Brandon Kennedy has already spent five years in college. But he wants to be in school for a sixth and final year as long as the NCAA will allow it.
The Vols’ redshirt senior center met with local media on Tuesday and was asked if this weekend’s game against Vanderbilt would be his last time running through the “T” on the field at Neyland Stadium. Kennedy said no, adding that the plan is to “stay as far as now.”
Kennedy joined the Vols as a redshirt junior lineman grad transfer from Alabama prior to the 2018 season. The 6-foot-3, 301-pound lineman redshirted his freshman year at Alabama in 2015 and played as a backup in 2016 before suffering an injury in 2017 that sidelined him. Kennedy elected to transfer after that season and ended up at Tennessee.
But Kennedy only saw action in one game as a Vol in 2018 because of another injury.
The former four-star prospect suffered a season-ending injury in practice the week after Tennessee’s season opener against West Virginia in September of 2018. Kennedy started the first game of the year at center for UT, but he missed the remainder of the season because of that injury.
Kennedy had already used up his regular redshirt in 2015 at Alabama, but he’s applying for a medical hardship redshirt for that 2018 season to get another year of eligibility to return for next season.
Tennessee’s starting center said he came to that conclusion during the Vols’ most recent bye week.
“Kinda during the bye week,” Kennedy explained. “We were able to talk about it and kinda came to a decision with the coaches.”
If Kennedy’s application for a sixth-year of eligibility is approved, it will be a big boost to a Tennessee offensive line in 2020 that looks like it will have a great deal of stability and continuity returning from this current season.
The Vols will likely have to replace junior guard Trey Smith, as it looks like he’ll declare for the 2020 NFL Draft after a strong junior campaign this year. But other than Smith, Tennessee doesn’t look slated to lose any of their starters or significant contributors from this year’s team. Both Wanya Morris and Darnell Wright will be sophomores, K’Rojhn Calbert will be a redshirt junior, Jerome Carvin will be a junior, and Jahmir Johnson will be a redshirt senior.
That potentially bright future and the way Tennessee has played to close out this season has given Kennedy hope that as good as this year has been for him and UT’s offense, next year could be even more memorable.
“It’s great to be a part of something special,” Kennedy added. “After these last couple of games, just seeing where Tennessee’s going, it’d be great to stay another year. Also being able to come back and better myself and to be able to help this team, those were the two main factors.”
Kennedy has been one of the Vols’ best offensive linemen this season. He’s started every game this season at center, and he was named the SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week after Tennessee’s 41-21 victory over South Carolina.
Time will tell if Kennedy is granted a sixth year of eligibility. But if he is, then expect the veteran lineman to be back in orange and white next season.