Vol Players Who Need to Impress in Spring Practices

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    Offense

    Photo by Nathanael Rutherford/RTI

    1. Jarrett Guarantano, QB
    2. Jahmir Johnson, OL
    3. Darnell Wright, OT
    4. Ty Chandler, RB
    5. Jackson Lowe, TE
    6. Deangelo Gibbs, WR

    The two players on offense who need to impress the most this spring are pretty easy to point out. Rising redshirt senior quarterback Jarrett Guarantano and rising senior offensive lineman Jahmir Johnson both have huge opportunities ahead of them this spring.

    Guarantano is still Tennessee’s starting quarterback — for now — but he’s never faced as much competition as he’s going to see this spring. Four other scholarship quarterbacks and notable walk-on Kasim Hill will be pushing Guarantano over the next 15 practices. Five-star Harrison Bailey will get the most attention of Guarantano’s competition, but Brian Maurer will also be watched closely. Returning QB J.T. Shrout and newcomer Jimmy Holiday will also factor in.

    The veteran QB will need a solid showing this spring to hold off the Vols’ young signal callers. If not, the summer and fall could get very interesting.

    For Johnson, he has a golden opportunity to carve out a role this spring.

    With rising sophomore Wanya Morris out for the entire spring, Johnson needs to take advantage and get himself out of the doghouse. In his first year with the Vols in 2018, Johnson was a fixture on UT’s offensive line, starting 11 of Tennessee’s 12 games. But last year, Johnson only appeared in six games and made one start after true freshmen Morris and Darnell Wright came in and impressed. Johnson also suffered an injury last season, but that didn’t appear to be the whole issue.

    Can Johnson prove himself again and try and edge out Morris for the left tackle spot? Could he factor in at guard or right tackle if not?

    Staying along the offensive line, Darnell Wright has plenty to prove this spring as well. Wright battled injury down the stretch last season, and it helped K’Rojhn Calbert sneak into the starting right tackle spot. This spring, both will be fighting for that job, and the hyped rising sophomore will have a full-blown battle on his hands to claim that spot.

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    Running back Ty Chandler not only has to try and separate himself more from Tim Jordan this spring, but he also has to hold off a surging Eric Gray. The rising sophomore finished his freshman campaign with a bang, and he looks in line for a lot more playing time in 2020. The only person who can stop that is Ty Chandler, and Chandler needs a strong spring not only for that, but also because of the three freshmen backs coming in over the summer and fall.

    At tight end, Austin Pope appears to be the front-runner for the main starting job, but Jim Chaney likes to use 12 personnel (two tight ends) a lot as well. Who will be that second tight end? Jackson Lowe needs to show up and show out this spring if he wants to snag that spot. The scuttle around campus is that Sean Brown has shown more promise, and both came in at the same time. Jacob Warren has great pass-catching ability, and if he’s put on even more weight and has improved his blocking, he could be a threat for that second spot as well. If Lowe isn’t careful, he could get lost in the shuffle.

    Deangelo Gibbs sat out all of last season as he redshirted after transferring from Georgia. He used last year to relearn the wide receiver position, a role he hasn’t played since high school. This spring is his time to shine and show that the work he put in against the scout team wasn’t a fluke. Gibbs has the perfect opportunity to grab hold of the second receiver spot behind Josh Palmer, and a strong spring would go a long way to doing that.

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    Nathanael Rutherford is the managing editor and social media manager for Rocky Top Insider. Nathanael graduated from the University of Tennessee and cultivated a passion for the Vols while growing up in Knoxville a mere 10 minutes from Neyland Stadium. He's been a part of the RTI team since November of 2015 and has been the editor of RTI since June of 2017. If he's not talking or writing about Tennessee athletics, he's probably talking about Star Wars.