Good football news has been hard to come by in Knoxville the past few weeks, and Saturday brought another blow as VolQuest.com’s Austin Price and Brent Hubbs reported all-star sophomore offensive lineman Trey Smith will miss spring drills to deal with a “medical issue.”
Fortunately for the Vols, it doesn’t appear to be something that will keep Smith out for the 2018 season, but this is not good news for a UT team that needs Smith to take a pivotal step forward.
The 6’6″, 320-pound former top-ranked recruit emerged easily as UT’s best player on the offensive line a season ago, having the ability to play a lot of different positions. It was not uncommon for him to maul everybody he went against.
Though Smith needed to become more consistent, he was well on his way to being an All-SEC and All-American performer. Now, at the very least, Smith will have to knock off the rust when fall drills come around.
If there is a silver lining to this news, it’s that Tennessee will have the opportunity to get its newcomers as many reps as possible. Though JUCO offensive tackle Jahmir Johnson won’t be enrolled early — something that would have helped him and the Vols considerably — freshmen Jerome Carvin and Ollie Lane are. They will need to improve dramatically along with incumbent players Marcus Tatum and Drew Richmond.
When Smith returns, hopefully he will be at full-tilt. If so, the extra time and attention for the youngsters may wind up being a good thing. But in an all-important offseason, make no mistake: This is bad news for Smith and Tennessee as they try to perform for a new coaching staff and improve as a unit.
Riley Locklear, K’Rojhn Calbert, Devante Brooks, Ryan Johnson and others must become viable candidates to be SEC-caliber linemen, something they’ve yet to prove. With their leader on the sideline now for an undetermined amount of time, that becomes even more crucial.