Tennessee junior offensive lineman Trey Smith has announced that he will return for his senior season at UT rather than enter the 2020 NFL Draft.
Smith made the announcement during a press conference on campus on Thursday afternoon. Smith remains in Knoxville following a standout junior campaign where he started the final 12 games of the season at left guard. His performance on the field led to him being named to both the Associated Press and Coaches All-SEC First Team. Off the field, Smith’s leadership in the Knoxville community led to him being named a Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year finalist. He was also named to the Pro Football Focus All-SEC second team. Following Tennessee’s 20-10 win over Mississippi State on Oct. 14, Smith was named the Co-SEC Offensive Lineman of the week for his performance. He was named to the PFF SEC Offensive Team of the Week as well.
ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. slotted Smith as the 7th-best offensive guard in the 2020 draft class prior to his announcement.
Smith’s decision to remain a Vol for one more season is significant for an offensive line that now returns the starting lineup from the Vols’ Gator Bowl win over Indiana. Should Georgia transfer Cade Mays become immediately eligible after reportedly transferring from Georgia to Tennessee, the Vols possess one of the better O-lines in the conference on paper.
As a freshman, Smith’s performance led to him being named to the All-SEC Second Team and SEC All-Freshman Team, and he was named a Freshman All-American by 247Sports and the Football Writes Association of America. Smith was the only UT offensive lineman to start all 12 games in 2017 as he played both tackle and guard. He became the first Vol true freshman to start at left tackle in over 30 years and led the Vols with 55 knockdowns, as well as finishing as the SEC’s top-rated freshman offensive player according to PFF College.
Smith’s future on the football field has been a source of uncertainty for much of the past year and a half due to medical issues. Team doctors found blood clots in his lungs in February of 2018 following his freshman season. He was held out of full-contact work until the middle of August before being cleared to play once again.
Smith started the first seven games of his sophomore campaign at left tackle, but he had to shut down his season before the South Carolina game after the blood clots resurfaced. Throughout this past offseason, Smith went through many tests before ultimately being cleared to play. Despite being cleared midway through fall camp, Smith only participated in two full-contact practices all season long as part of a plan put together by multiple doctors and family members.
The Jackson, Tennessee native arrived in Knoxville as the No. 1 overall player in Tennessee in the 2017 class according to the 247Sports Composite rankings. Smith was considered the 14th-best prospect in the country and the No. 4 offensive tackle.