Vol fans have been hoping to see Tennessee football “back” for quite some time now. Fans were hopeful after the 2015 season that the 2016 Vols would be the team that would do it, but that didn’t end up happening. Now, after a strong close to the 2019 season, fans are again hopeful that the light is finally at the end of the tunnel for UT’s football program.
According to one of the Vols’ most recent players, Tennessee will be “back” soon.
Vol outside linebacker Darrell Taylor is currently going through the interview process at the 2020 NFL Combine. Taylor will not participate in any of the drills there due to rehabbing an offseason injury, but he’s still using this time to speak with NFL teams and also talk about the University of Tennessee.
In a video posted by the official Tennessee football Twitter account, Taylor talked both about his time at UT and the future of the program. According to the soon-to-be NFL Draft pick, the Vols are headed in the right direction under head coach Jeremy Pruitt, and he believes he and the rest of Tennessee’s graduated seniors helped get UT to that correct path.
“I think it’s headed in the right direction,” Taylor said. “I think Tennessee’s gonna be back on top again, and I think we paved the way for that.”
Taylor is one of five Vol seniors to be invited to the 2020 NFL Combine, and he’s one of six Vol seniors who could be selected in the 2020 NFL Draft. Taylor, wide receiver Jauan Jennings, wide receiver Marquez Callaway, linebacker Daniel Bituli, and tight end Dominick Wood-Anderson are all at this year’s NFL Combine. Safety Nigel Warrior did not receive an invite, but he had an All-SEC senior season and is still likely an NFL Draft pick.
The 6-foot-4, 255-pound linebacker’s Vol career spanned one of the more tumultuous times in recent Tennessee football history. Taylor’s freshman season was in 2015, a year where UT surprised and nearly upset Oklahoma, Florida, and Alabama en route to a 9-4 record. His redshirt freshman campaign saw Tennessee again go 9-4, but this time that record was a disappointment as the Vols were picked to win the SEC East before the season but ended up finishing second behind Florida thanks to a late season collapse.
Then came Taylor’s redshirt sophomore season in 2017, Tennessee’s worst season in program history. The Vols lost eight games for the first time ever, and UT went winless in the SEC for the first time since joining the conference.
Taylor’s redshirt junior campaign saw a new head coach at the helm in Jeremy Pruitt, and Taylor enjoyed a breakout season under Pruitt’s direction. The Hopewell, Virginia native came back for a fifth and final season in 2019, and he helped the Vols close out the season with a six-game winning streak and an 8-5 record after beginning the year with a 1-4 mark.
In his Tennessee career, Taylor amassed 19.5 sacks, the 10th-most in a career in school history. He also totaled 118 tackles, 26.5 tackles for loss, six forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries, and seven passes defended.
For Taylor, his time at Tennessee saw the Vols at their lowest point in modern history. But he’s hopeful the future will be much brighter, and it began with this past season.
“We’ve all been through some rough times at Tennessee,” Taylor said, “so it’s been a long time coming.”