Tennessee Football 2022 Depth Chart Breakdown

A look at Josh Heupel’s Vols by position group and special teams
The 2022 College Football season is fast approaching, and the Tennessee Volunteers are one of the most intriguing teams entering the season.
Published: Aug. 13, 2022 at 1:48 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - The 2022 College Football season is fast approaching, and the Tennessee Volunteers are one of the most intriguing teams entering the season.

Coach Josh Heupel will now be entering his second season as head coach, and expectations will be higher than they have in recent years. The Vols have a great deal of talent throughout their roster, including preseason Heisman watch list candidate Hendon Hooker.

Tennessee had one of the most explosive offenses in the country last season, thanks to Hooker. They are breaking their single-season record for points scored in a season. Hooker gets his favorite target back in wide receiver Cedric Tillman this season.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Vols lose key contributors Alontae Taylor (Saints) and Theo Jackson (Titans) to the NFL; however, they return veteran players such as Trevon Flowers, Byron Young, Tyler Baron, and Jeremy Bans.

Overall the Volunteers have the potential to make some noise in the SEC this season. Below, we break down each position group and how they’ll factor into making that possible:

OFFENSIVE BREAKDOWN

QUARTERBACKS

#5 Hendon Hooker Sr.

#7 Joe Milton III Sr.

#10 Tayven Jackson Fr.

#13 Gatson Moore So.

#21 Navy Shuler So.

The QB position is one of the strengths for the Volunteers this upcoming season. They bring back 2021 early-season starter Joe Milton III and current starter Hendon Hooker for their red-shirt senior seasons. Hooker is coming off an incredible season, recording 36 touchdowns, including 31 passing and five on the ground. He’ll look to build off of last season’s success and bring Tennessee back to the national spotlight. Last season, with Hooker at the helm, the Vols scored their most points in school history, averaging 38.8 points per game.

Along with their fast pace offense, the QB position was a key to their offensive success. Hooker has caught the eye of many scouts, and many have him on the preseason Heisman watchlist. His ability to scare defenders with his legs and impressive arm talent should create problems for opposing defensive coordinators. If Hooker continues to improve on the success he displayed in his 2021 campaign; we could be looking at one of the first QBs taken off the board in next year’s draft.

RUNNING BACKS

#2 Jabari Small Jr.

#20 Jaylen Wright So.

#26 Justin Williams-Thomas Fr.

#27 Len’Neth Whitehead So.

#23 Lyn-J Dixon

#35 Patrick Wilk Fr.

Expect to see a lot of new faces behind the line of scrimmage this season. The Volunteers bring back last season’s leading rusher Jabari Small, and other familiar faces, such as Jaylen Wright and Len’Neth Whitehead. However, Wright and Whitehead both have injuries leaving them sidelined for some time. Whitehead appears to be out for the season with an upper-body injury, and Jaylen Wright is also expected to miss a couple of weeks with an unknown injury; therefore, we do not know what the beginning of the season will entail. We can expect to mostly see Small, but if the offense is similar to what we saw last season, we can expect to see multiple faces with the ball in their hands. One of those faces could be former Clemson RB Lyn-J Dixon. Dixon, who stands at 5′10″ 195 pounds, became a late commitment to the Vols via the transfer portal. He transferred from Clemson last November and initially joined the West Virginia Mountaineers but then entered the portal again after spring practice this past year. With Wright missing some time, the first-year students will have to grow up early. Small led the Volunteers with 792 rushing yards and nine touchdowns and showed Volunteers fans flashes of why he could be one of the top RBs in the SEC next season. However, as it currently stands, the Vols lack a lot of experience at the RB position.

WIDE RECEIVER

#0 Grant Frerking - Sr.

#4 Cedric Tillman - Sr.

#6 Jimmy Holiday - Jr.

#9 Jimmy Calloway - So.

#10 Squirrel White - Fr.

#11 Jalin Hyatt - Jr.

#15 Bru McCoy - Jr.

#19 Walker Merrill - So.

#22 Jack Jancek - So.

#28 Nigel Lanier - Fr.

#80 Ramel Keyton - Sr.

#81 Chas Nimrod - Fr.

#84 Kaleb Webb

One of the strengths for the Volunteers last season will see many new faces, including USC transfer Bru McCoy. However, they bring back dynamic WR Cedric Tillman for his senior season. Tillman was named to the preseason Walter Camp Award, Biletnikoff Award, and Maxwell award watch lists for his incredible 2021 season campaign. Tillman racked up over 1,000 yards receiving and 12 touchdowns. With his best games came against Georgia and Alabama. Two of the nation’s most feared defenses. Outside Tillman, Vol fans will see familiar faces such as Jalin Hyatt and Ramel Keyton. Neither of which received a lot of playing time last season; however, we can expect Jalin Hyatt to come back into form as he was named Freshman All-American his first season. Keyton has been a familiar face for Volunteer fans. Entering his senior season, we can expect him to leave it all on the field and potentially have a breakout season similar to Tillman. Another name-making buzz ahead of the season is freshman Squirrel White. White is said to have impressed many coaches and spectators. It will be interesting to see where he falls on the depth chart to start the season. Outside of Tillman, the core does not have much playing experience. However, we can expect guys to step up and be a big part of the offense in the future. One thing we know about Josh Heupel is that his offenses will run up the score. They will also have a great QB in Hendon Hooker. Therefore, we should not expect there to be much of a drop-off.

TIGHT ENDS

#43 Titus Rohrer - Fr.

#44 Charlie Browder - R. Fr.

#86 Miles Campbell - R. Fr.

#87 Jacob Warren - R. Sr.

#88 Princeton Fant - R. Sr.

One of the more underappreciated groups on this explosive Tennessee offense is the tight ends. The Tennessee, tight end group, does all of the dirty work that doesn’t always get noticed. Whether it’s helping open up a hole in the run game or sometimes staying back to block in the passing game, these tight ends do it all to help make this offense as explosive as it is. The Volunteers bring back Jacob Warren and Princeton Fant for the senior seasons. Warren and Fant were the two main guys we saw at this position last season; therefore, we can expect much of the same this upcoming season. Neither were significant threats in the passing game, but if you forget about them, they will make you pay. While receiving may not necessarily be their game, both make an impact in the run game. The Volunteers averaged 200 rushing yards per game. A stat that can be heavily attributed to the work of not only the offensive line but these tight ends as well. While we may see these tight ends get more touches in the future, their main strong suit will be to help in the blocking game.

OFFENSIVE LINE

#50 Jackson Lampley - R. Jr.

#53 Jeremiah Crawford - Sr.

#54 Gerald Mincey - R. So.

#55 Braeden Krivosh - R. So.

#56 Mo Clipper Jr. - Fr.

#58 Darnell Wright - Sr.

#63 Cooper Mays - Jr.

#64 William Parker - R. Fr.

#65 Parker Ball - R. Jr.

#66 Dayne Davis - R. Jr.

#67 Connor Meadow - Fr.

#68 Masai Reddick - Fr.

#69 Gus Hill - Fr.

#70 RJ Perry - R. So.

#71 Savion Herring - Jr.

#72 Addison Nichols - Fr.

#73 Brian Grant - Fr.

#75 Jerome Carvin - Sr.

#76 Javontez Spraggins - Jr.

#78 Ollie Lane - Jr.

The offensive line is expected to be one of the strengths for this Volunteer team. They bring back a lot of experience, and even add a couple depth pieces. They bring back four out of the five starters from last season. They were only losing Cade Mays to the NFL Draft. The Volunteers last season had one of the nation’s best rushing attacks, averaging over 200 yards per game. With most of their starters coming back, we can expect the Volunteers to be able to produce much of the same. One issue this line had last season, however was their pass protection. While they were an amazing run blocking unit, they were susceptible to giving away sacks. Tennessee is known to have a fast pace offense; therefore, fatigue may have factored into this. We can expect(L-R) Darnell Wright, Jerome Carvin, Cooper Mays, Javontez Spraggins, and Dayne Davis to be the starters this season. With top 150 prospect Addison Nichols as a depth piece. This Volunteer offensive line could be one of the best units in the SEC.

DEFENSIVE BREAKDOWN

DEFENSIVE LINE

#6 Byron Young - Sr.

#9 Tyler Baron - Jr.

#11 LaTrell Bumphus - R. Sr.

#19 Joshua Josephs - Fr

#20 Bryson Eason - R. So.

#21 Omari Thomas - Jr.

#27 James Pearce Jr. - Fr.

#30 Roman Harrison -Sr.

#50 Jordan Phillips - Fr.

#51 Elijah Simmons - R. Jr

#52 Maurese Smith - R. Sr.

#54 Tyre West - Fr.

#58 Isaac Green - R. Jr

#65 Camron Douglas - Fr.

#87 Joshua Helsdon - Fr.

#88 Amari McNeil - R. Fr.

#90 Dominic Bailey - R. So.

#95 Da’Jon - R. Jr.

#96 Austin Lewis - R. Sr.

#97 Jayson Jenkins - Fr.

#99 Kurott Garland - R. Sr.

One of last season’s weaker units, giving up almost 150 rushing yards a game, the Volunteers’ defensive line gets a fresh start entering the 2022 season. They bring back both Byron Young and Tyler Baron off the edge. Both Baron and Young showed flashes of why they could be key players for the Volunteers defense last season. Baron, a Knoxville native, will be entering his junior season; therefore, more will be expected of him this upcoming season. Many expect Baron to take that next step this upcoming season. Young is one of the older players on the team; therefore, he is one of the leaders for the team and its defense. Many scouts have been discussing Young as a potential next-level talent. If he and Baron live up to expectations, the Vols can have a very scary duo coming off of the edge. Other guys we can expect to make an impact will be OLB Roman Harrison, and LaTrell Bumphus on the interior. The Volunteers’ offense was very explosive last season, and we can expect much of the same this upcoming season. If they can fix some of the issues within their defense, the sky’s the limit for what the Volunteers can accomplish this season.

LINEBACKER

#6 Byron Young - Sr.

#9 Tyler Baron - Jr.

#10 Juwan Mitchell - R. Sr.

#15 Kwauze Garland - R. Jr.

#18 William Mohan - R. So.

#24 Aaron Beasley - Sr.

#31 Nick Humphrey - R. Sr.

#33 Jeremy Banks - R. Sr.

#38 Solon Page III - R. Sr.

#39 West Shuler - R. Jr.

#40 Kalib Perry - Fr.

#44 Elijah Herring - Fr.

#46 Noah Young - Sr.

#47 Matt Gaca - R. Jr.

#53 Jackson Hannah - R. Jr.

#55 Will Albright - R. So

#56 Mekhi Bigelow - Fr.

#57 Ben Bolton - Fr.

Probably the strongest unit on the Volunteers’ defense, the linebacking core brings back a lot of experience. The Vols bring back star linebacker Jeremy Banks for his senior season. Banks, one of the SEC’s leading tacklers, is expected to make a big impact on this Tennessee defense, and help lead this defensive unit. Aaron Beasley, the rising senior, is also expected to be in the middle with Jeremy Banks. Byron Young and Tyler Baron will be looking to make an impact off the edge. Both are expected to be key players for the Volunteers and their defensive front this season. With last season under their belt, we can expect the defense to be better all around; however, with the depth and experience of this linebacking core, we could be looking at a very exciting group this season.

DEFENSIVE BACKS

#0 Doneiko Slaughter - Jr.

#1 Trevon Flowers - Sr.

#2 Jaylen McCollough - Sr.

#3 Dee Williams - Jr.

#4 Warren Burrell - Sr.

#5 Kamal Hadden - R. Sr.

#7 Romello Edwards - R. Sr.

#8 Brandon Turnage - R. Jr.

#12 Tamarion McDonald - Jr.

#13 Wesley Walker - R. Jr.

#14 Christian Charles - So.

#17 Andre Turrentine - R. Fr.

#22 Cameron Miller - Fr.

#23 Cheyenne Labruzza - R. Sr.

#25 Jourdan Thomas - Fr.

#26 Lucien Brunetti - R. Fr.

#28 De’Shawn Rucker - So.

#29 Christian Harrison - Fr.

#34 Trel Riley - R. So.

#35 Will Brooks - R. So.

#36 William Wright - R. So.

#37 Montrell Bandy - R. Fr.

#41 Malik Ganaway - Fr.

#42 Shannon Blair jr. - Fr.

#43 Jerrod Gentry - R. Fr.

#48 Derek Taylor - Fr.

One of last season’s weak links was the Volunteers’ secondary, as they allowed 29.1 points per game last season. While all this is not on the secondary, the secondary gave up around 270 yards per game through the air. That’s something good teams will make you pay for. There is hope; however, the Volunteers secondary will now have a year of experience under their belt. They bring back impact players Trevon Flowers and Brandon Turnage, who many can expect to help lead this secondary. The Vols lost Alontae Taylor (Saints), and Theo Jackson (Titans), to the NFL draft; however, we can expect the Volunteers’ secondary to show improvement this season. If Tennessee wants to take that next step into national prominence, it has to start with the defense. Guys like Deneiko Slaughter and Warren Burrell will step into bigger roles now with Alontae Taylor gone, but both have playing experience. If the Volunteers can clean up some of the holes in their defense, this will be a scary team this upcoming season.

SPECIAL TEAMS BREAKDOWN

SPECIAL TEAMS

#37 Paxton Brooks P/PK - Sr.

#39 Toby Wilson PK - R. Sr.

#40 Chase McGrath PK - R. Sr.

#41 JT Carver PK - R. Fr.

#47 Matthew Salansky LS - R. Jr.

#48 Bennett Brady LS - Fr.

#60 Alton Stephens LS - R. Jr.

Much will be the same for the Volunteers’ special teams unit, as they bring back all of their key starters. Paxton Brooks will be expected to be the starting punter for the Vols as he enters his senior season. Brooks has been a reliable punter for the Vols. Averaging around 44 yards per punt, with a long of 64 yards and 18 punts inside the 20. Brooks has been the starter for some years, so he should be a reliable punter this upcoming season. As far as kicking goes, Chase McGrath will return for his senior season. McGrath only missed one kick under 40 yards; however, distance is not his strong suit. He was 3 for six on kicks 40 yards and above. With McGrath’s accuracy from 40 yards and below, it is encouraging that he will be able to knock in more kicks from a distance. As far as the return game goes, the Vols lost big-time returner Velus Jones (Bears) to the NFL Draft. Theo Jackson (Titans) also saw action in the return game; however, he also was selected in the NFL Draft. Jimmy Holiday saw some experience in the return game last season. So we may see him get some more action this upcoming season. Other guys who come to mind include Walker Merrill, Jalin Hyatt, and Trevon Flowers. It will be interesting to see how they replace a touchdown threat like Jones Jr. in the return game.

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