The Tennessee Vols’ depth chart took another hit this week when two players announced on Friday that they’re giving up football.
VolQuest reported on Friday that offensive lineman Riley Locklear confirmed he is stepping away from football “due to numerous injuries over the course of his career”.
Locklear, who was returning to Tennessee for a fifth season (thanks to the extra year of eligibility due to COVID-19), started in four career games for the Vols.
The other player giving up UT football is tight end Austin Pope, who announced his decision via an interview with Rocky Top Insider’s Trey Wallace. The Tennessee native is retiring from football due to numerous back injuries suffered over the years.
Pope is a significant loss for the Vols. If healthy, he would’ve provided the most experience at the tight end position for Tennessee.
Without Pope, the Vols will be forced to rely more on Princeton Fant and Jacob Warren.
It also means that true freshman Miles Campbell will have a massive opportunity to contribute in 2021.
Campbell, who was an early enrollee at UT this past winter, showed a lot of promise during spring practice.
“I’ve been really happy with how he’s learned,” said Vols offensive coordinator Alex Golesh this spring while discussing Campbell. “I’ve been really happy with how hard he plays. He’s got a chance to be a really special player here. I’m excited he is here, and I think his future is incredibly bright.”
The Georgia native, who was rated as a three-star recruit out of South Paulding High School, is more of a pass-catching tight end, but he’s also an effective blocker.
Here’s the scouting report on Campbell from former 247Sports director of scouting Barton Simmons (who is now the director of personnel at Vanderbilt):
Thick pass-catching tight end. Doesn’t have rare length but body type points to ability to be a significant factor in both phases of offense. Plays attached and split out as a receiver in high school. Also flashes on defense. Shows good athletic ability, particularly as a run-after-catch guy. Shows awareness and footwork around the sideline that is unique for a tight end. Sinks his hips and decelerates as a route-runner. Secure pass-catcher including in high-traffic areas. Shows some bite as a blocker. Usage in high school is all over the place, demonstrating desired versatility. Has some natural catch instincts. Lacks the length to be overwhelming physically but is a very complete product. We project as an impact Power Five starter and a future NFL Draft pick.
Campbell should certainly see plenty of action this fall with Pope officially hanging it up.
Featured image via Rivals.com/Calvin Mattheis/News Sentinel, Knoxville News Sentinel via Imagn Content Services