Tennessee football linebackers are the one strength of the defense. The Vols’ line brings questions of size and versatility, and the secondary brings questions at cornerback. However, the linebackers are loaded, and they can already go seven-deep easily if needed. I’ll say when everybody else develops, they’ll be able to go 11-deep without a problem.
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That level of depth is a huge deal. The Vols’ conversions give Jeremy Pruitt and Kevin Sherrer major playmakers on the outside at the position. Should they stay healthy, there’s no reason to believe they can’t carry the defense as a whole this year. Jonathan Kongbo and Darrell Taylor can turn into stars and do just enough to make game-changing plays when the unit is struggling.
On top of that, Daniel Bituli, Quart’e Sapp and Darrin Kirkland Jr. have all proven their abilities playing linebacker in a nickel set. Now, being on the inside in a 3-4 allows them even more freedom. So they should all be able to become anchors for the unit.
Simply put, this is now a position of strength for the Vols. Like tight end, this was supposed to be a thin position heading into the season, but it has now become one of the deepest. And that is quite shocking for people on Rocky Top.
Pruitt and Sherrer will depend on the linebackers throughout the season. There is actually a lot of excitement here, and if the guys can deliver, maybe they can offset other weaknesses just enough. But this is just the beginning for the guys.
In the future, Tennessee football will look to be more versatile at linebacker. Pruitt, like we said, wants guys who can play all four positions. But the good news is that the current players are good enough to fill their roles and make huge impacts. And that has to count for something. It’s why this is now a position of strength.
Note: This preview is part of a series of previews for the 2018 Tennessee football season. For a look at other positions, please click here.