In addition to redshirt freshmen, lots of second year players for Tennessee football are entering this season the traditional way, by becoming sophomores. The Vols have players who were recruited or signed by Jeremy Pruitt in their 2021 class, and they also have sophomores who signed in 2020 and took a redshirt.
As we get set to break down the most valuable sophomores for UT this year, there is a deep collection of players in the class who could make an impact. However, almost nobody in the class is a projected starter. One, maybe two players are among favorites to win a job.
This post will take into account what those players could bring to the table based on personnel and their potential in general. Eight players could have made the list, but we were able to narrow them down. These are the five Tennessee football sophomores most likely to have an impact on the Vols in 2022.
Here’s a breakdown of the best Tennessee football Volunteers sophomores entering Josh Heupel’s second season on the job.
Wide receiver 6’1 195 lbs
With the build most similar to JaVonta Payton, Walker Merrill has multiple opportunities to see the field for Tennessee football at receiver.
It came down to Walker Merrill and Jimmy Calloway here. Last year, both players had five catches. Calloway gained 84 yards and scored a touchdown, while Merrill gained 52 yards. So what puts Merrill on the list over Calloway? Well, it’s his versatility giving him more chances to see the field for the Vols this year.
Given the departures of JaVonta Payton and Velus Jones Jr., UT has openings in the slot and at the No. 2 spot wideouts. Jalin Hyatt appears to be locking up the slot, and that’s the only position Calloway could play. Merrill, meanwhile, could play the slot or on the outside.
Although Ramel Keyton and Bru McCoy seem like the better choices to occupy that wideout role opposite Cedric Tillman, Merrill is the one with the most similar build to Payton. As a result, you could see Kelsey Pope turn to him despite his better experience dealing with true wideouts. Either way, Merrill is likely to have an impact for Tennessee football.