarantano
Yes, you Guarantano haters, Tennessee’s starting quarterback could play his way onto the All-SEC Third Team. After Tua Tagovailoa and Jake Fromm, everything is up for grabs as to who is the third-best quarterback in the league.
Guarantano’s production was hampered by poor offensive line play last season, but he still managed to be one of the better quarterbacks when pressured. He was actually the best quarterback in the country when pressured. Oh, and then there’s the fact that he’s the best quarterback in the conference at taking care of the football.
If the offensive line play is improved this season, Guarantano is going to prove a lot of people wrong and have a big year.
CB Bryce Thompson
Thompson is one of the better corners in the SEC, and it’s silly he didn’t make one of the preseason All-SEC teams. But that won’t be the case at the end of the season.
In his rookie campaign, Thompson was a freshman All-American after tallying 34 tackles, four tackles for a loss, a sack, three interceptions, 10 passes defended, and a forced fumble. Those numbers will only continue to grow as he enters year two under Jeremy Pruitt.
Oh, and not only is he a good corner, but he’s also a good kick returner. Frankly, Thompson is just a really good football player.
OLB Darrell Taylor
This one is self-explanatory.
No other player in the SEC returns with more sacks from a season ago than Taylor, who had eight sacks in 2018. The good news is that Taylor had massive games against Georgia and Kentucky last year, recording three sacks against the Bulldogs and four sacks against the Wildcats. The bad news, however, is that he had one total sack in the 10 other games last season.
If he can prove to be consistent, Taylor is a lock for a postseason All-SEC team.
CB Alontae Taylor
Taylor is the other piece of the pie to one of the best cornerback duos in the SEC. There were times last year where you could tell Taylor was a freshman, but by the end of the season, it was clear just how bright of a future he has in the defensive backfield.
He’s beefed up and can play any position in the secondary at an All-SEC caliber level. Players make their biggest jump from year one to year two, and I’m expecting a big leap from Taylor.
RB Ty Chandler
Chandler is one of the most underrated backs in the league. He’s shifty enough to make defenders miss and is a threat out of the backfield in the passing game.
There’s a long list of elite SEC running backs, so it’ll be hard for Chandler to make the first or second team. But if the offensive line is improved, the Tennessee native is capable of rushing for 1,000 yards and adding even more in the passing game. That should earn him a spot on the All-SEC Third Team.
OL Trey Smith
This is obviously contingent on Smith playing this season. When he’s healthy and playing to his full potential, the former Freshman All-American is the best offensive lineman in the country. Even at 75 percent, he’s one of the best in the country.
All indications are that Smith is going to play this season. If he can make it through the season healthy and play to his full potential, he’s a lock to make the All-SEC team.
Tennessee’s leading receiver
Whether it’s Marquez Callaway, Josh Palmer, Jauan Jennings, or Dominick Wood-Anderson, Tennessee’s leading receiver will have a great chance at making the All-SEC team at the end of the season.
Wood-Anderson should benefit the most from the addition of Jim Chaney at offensive coordinator. He only hauled in 17 passes last season, but he has the talent to be an NFL tight end. With Chaney as his coordinator and his track-record of using tight ends, Wood-Anderson should have a big year.
Then there’s the veteran wide receiver trio. My money is on Palmer to lead the group this season, but Callaway and Jennings are proven play-makers in this league. Either of the three could prove to be one of the six best receivers in the conference by the end of the season.