Tennessee football coach Jeremy Pruitt will make his debut appearance at SEC Media Days on Wednesday. Over the next several days, the Times Free Press will preview key topics Pruitt will likely have to address when the Volunteers take their turn in front of reporters in Atlanta.
Is offensive lineman Trey Smith cleared for a full return?
The news that Smith would miss Tennessee's spring practice session due to an unspecified health issue seemed like the latest blow in a series of bad breaks for the Volunteers. After all, Smith's standout freshman season was one of the team's few bright spots in 2017, and he was positioned to take a leadership role this year.
Details on the severity of his health issue have been treated with such delicacy that even some figures inside the program are not fully briefed on the matter, but over the past few months, signs have pointed to a return to the playing field for Smith in 2018. Will Pruitt provide an update in Atlanta?
When asked about Smith during an appearance on WJOX-FM in Birmingham last month, Pruitt said, "We'll be excited to get him back on the field this fall."
Smith also participated in a team-orchestrated internal promotional photo day Wednesday, then shared a photograph of himself on Twitter wearing a full uniform and helmet.
A healthy Smith would constitute a major relief for an offensive line that dealt with a remarkable string of injuries and defections in 2017. Smith was the lone offensive lineman to start all 12 games, and he earned All-Southeastern Conference second-team honors for his play.
If healthy, he is talented enough to be the starting left tackle in the season opener against West Virginia on Sept. 1, even after missing spring practices.
Smith's health has failed to scare off preseason accolades for the state's top prospect in the signing class of 2017. Sports Illustrated placed him 59th on its list of the nation's top 100 college football players last month, and Athlon Sports named Smith a preseason third-team All-American.
Pruitt will be asked about Smith's status, and probably more than once, during the media frenzy next week. But Tennessee fans may also want to listen for updates on offensive linemen K'Rojhn Calbert and Chance Hall. Both missed all of last season with knee injuries and returned in limited capacities this spring.
What Pruitt says about Smith will be monitored closely, but the health of Calbert and Hall is also vital to the depth of Tennessee's offensive line entering preseason practices.