Byron Young is making a mistake, one that helps nobody. On Thursday, he announced he’d enter the 2023 NFL Draft but still play for Tennessee football in the Orange Bowl against the Clemson Tigers.
This move follows Darnell Wright’s decision to do the same thing. Cedric Tillman and Jalin Hyatt are both opting out. Everybody would have been better served if Young opted out as well. He made his announcement on Twitter.
Look, Young is another great overachieving story for Tennessee football. He’ll have a great career in the pros, and the Vols were lucky to have him the past two years. There’s nothing wrong with him entering the draft.
However, in most cases, if a player is entering the draft and a team isn’t in the playoff, it serves nobody for that player to take part in the bowl game. Young is most cases.
Obviously, Young specifically has nothing to prove, so he need to focus on getting in the best shape for all of the draft workouts. He’s got his future to worry about, and it could be a very successful one.
On the other end, though, the Vols need to be able to move on from him. Beyond Young, the Vols just have Tyler Baron and Roman Harrison as proven edge rushers. They need more.
Joshua Josephs and James Pearce Jr. are still on the roster, and if Young weren’t playing, Josh Heupel and Tim Banks would be able to spend more time with them and get them more reps. That focus on the future is what’s most important for UT.
Now, there are some exceptions to this rule, which we wrote about last week with Wright. In that particular instance, Tennessee football has no future options at right tackle, hence the reason Heupel brought in a transfer.
At edge rusher, though, despite the lack of depth, the Vols have plenty of future options. Beyond just the players in the system this year, they have an enrollee in Caleb Herring who could get more reps.
Next spring is going to involve a crazy amount of competition at edge rusher with Young gone. Baron, Harrison, Josephs and Pearce are all part of it and could play in the Orange Bowl. Herring has already joined. Then there’s Chandavian Bradley.
With all of these guys likely to be in competition for two spots, it would serve Heupel well to get the ones in the system as many reps as possible now. That can give the Vols a head start on sprig ball.
It’s been clear for a while that behind Young, Tennessee football has been thin at edge. That should be changing with these newcomers, and the Vols need to focus on them.
Young playing in the bowl game limits the potential head start they can get on those players, and it also risks his own future. Nobody wins in this situation.