2. Lack of size at nose tackle
This comes as part of the switch to a 3-4 defense. However, last year Tennessee football had the perfect player for Jeremy Pruitt’s desire at nose tackle in Kahlil McKenzie. He left early for the NFL, though, and now the Vols need help.
Shy Tuttle, Alexis Johnson and Emmit Gooden are all defensive tackles who have the chance to be great. Tuttle has proven a lot, Johnson is ready to finally reach his potential as a senior, and Pruitt brought in Gooden from junior college for a reason. On top of that, Greg Emerson was a four-star recruit there.
However, none of these guys have the right size to be a nose tackle. They are just proven regular defensive tackles, which Pruitt already obviously has a spot for in his 3-4. At nose tackle, though, somebody really has to step up. And Johnson is the biggest guy at just 6’3″ 314 pounds unless you count Kingston Harris, who likely needs to develop.
Still, Tuttle is the favorite to start here, and he’s only 6’3″ 300 pounds. These are just regular defensive tackle sizes, not nose tackle sizes. And the Vols learned in 2016 after a rash of injuries up front that if tackles can’t get the proper push in a defensive system, the whole scheme crumbles. Will they be in that situation this year?
Fortunately, there is plenty of talent for Tennessee football to work with on the line. Pruitt, Kevin Sherrer and Tracy Rocker have quite a bit to work with at the position. But that does not mean they have exactly what they need for this system.
Pruitt has hinted at it, and the Vols will likely need to do it. We’re talking about running more of a base package of four down linemen. They’ll still use the 3-4, but Pruitt and Sherrer know you need to be multiple. Given the size of their defensive tackles, they may have to be more multiple than they desire this year. And that could be a problem.