With three more players transferring off the roster after Tennessee’s 34-3 loss to No. 9 Florida over the weekend and with the Vols on a bye week, it’s time to examine Tennessee’s 2019 roster and look at what UT has left on their team moving forward.
After the departures of Will Ignont, Shanon Reid, and Jacquez Jones along with the transfers of Terrell Bailey and Maleik Gray earlier this fall, Tennessee is now well below the 85 scholarship limit imposed by the NCAA. But what’s the makeup of the remaining roster like?
Here’s an in-depth look at what Tennessee’s 2019 football roster looks like now that three more players have transferred off the team. These numbers are subject to change as more players could elect to transfer later this season.
How Much Experience?
Redshirt Seniors – 4
Seniors – 9
Redshirt Juniors – 9
Juniors – 15
Redshirt Sophomores – 5
Sophomores – 7
Redshirt Freshmen – 9
Freshmen – 19
Total – 77
Of the Vols’ remaining 77 scholarship football players, only 22 had at least three years of post-high school experience prior to the start of the 2019 season. But of those 22, only 16 players have spent their entire careers at Tennessee. Six of those 22 redshirt juniors, seniors, and redshirt seniors joined the Vols as JUCO players or transfers. Brandon Kennedy, Dominick Wood-Anderson, Emmit Gooden, Jordan Allen, Kenneth George Jr., and Jahmir Johnson are all only in their second year at Tennessee. Gooden isn’t on the field this year after suffering a season-ending injury in fall camp, and another one of those 22 upperclassmen — cornerback Baylen Buchanan — has been out the entire season thus far as well.
Four of Tennessee’s 15 juniors are actually in their first year with the Vols. Aubrey Solomon, Savion Williams, Darel Middleton, and Deangelo Gibbs all joined Tennessee this past offseason. Gibbs isn’t even playing this year, as he has to sit out the season due to NCAA transfer rules.
The Vols have 35 players on their roster right now who entered the 2019 season with one or fewer years of playing experience in college. That doesn’t include JUCO players who transferred in this past offseason or the previous year. If you include the junior college players who had never played in the FBS prior to joining UT, then Tennessee has 42 players on their roster who came into the 2019 season with one or fewer years of FBS experience. That’s 54.6 percent of Tennessee’s current scholarship roster.
These numbers also don’t include Maryland transfer quarterback Kasim Hill. He walked on at Tennessee in the fall and is currently sitting out the 2019 season due to NCAA transfer rules. These numbers do include tight end Andrew Craig, who was awarded a scholarship during the offseason.
Butch vs. Pruitt
Recruits Signed by Butch Jones: 32
Recruits Signed by Jeremy Pruitt: 45
With the departures of three more players signed by Butch Jones this week, Tennessee is now down to just 32 scholarship players on the roster who were signed by Jones in the 2015, 2016, and 2017 classes. The 2018 class was a mishmash of Jones and Jeremy Pruitt recruits, but they were mostly prospects who Pruitt signed off on bringing in to UT, so he gets credited with signing that group and them being part of “his guys.”
Tennessee has signed 21 players apiece in the 2018 and 2019 classes who are still on the roster (with Tanner Antonutti from the 2018 class and Melvin McBride from the 2019 class having to medically retire), and Pruitt has brought in three transfers who are still on the roster in Brandon Kennedy, Aubrey Solomon, and Deangelo Gibbs. Every other player outside of those 2018 and 2019 classes and the three transfers are players who were signed under Butch Jones.
How Much Depth?
Wide Receivers: 9
Tight Ends: 7
Running Backs: 4
Offensive Linemen: 13
Long Snappers: 1
Defensive Linemen: 12
Defensive Backs: 15
After the transfer of two linebackers this week, the Vols are starting to get a little thin at that unit. Tennessee has just 11 linebackers to play the four spots in Pruitt’s 3-4 defensive scheme, and only five of those players are inside linebackers. That’s why true freshman Aaron Beasley has been practicing at inside linebacker this week.
With the departure of Jacquez Jones, the Vols have just nine scholarship wide receivers, and that includes Deangelo Gibbs. Since he can’t play, UT is left with just eight receivers who can be on the field this season. Of those eight, four are set to leave the team after this season (Jauan Jennings, Marquez Callaway, Brandon Johnson, and Tyler Byrd).
Tennessee has a surplus of defensive backs it would seem, but that’s because five of UT’s defensive backs are either juniors or seniors and won’t be on the roster after this or next season. Plus, Pruitt and Ansley like to use defensive backs on special teams, and Tennessee is in a nickel defense quite a bit. That means the Vols usually have five defensive backs on the field, and it’s not out of the question to see six DBs playing at the same time for UT, either.
Since Jeremy Banks moved to linebacker, Tennessee only has four scholarship running backs, and all but one of them (Eric Gray) is a junior or senior.
The Vols currently have just three scholarship quarterbacks, but walk-on Kasim Hill will likely earn a scholarship after the season and will be eligible to play next season.
2015 Class: 3
2016 Class: 13
2017 Class: 16
2018 Class: 21
2019 Class: 21
Tennessee still has Jauan Jennings, Darrell Taylor, and Riley Lovingood from their 2015 class as redshirt seniors, but the retention rate from the 2016 and 2017 classes has been pretty underwhelming.
The Vols signed a combined 49 players in the 2016 and 2017 classes. Whether it’s been because of transfers, dismissals, or medical retirements, only 29 of those 49 players are still on UT’s roster. Only 20 of those 29 players have been starters or significant contributors on the field this season.
Not only that, but the large bulk of Tennessee’s talent actually comes from the players Pruitt has brought in. Of the 32 players signed by Butch Jones in the 2015, 2016, and 2017 classes, only one of them was rated as a five-star (Trey Smith), and just 10 were rated as four-stars. That leaves 19 of those 32 players who were rated as three-stars, one two-star (Riley Lovingood), and one former walk-on (Andrew Craig) from those three classes.
Former Walk-Ons: 1
Star rankings are via the 247Sports Composite rankings
At this point, only 44.2 percent of Tennessee’s roster is comprised of four or five-star players. Of those 34 players who were rated as four-stars or five-stars coming out of high school or junior college, 20 were signed by Jeremy Pruitt. That’s well over half of the “elite” talent on UT’s roster. That number also includes the three transfers on UT’s roster currently. Aubrey Solomon was a five-star in the 2017 class, Deangelo Gibbs was a four-star in the 2017 class, and Brandon Kennedy was a four-star in the 2015 class. The other 17 former four or five-stars were high schoolers or JUCO prospects when Pruitt and his staff brought them in.
Of the 43 players rated as three-stars or lower, 21 were signed by Butch Jones, leaving 22 who were brought in by Jeremy Pruitt.