Vols have key spots to fill on special teams

Trevor Daniel punts during Tennessee's home game against South Carolina last October. His punting average last season set a program record, but he was a senior, and his exit creates one of several vacancies on special teams for the Vols.

Editor's note: This is the fourth story in a series previewing Tennessee football before spring practices begin Tuesday.

KNOXVILLE - Three of the most statistically productive special teams players in Tennessee football history are out of eligibility, leaving opportunities for new leaders to emerge in that phase of the game for the Volunteers when spring practices begin.

Paxton Brooks is a 6-foot-5 freshman punter from West Columbia, S.C., who has enrolled early in order to go through spring practices. He will have a chance to replace Trevor Daniel, who averaged a school-record 47.5 yards per punt as a senior in 2017. Competing with Brooks for the starting job will be sophomore walk-ons Joe Doyle and Grayson Linde.

Aaron Medley wrapped up his Vols kicking career last season, and he is second on the program's all-time scoring list despite his struggles with accuracy on field-goal attempts of 40 yards or longer. Brent Cimaglia filled in when Medley battled sickness last season, and the freshman finished the year 8-of-13 on field-goal attempts.

Cimaglia will be the primary kicker during spring practices, but Michigan graduate transfer Ryan Tice will have a chance to compete later this year when he arrives in Knoxville with two years of eligibility remaining.

Ty Chandler showed promise as a kick returner during his freshman season in 2017 as prolific returner Evan Berry battled an injury. With Berry's graduation, the question is whether Tennessee's new coaching staff will want Chandler to shoulder a heavy load on special teams in addition to being a featured running back in 2018.

Spring practices will give first-year coach Jeremy Pruitt and his staff a chance to offer reps to several possible returners. Charles Kelly, who was most recently Florida State's defensive coordinator, is coordinating Tennessee's special teams. He was linebackers coach and special teams coach for the 2013 Seminoles, who won the national championship.

Contact David Cobb at dcobb@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @DavidWCobb and on Facebook at facebook.com/volsupdate.