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THE WRIGHT PATH: Darnell Wright's path to the NFL

By: Dallas Bowlin

Senior Staff Writer/

Junior Editor

The All Vol Call In Show

On February 6th, 2019, Darnell Wright committed to Tennessee and then-Head Coach Jeremy Pruitt. The five-star offensive tackle selected Tennessee over offers from West Virginia, North Carolina, and Alabama, and was dubbed the "best-unsigned recruit" a the time, by Sports Illustrated.

Wright started seven games as a freshman, five at right tackle and two at right guard. The Volunteers finished with an 8-5 record, including a dramatic comeback victory over Indiana in the Gator Bowl.

Wright did not get to experience the complete college football experience during his sophomore season (2020), as the season was cut short and Tennessee only played league opponents. He started nine games, helping his team to achieve a season-high 540 total yards of offense against in-state foe Vanderbilt. The Vols went on to end with a 3-7 record, the program's lowest win total since 1924.

Wright announced his intentions to return to Tennessee in the offseason following the 2020 season, which the majority of the fans and media considered surprising given that he had never announced his plans to join the transfer portal. Tennessee lost several players that offseason, including Wanya Morris, Eric Gray, Henry To'o To'o, and Quavaris Crouch, when Head Coach Jeremy Pruitt was fired due to NCAA violations.

He started all 13 games at left tackle for first-year head coach Josh Heupel in 2021, tallying a team-high 922 snaps. That Tennessee team set numerous program offensive records, including the most points (511), and total offensive yards (6,174 ). Wright played 89 snaps against top-ranked Georgia without allowing a single sack or quarterback hit.

He demonstrated during his senior season that he was not only one of the best SEC offensive linemen, but one of the best offensive linemen in the country, earning unanimous first-team All-SEC honors, starting all 13 games at right tackle, and dominating Alabama's Will Anderson Jr. as the Vols went on to win a potentially program-changing game against the Crimson Tide.

Wright went on to be the tenth pick in the 2023 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears, becoming the Volunteers' first top-ten pick since Eric Berry in 2010 and the fifth since 1999.

Darnell Wright’s climb to a top-ten pick in the NFL Draft should help Coach Heupel greatly on the recruiting trail and bring Tennessee one step closer to being able to compete with the best in college football once again.

Photo above | 247Sports


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