4. No. 2 Defensive end/tackle
Kyle Phillips is the clear favorite to be one starter at defensive end. Shy Tuttle, right now, figures to be the starter at nose tackle. But with Jonathan Kongbo, Darrell Taylor and even Jordan Allen playing outside linebacker, there’s an open spot for the other defensive lineman in the 3-4.
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Jeremy Pruitt and Kevin Sherrer use a scheme that involves a bigger guy as the second defensive end. He needs to be a guy who can play end in the 3-4 but move over to the inside and play tackle when they run their four down linemen sets. That’s because at that point, one of the outside linebackers would move up and play end.
So who’s going to occupy that other spot? I would venture to say there are two favorites at this point: Alexis Johnson and Emmit Gooden. Both are junior college transfers who were four-stars, one from 2016 and another from this past class.
Johnson finally is in football shape after having his first season in Knoxville derailed by some legal issues and then getting hurt last year. This year, at 6’3″ 314 pounds, he’s finally the perfect size to play defensive tackle. And in this system, as a veteran, the other spot at end in the 3-4 should be his to lose.
However, Pruitt didn’t target Gooden for nothing. This guy also brings a lot to the table at 6’3″ 306 pounds. Although he’s younger, he’s clearly a guy more likely to fit Pruitt’s system. So keep an eye on what happens with Gooden, who was even listed as a tackle by some sites and as an end by others on recruiting services. That versatility gives him an edge. But Johnson is still in the race.