Tennessee didn’t have any players make the preseason All-SEC teams on offense or defense when the media voted on their selections last month at SEC Media Days. The only player to make an All-SEC team was wide receiver Marquez Callaway, but he was voted as a second-team punt returner, not as a receiver.
On Thursday, it became apparent that SEC coaches think more highly of Tennessee’s roster than the media.
The SEC announced on Thursday the preseason All-SEC teams as selected by SEC coaches, and three Vols made the all-conference selections, including two on the All-SEC defensive teams.
Coaches are not permitted to vote for players on their own teams.
Senior wide receiver Marquez Callaway was voted a second team return specialist while redshirt senior linebacker Darrell Taylor and senior safety Nigel Warrior were voted to the third team defense.
Callaway enters the season as the Vols’ leading returning receiver over the last two seasons, and he proved in that same time to be an effective punt returner as well. Callaway has caught a combined 61 passes for 998 yards and seven touchdowns over the last two seasons on offense, and he’s returned two punts for touchdowns over the last three years, including one last year. Callaway scored on a punt return as a true freshman in 2016, and he reeled off another punt return touchdown for the Vols last season.
In his career, Callaway has returned 29 punts for an average of 13.4 yards and two touchdowns. His career-long came last season when he scored on an 82-yard return against Charlotte.
No other player in the SEC returns with more sacks from last season than Darrell Taylor. As a redshirt junior last season, Taylor racked up eight sacks and 11 tackles for loss for the Vols. He tied a school record with four sacks in a single game when he dominated Kentucky’s offensive line in UT’s win over the Wildcats in Knoxville. Taylor also totaled three sacks and two forced fumbles against Georgia on the road and finished the season with a sack and three tackles for loss against Vanderbilt.
Taylor played in all 12 games for the Vols last season and appeared in 10 of their 12 contests in 2017. In 30 career games, Taylor has 72 tackles, 11 sacks, 16 tackles for loss, five forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, and three passes defended.
Nigel Warrior enters this season as one of the most experienced players on Tennessee’s roster. Warrior has appeared in all but one game in his three years at UT, and he has 25 career starts under his belt. He’s finished second on the team in total tackles each of the last two seasons and will be a veteran presence in a young secondary in 2019.
In his 36 career appearances, Warrior has amassed 169 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, a sack, an interception he returned for a touchdown, five passes defended, three forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, and a blocked kick. He also had a 41-yard kick-off return for the Vols last season.