For the fourth straight fall camp, there’s been a question that keeps getting floated around the Tennessee Football program.
And no, I’m not talking about winning the SEC East (today at least).
That question is about whether, All-SEC return man and back up safety, Evan Berry will get a chance to play offensive snaps for the Vols.
Before this fall, Berry moving to the offensive side of the ball was unnecessary. Berry was continuing to progress at the safety position – the position his older brother and former Vol All-American, Eric is near the best in the world at. And, Tennessee was loaded with offensive weapons.
We all agree that Alvin Kamara didn’t get enough touches the last two seasons. Where would Berry have even fit into that game plan?
Tennessee’s football team in 2017 is way different and, in his senior season, Evan Berry now needs to switch to the offensive side of the ball – permanently.
Vols can’t waste Evan Berry’s best talent
Berry, along with his twin brother Elliot, were two of the more highly talked about recruits in recent memory. Lane Kiffin offered the middle-school duo scholarships back in 2009 during Eric Berry’s last season at Tennessee. When the twins signed on the dotted line as part of the 2014 recruiting class, the fan base knew everything about them.
The best part of Evan Berry’s game is his ability to score a touchdown from anywhere on the field. He’s scored five times in his Tennessee career: four kick returns and on his lone interception. Of those five touchdowns, the shortest was 88 yards. Three of them traveled 100 yards, including the interception.
His average of 34.2 yards per kick return is a career school record for Tennessee. His four career kick return TDs ties Willie Gault for another school record.
Anyone reading this is probably saying “well, damn, get this kid the football.”
Tennessee looking for more playmakers
According to 247 Sports, Butch Jones said he’s looking for more offensive playmakers on his team. The obvious one is Evan Berry.
Tennessee’s offense broke school records last season in total yards gained, while averaging 36 points per game. But, the Vols lost 70-percent of their touchdowns from last season with Josh Dobbs, Alvin Kamara and Josh Malone in NFL training camps, and Jalen Hurd hanging out as a tight end at Baylor.
Berry needs to get an opportunity to see what he can do as a permanent offensive player. John Kelly and Jauan Jennings cannot be the only reliable big play weapons the Vols have.
Jones addressed the topic after Tuesday’s practice.
“There’s a possibility there,” Jones said. “but the first thing is we have to get Evan’s health back. It starts at the safety position, it starts as a kickoff returner and then obviously you could see his role kind of be expanded a little bit on the offensive side of the ball as well.”
Berry was lost in November last season with a torn ACL.
The part that makes moving Berry over the easiest is the depth built at safety.
Berry recruited over at safety with young talent
Through three seasons, Evan Berry has only made three starts at safety – all last season. Currently, most of what has come out of Vols camp is that Berry could be the fifth safety on the roster.
Senior Todd Kelly Jr. and junior Micah Abernathy were starters last season, and are both back. Sophomore Nigel Warrior, might be one of the most talented players on the team and is competing for a starting job. But, the rise of true freshman Theo Jackson is what makes moving Berry to offense a ‘no-brainer’ in my opinion.
If there happens to be an injury at the position, Berry can move back over in a pinch. He knows the system and has some experience.
But the offensive side of the football is where he belongs in 2017.