All-SEC offensive lineman Trey Smith excited Big Orange Nation with his decision to return to Tennessee for the 2020 season.

The former 5-star recruit and Freshman All-American has established himself as one of the top offensive linemen in the conference. SEC Network analyst Cole Cubelic told Knoxville radio host Jayson Swain on Friday that Smith belongs in the discussion of best players regardless of position returning for next season.

“I think there’s a good chance, Jayson, that the health stuff aside, he’s not just the best offensive lineman returning in the SEC; he might be the best football player returning in the SEC in 2020,” Cubelic told Swain on The Swain Event. “I know (LSU wide receiver) Ja’Marr Chase is going to be back. A lot of people talk about him. Maybe (Alabama wide receiver) DeVonta Smith. People will talk about him. But this young man, if you took the health issues away and you’re projecting the 2021 Draft, I can’t think of many guys that are going to be off the board before him because we don’t have that automatic quarterback. We’ve got some good receivers. I don’t know if we look at any of them as top five or top 10 receivers as of right now.

“(Smith) is a guy who plays the game the way it’s supposed to be played. He’s the ultimate tone-setter.”

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As a former offensive lineman, Cubelic might be a little biased, but it’s still extremely high praise for Smith considering the number of standout skill-position playmakers (such as Chase and Smith) who will be suiting up again in 2020.

If the Vols are going to make Jeremy Pruitt’s decade prediction come true, Smith figures to be key to their 2020 success.

[H/T Rocky Top Insider]