Tennessee football: 4 safest starting spots on Vols 2018 roster

LEXINGTON, KY - OCTOBER 28: Daniel Bituli #35 and Nigel Warrior #18 of the Tennessee Volunteers celebrate a recovered fumble against the Kentucky Wildcats at Commonwealth Stadium on October 28, 2017 in Lexington, Kentucky. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
LEXINGTON, KY - OCTOBER 28: Daniel Bituli #35 and Nigel Warrior #18 of the Tennessee Volunteers celebrate a recovered fumble against the Kentucky Wildcats at Commonwealth Stadium on October 28, 2017 in Lexington, Kentucky. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /
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Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images /

Tennessee football’s switch to a 3-4 defense is one that is difficult for inside linebackers to pick up. That’s why we left them all off of our list of Vols who should have breakout seasons. They’ll all need to learn the system for a year before really emerging.

However, the good news for them is they’re all in the same boat. And in that boat, Bituli is the only guy who has nothing to worry about when it comes to a starting job. Last year’s leader in tackles with 90, Bituli is a playmaker. He had three tackles for a loss, a pass deflection, a forced fumble, and an interception returned for a touchdown.

Other inside linebackers also provide depth here. When it comes to the combination of talent and being able to pick up a system, I’d have Darrin Kirkland Jr. ahead of Bituli. That’s why I’m projecting him to start as well.

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However, Kirkland is coming off of an injury. As a result, he will have to compete with Quart’e Sapp, who had his job last year, to start on the inside. Bituli is clearly the better player between him and Sapp. So process of elimination leaves him to be the starter.

Don’t forget that guys like Dillon Bates, Shanon Reid, Will Ignont and JJ Peterson when he arrives on campus could all be in the mix as well. But Bituli has clearly proven the most and will not lose his starting spot. That’s why we have him up here on our list.