“It was a shock,” Wolf said. “I didn’t see it coming at all. It’s exciting, but it isn’t going to change the player I am. I’m still going to be competitive as ever.”
“He’s earned that playing for us,” Jones added. “I just can’t say enough about him and what he has meant to this program. He’s very deserving.”
Wolf walked-on at Tennessee after only receiving scholarship offers from Eastern Michigan and Jacksonville State coming out of Minster High School in Minster, Ohio.
Earning his scholarship on Tuesday was proof he made the right decision.
“It’s obviously something I’ve thought about,” Wolf said. “Every walk-ons dream is to eventually mean enough to the team to where they do put you on scholarship.”
Wolf becomes the sixth scholarship tight end on UT’s roster, joining Ethan, Jakob Johnson, Austin Pope, LaTrell Bumphus and James Brown.
Ethan Wolf is entrenched as the Vols’ starting tight end, but Eli Wolf is currently sharing reps for the rest of the snaps at the position.
“His role continues to increase in our offense as his skill set has continued to grow,” Jones said. “He’s put the weight on that is necessary to be a three-point tight end, a two-point tight end, and he’s meant a lot to us in special teams as well.”
The Volunteers’ offensive line has continually received praise as being one of the most solid cores on the team. Tennessee returns almost its offensive line from the 2016 season and massive five-star prospect Trey Smith has been added to the mix. With tackle Chance Hall’s knee injury sidelining him for the 2017 season and a few other minor injuries already plaguing the o-line, will the Vols be able to stay healthy and prove they are the best group on the team?
The entire offensive line was a bit of a revolving door last season. With injuries and an apparent lack of strength, the Vols’ o-line shifted around often under the purview of previous OL coach Don Mahoney. Now, Mahoney’s replacement, Walt Wells, will try to decipher the code with UT’s men in the trenches. It’s hard to say exactly how he’ll treat the depth that he has but needless to say, he has a fair amount of options.
At tackle, Drew Richmond attempted to live up to his five-star status coming into Knoxville last year and starting in the final four games of the season. There were rough patches for Richmond but his improvement could be seen once he was given more playing time. Coach Wells has said that Richmond had a productive spring and has picked up “his mental aspect of understanding what the defense is trying to do to him.”
The Vols took a huge blow to the offensive line with Chance Hall being ruled out for the year after undergoing knee surgery. Luckily, sophomore Marcus Tatum has experience playing in big games. In his freshman year in 2016, Tatum was hoisted into the spotlight quickly. He played the first game of his career against Alabama after two players ahead of him (Kendrick and Hall) went down with injury.
Additionally, Brett Kendrick has a chance to build on his body of work at the tackle position. He started in all 13 games of 2016 but he has a battle on his hands with Richmond and Tatum for playing time. It’s likely that Kendrick will alternate between right and left tackle, much like he did a year ago.
Out of all of the offensive lineman, center Jashon Robertson is primed to have the biggest year. Robertson is currently on the Outland Trophy watch list for the nation’s top interior lineman and is easily the most experienced player on the line with 35 starts. Robertson spent the majority of spring practice filling in for the injured Coleman Thomas at center and appears to have found his niche.
Guard Jack Jones has played 14 games in the past two seasons and started six games last year amidst the aforementioned injury problems. Jones also battled the injury bug after tearing ligaments in his thumb last year. The two-time Mr. Football winner is yet another talented offensive lineman that has been limited in the past and hopes to notch more than just 6 starts in the upcoming season.
On the opposite guard position will be the true freshman five-star phenom Trey Smith. Smith has a chance to be the centerpiece of the offensive line unit in the future. However, head coach Butch Jones has noted that they are halting putting too many expectations on Smith as he is just a true freshman. And look for redshirt sophomore Venzell Boulware to make a push for either guard position. He’s seen some time with the first team offense at the left guard spot during the spring.
The Tennessee offensive line is the most experienced and battle-tested unit that the team currently has, despite the absence of Chance Hall. There hasn’t been this deep of an offensive line in Knoxville in years and the potential is there for a big season. Even with the injuries, last year’s offense scored a school record 473 points and ranked 51st in sacks allowed with 25. The current offensive line could easily top the performance of the beleaguered 2016 line and, undoubtedly, they are the key building block for the success of the Vols’ offense. Barring any more catastrophic injuries, Tennessee’s offensive line should be a true asset in the coming season.
At least, that’s what he said when he was asked whether he prefers fielding kickoff returns or defensive back duty. Berry spoke to Orange & White Report at Tennessee’s annual Media Event on Sunday and didn’t shy away from any questions.
“I really enjoy playing safety, to be honest,” Berry said. “Just knowing that you can control a lot of snaps throughout the game.”
Berry is a 5-foot-11, 205 pound senior who came to Knoxville in 2014 as a four-star rated defensive back. He’s played in 35 games as a safety and collected 35 tackles, but over time, he’s truly found his identity returning kicks instead of intercepting passes. In 2015, he was named a first-team All-American returner after he racked up 804 return yards and 3 kicks returned for touchdowns.
This predilection for special teams proficiency has made Berry a candidate for a position on offense (he also played some running back in high school), but in his three years with the Vols, he’s only officially touched the ball once on offense. That single running play ended with a six-yard gain, if you’re wondering.
Many fans and analysts have called for Berry to get playing time in Tennessee’s offensive backfield, but according to Berry himself, he’s only interested in switching sides of the ball if it helps UT win games.
“I’m cool with (playing on offense) but my priority right now is defense and special teams,” stated Berry. “But, if Coach Jones said ‘Hey, we need you to do this, blah, blah, blah’ then I’m with it. I’m a team player, so, wherever they need me, I’m there.”
There you have it, Evan Berry will happily play on offense, if given the chance. Now it seems that whether or not he ends up running the ball in a situation other than kick returns simply begins and ends with Butch Jones.
An article was published last week by a Knoxville-based media outlet that directly called Tennessee senior tight end Ethan Wolf “soft,” among other things. The piece was controversial, so much so that we here at Orange & White Report took an editorial stand against it.
On Sunday, Wolf was made available to answer questions during the Vols’ annual Media Day and OWR had the opportunity ask him about his feelings on the article.
“No matter what was said in that article, it’s not going to affect fall camp or anything that’s going to happen in the future,” Wolf said. “I’m not going to let something like that affect me. Somebody putting words on a piece of paper. I think if you’re going to say something about that to somebody, you know, just say it to their face. Until then, I’m not too worried about it.”
A 6-foot-6, 258 pound native of Minster, Ohio, Wolf accumulated 239 yards receiving and two touchdowns in 2016. You can hear everything else he had to say at Media Day in the video below…
Tennessee held its annual preseason media day on Sunday and Orange & White Report was there to take it all in. We were able to speak with multiple players one-on-one at the event and you can see everything they had to say in the videos below…