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What Will Tennessee’s Secondary Look Like In The Citrus Bowl?

Photo by Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee football heads to Orlando for its Citrus Bowl matchup with a shell of the secondary it started the season with.

Kamal Hadden has been out since suffering a shoulder injury in Tennessee’s loss at Alabama before Doneiko Slaughter, Tamarion McDonald, Warren Burrell, Brandon Turnage, Wesley Walker, De’Shawn Rucker and Jack Luttrell all entered the transfer portal since the end of the regular season.

Some of those players played very minimal roles last season but three of them started at the five secondary spots. So what will Tennessee’s secondary look like in the Citrus Bowl?

Let’s take a look here.

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Cornerback is the easiest spot to nail down because nearly all of Tennessee’s fringe rotational players have left the program. Gabe Jeudy-Lally will start on one side as he has all year and freshman Rickey Gibson III will start on the other side.

Gibson has flashed in his limited opportunities as a freshman and the Citrus Bowl gives him an opportunity to make an early case for a starting job next season.

Behind Jeudy-Lally and Gibson is where it gets a little bit more complicated. Freshmen Cristian Conyer and Jordan Matthews could also be in line for playing time as could sophomore Christian Harrison.


The STAR spot is probably the most complicated because of injuries. Regular season starter Tamarion McDonald transferred to Ole Miss and won’t play but what about sophomore Jourdan Thomas? He played in McDonald’s place when he got injured at Missouri but ended up suffering an injury himself later that game.

Thomas, who is in line to start somewhere in the secondary (STAR or Safety) next season, will likely start at STAR barring that he is healthy enough to go. His injury didn’t seem overly serious but that’s no guarantee.

When injuries sidelined both McDonald and Thomas, Will Brooks started at STAR for Tennessee. Whether or not Thomas plays, Brooks will likely earn some playing time. But if Thomas can’t go, Brooks is in line to start again.


Starter Wesley Walker is in the transfer portal and won’t play in the Citrus Bowl but he also missed the Georgia and Vanderbilt games with injuries so we have a good idea of what the safety rotation looks like without him.

Super senior Jaylen McCollough will start at one safety spot as he has for the entirety of the Josh Heupel tenure while former Ohio State transfer Andre Turrentine will start at the other safety spot.

Behind the duo, Brooks will provide depth if he’s not called upon at STAR. Freshman John Slaughter is probably next in line at the spot as is Christian Charles if he’s healthy enough to play. Charles missed most the regular season due to injury.

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