The top 10 players returning to the Tennessee Volunteers for the 2020 college football season.
Important to note that this list is based upon last year's data and film from on each specific team as well as judgment based upon the player's position both his skill and the level of talent around him at the said position and influential cohorts. Positional value also plays a large factor in these rankings as does the offensive or defensive scheme.
1. Trey Smith, G
2. Bryce Thompson, CB
3. Alontae Taylor, CB
4. Shawn Shamburger, STAR
5. Jarrett Guarantano, QB
6. Jaylen Mccollough, S
7. Cade Mays, G*
8. Henry To'o To'o, LB
9. Brandon Kennedy, C
10. Velus Jones, WR*
Honorable Mention: Josh Palmer, WR; Gray/Chandler, RB; Trevon Flowers, S; Aubrey Solomon, DI
He probably would've been a first-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft but instead Smith chose to return to the Vols this season. He'll look to supplant his own lofty expectations this year after he dominated in both the passing game and the run game. He'll explode off the line with perhaps some of the best run-blocking hands and feet in the nation while also keeping a clean sheet in pass pro just the same. He's in the discussion for top guard and top interior draft-eligible lineman in the country this year.
As far as the strength of this team, though, it's their secondary, led by Thompson. Thompson now has six career interceptions in just two seasons and had a three-pick game against UAB this past season. He has the ability to take over games and is a threat against the run as well. Taylor mans the other side of the field and recorded an interception and two pass breakups last year. He barely allowed over 50% of the passes thrown his way to be caught and did a great job of limiting receptions to go any further than their catch point.
And then there's Shamburger, who occupies Tennessee's STAR role. And occupy it he does. He'll stuff a running back, sack the quarterback or cover a wide array of pass-catchers from what could be classified as a slot cornerback and does all three of those aspects tremendously well. He ended the season with a pick against Indiana in what was probably his best outing but he was rock solid all season long.
On offense, Mays transfers in from Georgia and forms arguably the nation's top guard duo. And if there's anything that is going to hold back or propel the Vols forward this season, it's their quarterback. Guarantano has the ability to be the best quarterback in the nation but also has shown that he can falter, and falter hard, all the way to the bottom of the conference. He has incredible arm strength and great touch when he's on his game. And if he's on his game, there is no way anyone can stop him but himself.