KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — One of the bigger pleasures of being a college football beat writer the last 25 years has been contributing previews for Athlon Magazine at the various schools I’ve covered.
This year was no different when penning the Tennessee football preview for Athlon, even with Vols coach Jeremy Pruitt not providing a depth chart in spring drills.
The Athlon editors work hard to get a cross-section of opinions from all of the top SEC sportswriters who contribute, making sure to present a preseason magazine that is as accurate as possible.
The preseason All-SEC team is a matter of the beat writers making nominations, and then Athlon’s expert editors making their picks.
This year, Trey Smith was a first-team pick. Nigel Warrior was a third-team pick and Ty Chandler, Jauan Jennings and Marquez Callaway were fourth-team picks.
The Smith pick was interesting, as I explained to the Athlon editors that if Trey plays, he’s likely an All-American.
Smith was a unanimous pick on the FWAA Freshman All-America team last season.
Indeed, ESPN/SEC Network analyst Cole Cubelic is on record as saying that if Smith is healthy, he’ll be the best returning offensive lineman in the SEC.
Smith was a warrior for the Vols last season. He was the only offensive lineman to start every game, and he did so at four of the five line positions.
Smith had a non-orthopedic medical condition that precluded him from contact in spring drills. He has worked hard to stay in shape and has remained involved with the team as a leader in the clubhouse, and a helper in the community.
Jeremy Pruitt said Smith has stayed active in the weight room, but his football future remains an unknown.
To Athlon’s credit, they went with Trey Smith as a first-team pick, taking an optimistic approach that he will be cleared.
It’s a tough call, but the Nashville-based magazine makes them regularly, and most always seems to make the right ones.
WNML’s Josh Ward talks about the preseason All-SEC Vols and interviews Braden Gall and Marcus Spears.