The defensive line is crucial to Tennessee football in Jeremy Pruitt’s new system. Here is where the Volunteers stand with linemen for 2019.
As Tennessee football begins a new era under Jeremy Pruitt, one of the biggest changes for the Vols is going to be at defensive line. Pruitt’s 3-4 system with Kevin Sherrer at defensive coordinator obviously calls for three down linemen, not four.
However, he will still use four at times. And on top of that, the Vols put lots of pressure on their nose tackle in this system, so they need multiple players there to stay fresh. Simply put, he still has to stock the roster.
That’s where recruiting comes into play. And yes, it is seriously coming into play for defensive line for 2019. The Vols’ projected starters are all potential stars, and they’re all seniors pretty much. Shy Tuttle, Alexis Johnson and Paul Bain are the three nose tackles. Kyle Phillips is the major end. They’ll all be gone next year.
That leaves sophomore Eric Crosby and 2018 commitments Brant Lawless, Kingston Harris and junior college transfer Emmit Gooden at defensive tackle. But none of those guys are proven. Meanwhile, Kivon Bennett and Matthew Butler are the only returning players at defensive end who will be there next year unless Austin Smith and Ryan Thaxton, edge rushers focusing on outside linebacker, move back to the position.
Outside of that, they will have to rely on 2018 commitments Greg Emerson, Kurrott Garland and John Mincey. Maybe junior college transfer Jordan Allen can get in on it, but he’s more of an edge rusher too.
So for now, we only know of four defensive tackles and five defensive ends who will be on the roster starting in 2019 and could legitimately contribute. As a result, Pruitt needs to recruit and recruit fast up front. In this post, we’re going to analyze where Tennessee football’s 2019 recruiting class stands at defensive line.
We’ll start with the players already committed and then break down the top targets for each position. After that, we’ll name less heralded prospects at each position and then potential prospects before finishing with a prediction and final take. There are lots of people on Pruitt’s board here. So let’s see where they stand, starting with commitments for Tennessee football’s 2019 recruiting class.