This is just a basic roster issue. Kyle Phillips was once a five-star recruit who, like Shy Tuttle, suffered back to back season-ending injuries. But he enters his senior year coming off his first full offseason since his freshman year, like Tuttle. And he now figures to reach his potential, like Tuttle.
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Tennessee football, meanwhile, needs Phillips more than Tuttle or Alexis Johnson on the line. He is the only defensive end we know can be serviceable for the Vols this year. That’s a huge deal, and it makes him a more crucial player than most.
Yes, Jeremy Pruitt’s and Kevin Sherrer’s 3-4 scheme calls for only one true defensive end. But given all the conversions made, there’s only one the Vols can count on this year. That one person is Phillips, and without him, there’s no telling who Tracy Rocker can turn to. So yeah, he’s going to be high up on here.
Jonathan Kongbo and Darrell Taylor would’ve been the guys to provide depth. But they’ve moved to outside linebacker. Four-star junior college transfer Jordan Allen is another guy who could have helped but is now at outside linebacker. The conversions of Deandre Johnson and Austin Smith only made it tougher.
So who is going to back up Phillips? Matthew Butler and Kurrott Garland are really the only guys who can provide depth there. And none of them have shown anything. As a result, the complete unknowns behind Phillips make him one of the top players on this list whom the Vols can’t lose.