It’s been an offseason of one accolade after the next for Tennessee senior left guard Trey Smith.
Since announcing his decision to return to Rocky Top for his senior season, Smith has been named the Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year, the Pat Summitt Ignite Greatness Award Winner, the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame Co-Amateur Athlete of the Year, and the Fritz Pollard Trophy winner.
And that was just for what he did in 2019.
Smith has also been named to the preseason watch list for the Outland Trophy and the Wuerffel Trophy, been named a Preseason First-Team All-American by Athlon Sports, Sporting News, and Phil Steele, as well as a Preseason Second-Team All-American by Walter Camp.
The preseason recognition is well-deserved. Smith is coming off a 2019 season where he earned All-SEC First Team honors from the Association Press and the SEC coaches, as well as All-SEC Second Team honors from Pro Football Focus. He played in all 13 of Tennessee’s games last season, starting at left guard in 12 of them.
As a result of his play last season, NFL Draft analysts are beginning to fall in love with Smith as they begin preparing for the 2021 NFL Draft, which will be held in April. On Thursday, The Athletic’s Dane Brugler listed Smith as the second-best interior offensive linemen that is eligible for this year’s draft, and the best senior offensive guard in the country.
Ohio State’s Wyatt Davis was considered the best interior offensive lineman in the country by Brugler.
“A masher in the run game, Smith embraces the bully role and controls the point-of-attack with his overwhelming strength,” Brugler wrote. “Technically refined NFL linemen will take advantage of his current mechanical flaws, but he takes coaching well and competes with a nasty attitude. As long as the medicals come back clean, Smith is still on that first round trajectory.”
Brugler listed Smith’s “bully strength” as his best trait.
“Even as a true freshman, Smith was bouncing bodies around the field in the SEC,” Brugler said. “Although his career was nearly derailed by health concerns, his trademark power as always been the basis of his evaluation. With his massive frame, Smith absorbs contact well to stop rushers in their tracks and he is a devastating run blocker, uprooting and displacing defenders.”
As for what Smith needs to improve on most, Brugler pointed to Smith’s “sloppy tendencies.”
“Smith is accustomed to being bigger and stronger than his opponents, but the technical part of his game remains a work-in-progress,” Brugler said. “While he isn’t shy mauling defenders, his big paws often hug or fall off his target. Smith needs to streamline his punch action and do a better job rolling his hips into contact instead of allowing his pads to get upright.”
Smith wasn’t the only Vol that garnered recognition from Brugler. The Athletic’s NFL Draft analyst listed Tennessee starting center Brandon Kennedy as the eighth-best senior center in all of college football.
Kennedy, a graduate transfer from Alabama with two years of eligibility, tore his ACL in practice following the 2018 season-opener against West Virginia and missed the remainder of the season. He came back in 2019 and started every game at center for the Vols. Kennedy was awarded a sixth-year of eligibility by the NCAA due to his injury history and will return to Tennessee as a key cog in the Vols’ offensive line in 2020.