By: Darrell Winstead
The All Vol Call in Show
The start of the 2023 college football season for the Tennessee Vols is right around the corner. There is plenty of excitement in the air but there are still some questions that need to be addressed. The Vols use multiple fronts defensively but run a base 4-2-5 scheme and will look to finalize who their starters for the opener versus Virginia. Even with them set, the Vols need to solidify the pecking order of the depth chart behind those starters.
One position that sticks out to me is the linebacker position, where they have experienced players Aaron Beasley (SR) and Keenan Pili (R-SR) listed as the starters but who would be that next man up behind them? One player that seems to make Josh Heupel light up when talking about the future is four-star freshman Arion Carter, who is an in-state prize, from Smyrna High School in Smyrna, Tennessee. During Carter’s signing day press conference, Heupel praised Carter calling him “super athletic, smart, and competitive” and “One of the more mature guys that I have gone through the process with”.
He has everything you like, want, and need in a linebacker. He is listed as 6’1”/227 lbs and boasts some intriguing athletic numbers. He has a basketball and track background, where he was a state qualifier in the 300-meter hurdles. On the gridiron, he was a two-way star (RB/LB) for the Smyrna Bulldogs where he won the state of Tennessee’s Class 6A Mr Football Award & Region 6-6A Defensive Player of the Year honors. As a senior, he recorded 92 tackles (8.4 per game), 67 being solo stops, 72.8% solo rate, six TFLs, three sacks, one interception, and five PBUs. Oh, and just a ho-hum 1184 rushing yards and 19 TDs.
Carter made an official visit to Tennessee on December 2nd, 2022, and committed to the Vols 12 days later. Two days after that (Dec 16th) Carter enrolled at the university and never looked back. Enrolling early allowed him to participate in Orange Bowl practices and get a jump start on his college career. He chose the Vols over offers from 40+ other schools, including Alabama, Michigan, and Ohio State.
He is currently listed as the immediate backup to Keenan Pili, who transferred in from BYU. It’s my feeling that while Pili is listed as the current starter and has more experience, Carter will push him for that role and at the least significant playing time. This is in line with what the future holds as well. Both Beasley and Pili will be gone in 2024 and having Carter ready is extremely important for the continuing success of the defense
As you can see, Carter is a highly talented and athletic player and it will be hard for the Vols not to find a way to get him on the field as much as possible. Having him played a lot as a true freshman is a win-win for the Vols this season and the future. Get him on the field, let him learn from Beasley and Pili, and have him ready to take over after this season. It’s no longer enough to have the best players as starters at your most prominent positions, you have to have the best players continually coming in. The future looks bright for Tennessee and Arion Carter is leading the youth movement.