Tennessee will host a professional day on Thursday morning, with former volunteers such as center Brandon Kennedy, wide receiver Josh Palmer, left guard Trey Smith and cornerback Bryce Thompson showcasing their bench press skills, cone drills and to the 40-yard dash.

For Smith, however, being selected in the NFL Draft next month will also implicate his medical history.

The discovery of blood clots in the 6-foot-6, 330-pound lungs put his footballing career at risk ahead of his second and junior seasons, and Smith only participated in two full training sessions during his junior year. , when Tennessee rose to 8-5 and won the Gator Bowl. Smith was a first-team All-Southeastern Conference selection in 2019 and again last season, when the Vols slipped to a 3-7 record, but the NFL has a habit of digging into the smallest details. draft prospects.

“Teams that have done their due diligence understand that what I have is a prerequisite,” Smith said Wednesday during a Zoom call. “The plan we backed last season is not only something we can do in the NFL, but would have immediate success.”

Thursday will also mark the first spring training of the Josh Heupel era in Knoxville.

As well as playing on teams that couldn’t close the gap against Alabama, Florida and Georgia, Smith managed to tick every respectable box possible during his four-year career. Over the past week, Smith became the first Vols football player since quarterback Josh Dobbs in 2016 to receive the university’s Torchbearer Award, which recognizes seniors who “embody the spirit of volunteerism all around. by demonstrating academic excellence and a commitment to serving others “.

Obtaining what is considered the university’s highest student honor will only improve its stellar reputation, but he is equally confident about his medical history and is ready to light up each of the 32 teams if necessary.

“I know this is something we haven’t been fully open with in the past for my own privacy,” Smith said, “but I hope this will be a groundbreaking way for people with my same blood clotting issues or other health issues. That nature. You look at people like (New England center) David Andrews and (Caroline tackle) Russell Okung, and they had issues very similar to that. that I have had, they are also very high level offensive linemen.

“We tell people what my situation is and how we solved the problem and what’s going on. I can explain it a million times if I have to, because it’s something unique and different. I just want to play in the NFL, so I have no problem helping people understand what I’ve been through and making them feel comfortable with it. “

Smith was shortlisted to be selected midway through the first round in a CBS simulation project last September, but another CBS screening in the last few days saw him surrender to Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay as the pick. final of the second round. He is expected to be Tennessee’s first player taken this year, with Palmer screened as a day three selection (round four to seventh) and with Kennedy and Thompson either in the later rounds or as undrafted free agents.

Palmer had 99 receptions for 1,514 yards (15.3 yards per catch) during his four-year career and had two catches for 27 yards and one touchdown in the Senior Bowl in January. Palmer said Wednesday he met all 32 teams at the event in Mobile, Alabama.

Thompson is different from Kennedy, Palmer, and Smith in that he bypassed his last year of eligibility. He’s amassed 102 tackles and 19 assists defended and forced 10 turnovers in his three seasons, including eight interceptions.

“I felt confident in my skill game and that I had made a good movie,” Thompson said of his choice. “I just felt like I was ready for the next level.”

Kennedy spent six seasons in college, the first three of which were in Alabama. He wore a red shirt during the 2015 Crimson Tide National Championship season and enjoyed another title in 2017 before transferring, and his 2018 with the Flights was derailed by injury after the opener against West Virginia , which led to a medical red shirt and the sixth season.

As a center last year, Kennedy played 507 snaps and awarded a sack.

“Since childhood your goal has been to be drafted, but anyway, I just want an opportunity to go somewhere and show my skills,” Kennedy said. “Just stepping in the door is the opportunity I’m focusing on.”

Palmer, Smith and Thompson would have been invited to the NFL wetsuit last month in Indianapolis had there been one, so it’s a big step ahead of the draft and another step in their memorable journeys.

“I speak to different organizations that I’ve played with in Madden,” Smith said. “It’s a surreal experience.”

Graham resigns

Former Tennessee running backs and running backs coach Jay Graham abruptly stepped down Wednesday as tight ends coach and Alabama special teams coordinator after less than two months in those positions .

“The events of the past year have taken their toll on millions of people around the world, not only in terms of the loss of loved ones or jobs, but also in unprecedented mental health anxieties,” Graham said on social media. “I am moving away from football to immediately seek professional help, gain a better understanding of mental health and spend time with my loved ones. I hope to rebalance my life so that I can return to my passion for coaching and playing. ‘helping student-athletes pursue their dreams. “

Alabama coach Nick Saban said Wednesday night that the program “will support him in any way it can,” adding that special assistant Todd Watson will take care of Graham’s interim duties. Watson has spent the past three years in Tennessee, last season as director of football programming.

Door always open

Heupel told 247Sports.com on Wednesday that the door is still open for linebackers Henry To’o To’o and Quavaris Crouch to return to the program. Each entered the NCAA transfer portal after former coach Jeremy Pruitt was fired.

To’o To’o is back in California to take UT virtually, while Crouch has stayed in Knoxville.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524. Follow him on twitter @DavidSPaschall.



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