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Can top recruit Trey Smith be the Tennessee big man who finally lives up to the hype?

Trey Smith
Donald Page/Tennessee Athletics

The hype around Tennessee freshman offensive lineman Trey Smith has been nothing short of spectacular.

Take the following into account:

1. Smith was the No. 1 overall high school prospect in the nation in his class, according to ESPN.

2. Smith has been lauded by several Volunteers when asked about his work ethic and has been said to be “mature beyond his years.” That’s strong praise from veteran players.

3. Smith has seen extensive time with Tennessee’s first-team offensive line despite just arriving on campus in January.

4. Smith was the first to have his black helmet stripe removed as a sign that he has “arrived” and is respected by UT’s coaching staff.

Can Smith be the big man to finally live up to the hype? It would be nice for the Vols if he could break the recent streak of linemen who haven’t lived up to their billing.

Junior college superstar offensive lineman Dontavius Blair, defensive tackles Shy Tuttle and Khalil McKenzie and defensive end Jonathan Kongbo were all ballyhooed in the recruiting process but haven’t panned out yet. Blair never could get on the field and left the team. Tuttle has faced injuries. McKenzie wasn’t in the best of shape when he showed up at UT. Kongbo was forced to play out of position last season.

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So what happened? Many think Blair was overrated coming out of junior college. Tuttle has had two leg injuries. McKenzie’s career started a bit slow, but he seems close to being a standout player. Lastly, the Vols are committed to playing Kongbo at defensive end instead of defensive tackle. The group could see a significant jump in production this season and in the future.

With all the hype, it’s fair to ask what are fair expectations for Smith. No, he’s not going to be an All-American this season. However, if he’s as good as advertised, he should be a starter as a freshman, especially since he will have had an entire offseason to prepare.

After that? Given the hype, Smith should be an All-SEC player and perhaps an eventual All-American if he stays healthy.

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The Vols haven’t had an All-American offensive lineman since Arron Sears in 2006. That’s over a decade. If early indications are correct, that streak could end with Smith. If not, the Vols will at least have a talented offensive lineman they can build around.

No offense to UT’s recent offensive linemen, but they’ve largely been overachievers – except for Jashon Robertson, who appears to have NFL talent. Smith is clearly a step in the right direction, whether he’s overhyped or not.

RELATED: Gentle giant Trey Smith wants UT students to know that he will ‘not eat them’

(You can follow Dave Hooker on Twitter @TheDaveHooker)

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