During this long summer leading up until the University of Tennessee Volunteers football program kicks off its 2019 season, we have taken looks at a number of returning players that are going to be vital to the team’s success. While we have already lost one for the season to injury, we are also already hearing good reports out of camp for a couple of the others. For a quick recap, and a link to each of those already covered, see below;
6. Emmit Gooden (Give (them) six: a look at six important returning Vols)
5. Ty Chandler (Give (them) six week 2: Ty Chandler)
4. Josh Palmer (Give (them) six week 3: Josh Palmer)
3. Daniel Bituli (Give (them) six week 4: Daniel Bituli)
Now let’s look at a player that has a chance to be a real difference maker in the secondary (remember the game changer v.s. difference maker discussion from the Josh Palmer article?). This player came into his Freshman season on Rocky Top in 2016 with a TON of hype due to both his high rating coming out of high school (57th nationally, 4th overall safety in 247’s 2016 rankings) and because his father was a decent player for the Vols in his day (NOTE: that decent was sarcasm). For our penultimate player in the Give (them) six series, we are going to talk about Nigel Warrior.
The Warrior, Himself:
- Name: Nigel Warrior
- Position: Safety
- Class: Senior
- Hometown: College Park, GA
- Height/Weight: 6’0”/190lbs.
How He Fared in 2018:
While Warrior’s number of solo tackles remained steady from the 2017 season (42 in 2017, 41 in 2018), his total production dropped significantly, as his total tackle number dropped from 83 to 64. While there are a number of factors that could have played into this drop-off, one thing was for certain; Nigel Warrior wasn’t the same player we saw steadily improving his game through his first two seasons. In fact, after coming in so highly rated and being the prodigy of former Volunteer consensus All-American Dale Carter, words like “bust” and “overrated” started to slip out of fans’ mouths in 2018.
However, while in the first 6 games of the 2018 season Warrior only tallied 25 total tackles, he totaled 39 in the second half of the season. While that may not seem like much, I do say it to make the point that Warrior looked much better as the year went on. Still, his overall performance was not acceptable for a junior captain.
What Needs to Change:
While this season preview is based on what needs to happen for the Vols as a whole to have a better season in 2019, Nigel is one of the players whose performance will also impact his future as it is his last go around on Rocky Top. Nigel is a leader, and you can see passion when he plays. He is a big hitter that can quickly swing the momentum of a defensive stand. I mean, some people were saying this cat was the next Eric Berry. BUT In order for big-hits to matter, you have to actually hit someone, and they actually have to go down. That being said, Nigel must improve his tackling numbers and decrease the number of broken tackles against him.
Also, the Vols must improve their turnover number on defense. Nigel has only 1 interception in his Volunteer career, but many, many more dropped picks or missed opportunities. While the secondary is already a strength for the 2019 Vols football team, a big year out of Nigel Warrior, one in which he plays to his full potential, could prove to make the secondary one of the best in the country. Furthermore, that type of season may very well take him from a day three to a day two selection in the 2020 NFL draft. Any way you cut it, a big 2019 season out of Nigel Warrior could go a long way in improving not only the short term for the Vols, but also the long term.
The entirety of Big Orange Nation is rooting for Nigel to have a big year. One big season will probably make us all forget about his 2018 drop-off. Tennessee is all about tradition, and I can think of few REALISTIC things that would bring me more joy than to see Dale Carter’s son be one of the driving forces in stabilizing this program and taking it back to the postseason.
On the Way Out…:
While Warrior’s play did not get him any recognition in any 2018 postseason awards lists, it is obvious coaches around the league recognize his potential to have a monster season as they voted him in as preseason Third-Team All-Conference. Along with Marquez Callaway and Darrell Taylor, Warrior was one of three Vols named to this list.
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