If Tennessee is going to take strides in Year 2 under Jeremy Pruitt, the program’s offensive line has to start coming together. While the unit may remain the biggest question mark hovering over the Volunteer program entering the 2019 season, there is some optimism that Tennessee’s best player could rejoin the lineup after missing five games last season.

By now you likely know Smith suffers from blood clots in his lungs, which held him out for the majority of the previous offseason and once it was discovered they had returned, Tennessee’s best offensive lineman was shut down for the 2018 season after seven games.

While Smith’s loss was devastating to the team’s offensive line last season, the main concern around the program focused on the future of arguably the best NFL prospect to play on Rocky Top since Eric Berry suited up for the Big Orange. While the outlook for Smith’s playing career may have been grim at one point last fall, this offseason has resulted in some momentum for the rising junior’s potential return to the field this fall.

Smith took part of practice all spring in Knoxville and even was listed as a “projected starter” on Tennessee’s 2019 offensive line by the SEC Network during the broadcast of the Orange & White Game. Obviously, you have to take that information with a grain of salt, but during a Wednesday appearance on Birmingham-based WJOX 94.5 FM radio program “3 Man Front,” Jeremy Pruitt offered up the latest encouraging update on Smith’s status.

“I think it’s no secret, Trey — the situation he had last year,” Pruitt said on the show. “Our medical staff done a fantastic job recognizing the situation and monitoring him throughout the year and had a really good plan. At a point, decided it was in his best interest just to shut him down.

“Trey has done absolutely everything his offseason. He is probably in the best shape of his life. When we got here, he weighed 360 pounds, now he weighs 321. He does absolutely everything everybody on our team does, the only thing he doesn’t do is he doesn’t have contact. That goes along with the medicine he is taking and he is working hard along with his family and our doctors to create a plan for him to hopefully one day for him to resume playing at the University of Tennessee.”

Based on that response, Smith continues to prepare himself to play football in the fall but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he will take the field for Tennessee. While Pruitt would love to have his best player on the field next fall, the decision is ultimately going to come down to the doctors and the Smith family when the time comes.

Either way, there is real hope that Smith will play football again, whether that’s in 2019 or 2020 and that’s reason enough to celebrate considering how dire the lineman’s outlook was at one point last fall.