Despite a disappointing finish, Tennessee football pleasantly surprised its fan base Josh Heupel for the first year in office. They weathered a wave of transfers, an NCAA investigation and a coaching change to reach 7-6 after suffering a 3-7 season for Jeremy Pruitt’s final year on the job. All of this bodes well for the future.
In the process, many new faces emerged as the stars for The Flights. This was naturally going to happen given all the transfers. As we get ready to hand out awards for the season, it will be pretty clear that these new faces have often stood out more than anyone else.
Our awards will include Rookie of the Year, Most Improved Player, and then Top Player for each unit. One of those top players per unit will also be this year’s MVP, and we’ll name him last. Let’s see who was most valuable to Rocky Top. These are our team awards for the 2021 Tennessee football season.
Rookie of the Year: Jaylen Wright
Honestly, it’s kinda default. There was no competition. Despite all the turnover that Vols have had to contend with this year, they haven’t played as many freshmen. Jaylen Wright saw more action than any real freshman or freshman in a red shirt last year, and honestly, it was a long way off.
At the start of the year, Jabari Small and Tiyon Evans were the stars. However, Wright came out late as Evans struggled with injuries. He finished the year with 85 carries for 409 yards (4.8 yards per carry) and four touchdowns while catching six passes for 22 yards. In early November, Wright and Len’Neth Whitehead backed Small, but Wright stood out.
A speedster in college, Tennessee football signed Wright to be a true all-round back, and he showed flashes of what it could be like last year with the way he played. Next year, you might see a true three-full set in Josh Heupel’s system with Small as a background, Whitehead as a fullback, and Wright as a quick all-round fullback.