Vols' Paxton Brooks, Chase McGrath lead potentially stout special teams

As Tennessee's first football season under Josh Heupel approached, Heupel along with offensive coordinator Alex Golesh and defensive coordinator Tim Banks continually praised the effort of their players but were otherwise guarded given the unknowns ahead.

Not so with special teams coordinator Mike Ekeler.

"We should wreck shop," Ekeler declared last August.

Looking back, the Volunteers were indeed solid in the sport's third phase and have plenty of reasons for optimism in the months ahead despite the loss of Velus Jones Jr., who led the Southeastern Conference in punt returns with a 15.1-yard average and ranked second in kickoff returns with a 27.3-yard clip before earning a Senior Bowl invitation and positioning himself for this week's NFL draft.

Jones was a sixth-year senior who began his career at Southern California before transferring, which will be the same dynamic later this year for Tennessee kicker Chase McGrath.