Vince’s View: A numbers look at the 2020 Tennessee football roster

Wanya Morris, Henry To’oto’o & Darnell Wright / Credit: UT Athletics

By Vince Ferrara / @VinceSports

In my ongoing studying of the University of Tennessee football roster, I’ve put together some numbers with “Vince’s View” on what stands out about each of them, in my opinion.

Between breakdowns by position, star ratings, class and more, there’s plenty to reveal. Each group of numbers has my perspective on them..All numbers are based on the projected 89 scholarship players.

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UT Players Signed By Pruitt vs. Jones
Butch Jones – 22 (25%)
Jeremy Pruitt – 67 (75%)

Vince’s View: That Pruitt percentage made a big jump from last season. The roster was around 55% Pruitt players entering the season. This is the roster make-up you’d expect for a third-year head coach that’s signed three recruiting classes. After next season, the roster will be almost all Pruitt’s. Then the true evaluations of the head coach will be fair to make with players that he believed in making up the roster. The results will need to follow. Actually, the expectation will be that the results should have already arrived. 9 of the 22 Butch Jones signed players are projected starters initially…QB Jarrett Guarantano, OL Trey Smith, WR Josh Palmer, RB Ty Chandler, WR Brandon Johnson, TE Austin Pope, OLB Deandre Johnson, OLB Kivon Bennett, DB Shawn Shamburger. That means that, like last season, Jeremy Pruitt will still rely on the players he’s inherited, and developed at a much better clip than we saw before. That reliance on the Butch Jones players will diminish as the season goes on. I expected a number of freshmen and sophomores to overtake them when ready.


2020 Tennessee Team Career Totals
Games Played – 1,265
Starts – 381
Players That Have Never Started A Game – 47 (86 players, no special teams) 55%
Players With One Start Or Less – 52 (86 players, no special teams) 60%
Players That Never Played In A Game – 24 (of 89 total players) – 27%

Vince’s View: The games played and the starts are up slightly from the start of last season. The rest of the numbers are actually up considerably this season. I think that’s a reflection of a big group of players that redshirted last season to go with big freshman and sophomore classes that still have players yet to blossom.


2020 Vols 89 Scholarship Breakdown By Star Rating (Highest)
5 stars = 6
4 stars = 48
3 stars = 34
2 stars = 1
Not rated =0
*54 players (61%) are 4/5-stars

Vince’s View: 61% of the roster being 4 or 5 stars is a good number that’s a recipe to be above average and very competitive, but not quite at championship level yet. In the past, when comparing to other SEC rosters, 61% would rank pretty high in the SEC, in that 4th to 7th range. Six 5-stars (four on the o-line) is a top-half of the league total. Alabama, Georgia and LSU have a bunch. Then there’s a drop-off into the next group of teams including UT and several others. The highest star rating is how almost everyone references recruits, right? When’s it’s fans or media wanting to “sell it,” you say 5-star over 4-star or 4-star over 3-star. Just the way it seems to go.


2020 Vols 89 Scholarship Breakdown By Star Rating (Average)
5 stars = 5
4 stars = 36
3 stars = 46
2 stars = 1
Not rated =1
*41 players (46%) are 4/5 stars

Vince’s View: The average is the most realistic but a less sexy reference tool for star ratings of players, recruits or signed players. Just 46% being 4 or 5 stars shows that there are a number of players that had mixed evaluations on them, which was also the case during the Butch Jones era. The good news is the confidence level that fans should have that…a) the right players were signed amongst the mixed rating players and b) those players will be developed to make them look like the higher ratings were correct.


2020 Vols Scholarships By Position
QBs = 5
RBs = 7
WRs = 10
TEs = 6
OLs = 15
DLs = 15
LBs = 12
DBs = 16
STs = 3
Total = 89

Vince’s View: The QB room probably would have shrunk had there been spring ball. 4 players will need to go, from somewhere on this roster, before August. UT has depth in bodies throughout the defense, so if someone doesn’t see a path to playing time or has a medical, the departures could be handled better there. 40% of the 10 wide receivers are true freshmen, albeit all talented 4-stars. You add transfer Velus Jones Jr. from USC and that makes 50% of the receivers being new.


2020 Vols Scholarship Players By Specific Class
RS Sr – 11
Sr – 14
RS Jr – 7
Jr – 7
RS So – 9
So – 13
RS Fr – 5
Fr – 23
Total = 89
*39 of 89 scholarship players are upperclassmen (43%)

Vince’s View: The true freshmen class is always going to be the biggest. The fact that the second-largest class is seniors is a plus. 43% upperclassmen is a strong percentage that is unusual for UT given all the roster turnovers, coaching transition and attrition of the past.


2020 Vols Scholarship Players By Full Class
Sr – 25
Jr – 14
So – 22
Fr – 28
Total = 89

Vince’s View: Some like to see the full classifications with redshirts for each included, so I’ve listed it this way as well,


Started all 13 games for Tennessee in 2019 (4)
WR Marquez Callaway
C Brandon Kennedy
OLB/DE Darrell Taylor
S Nigel Warrior

Vince’s View: Kennedy was noteworthy considering the injury-plagued career he’s had. He actually was injured, however the timing was good with his recovery coming during bowl prep. That timing allowed him to play in the bowl game and finish off his first career full season. Because of all those previous injuries, Kennedy’s back with a 6th year of eligibility. Taylor played through injuries to run the table of games. Warrior and Callaway stayed healthy with no threats to their starting spots.


Did Not Play in 2019 (5)
TE Jordan Allen
DL Emmet Gooden
DB Baylen Buchanan
TE Jackson Lowe
WR Deangelo Gibbs

Vince’s View: This group is under-discussed when looking ahead to this season. Fans have seen Gooden and Buchanan contribute before, two years ago. Allen is switching positions after never being a factor at OLB. If 4-star TE Lowe will pan out is TBD. Gibbs is the wildcard. He’s bounced positions between WR and DB since he got on campus. He had to sit out the year after transferring from Georgia. There’s an opportunity for him to break through. Any of these players could end-up being like bonus signees that are ready to play right away.


Players With 30+ Career Games Played (15)
WR Josh Palmer – 37
WR Brandon Johnson – 37
RB Ty Chandler – 36
RB Tim Jordan – 36
DB Shawn Shamburger – 35
QB Jarret Guarantano – 34
DB Theo Jackson – 34
RB Carlin Fils-Aime – 33
TE Austin Pope – 33
DL LaTrell Bumphus – 33
OL Trey Smith – 32
LB Deandre Johnson – 31
DB Baylen Buchanan – 31
DL Aubrey Solomon – 30
DL Matthew Butler – 30
*Every position groups, except special teams, has at least 1 player with 30+ games played
*Last season there were only 8 with 30+ games played

Vince’s View: That big jump in game experience from last season shows that many players earned opportunities to get snaps, got experience and stayed.


Players With 20+ Career Starts (5)
OL Trey Smith – 31
QB Jarrett Guarantano – 25
WR Josh Palmer – 25
RB Ty Chandler – 20
CB Bryce Thompson – 20

Vince’s View: This group of experienced starters isn’t as deep as the games played bunch. However, this is an extremely important group of players that will have plenty to say about the success of the 2020 season.


Multi-Year (2+) Players That Have Never Started Excluding Special Teams (14)
R-So CB Brandon Davis (3-star) 1 game played
R-Jr S Cheyenne Labruzza (4-star) 20 games played
R-Jr ILB Solon Page (3-star) 5 games played
R-So ILB JJ Peterson (4-star) 17 games played
R-Jr OLB Kivon Bennett (4-star) 21 games played
R-So DL Kingston Harris (3-star) 4 games played
Jr DL John Mincey (3-star) 14 games played
R-Sr DL Ja’Quain Blakeley (4-star) 27 games played
R-So OL Ollie Lane (3-star) 3 games played
R-So TE Jacob Warren (3-star) 5 games played
R-Jr TE Jordan Allen (4-star) 9 games played
R-Jr TE Princeton Fant (3-star) 10 games played
R-Jr WR Deangelo Gibbs (4-star) 13 games played
R-So WR Cedric Tillman (3-star) 15 games played

Vince’s View: Interestingly, this group is 50/50 Pruitt/Jones signed players. Six were 4-star players and eight were 3-stars. There are certainly some players listed that haven’t reached starting level yet, but have improved…Bennett, Mincey and Blakeley among them. There are also a number of Pruitt signed players that haven’t panned out yet, like Warren, Peterson and Tillman. Peterson is the highest-rated that the Vols are hoping isn’t a recruiting miss. He has the talent and the opportunity to play, if he’s locked-in and he puts it all together.


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