We already talked about how Tennessee football’s transition to a 3-4 limits the amount of postseason recognition a player is going to get. I’m going to be honest, before even reaching No. 1, that’s why I should tell you now I left Nigel Warrior off the list. As great as he is going to be, his having to account for so many shortcomings in the secondary will limit his chances to shine.
The same is not going to hold true for Jonathan Kongbo. Up front, the Vols are in great shape to be elite. Provided Shy Tuttle or Alexis Johnson can do just enough to get that necessary push at defensive tackle, the edge rushers should become stars.
As already noted, Kyle Phillips is one of those guys on the end. Jonathan Kongbo, though, another guy who was once a five-star defensive end, is the outside linebacker to be that star. Now, Kongbo does have more competition to start on the outside with guys like Darrell Taylor and Jordan Allen also in the mix.
However, we’re putting Kongbo as the high-up guy on this list. That’s because the coaches moved him not out of need at outside linebacker and not because he struggled at end but because his potential was unlimited at outside linebacker. As a result, we expect him to thrive here and become a household name as a pass rusher. In fact, while other players could suffer from the transition, Kongbo could be one of the guys to significantly benefit.
Kongbo is also going to be the guy to move up and play defensive end when the Vols move into their 4-3 set. So that versatility gives him chances to rush the passer and stop the run off the edge as well. Simply put, he’ll have too many chances to star. And like Phillips, he’s looking to finally live up to that five-star billing in his senior season.