As Tennessee football makes the transition to a 3-4 defense, you can’t expect too many defenders to be on this list. After all, the secondary as a whole figures to struggle significantly, and history shows it’s one of the rockiest transitions when it comes to the college game.
However, one area that doesn’t require as much work in the transition is outside rushing. This includes defensive ends and outside linebackers. And Kyle Phillips is the only true defensive end for the Vols this year.
Like Keller Chryst, he’s already on a preseason watch list as well. Of course, that’s a little cheap considering the list he’s on is the Wuerffel Trophy, which is a community service award. Still, it’s something for Rocky Top.
Anyway, once a five-star recruit, Phillips suffered back to back season-ending injuries. So he enters his senior year coming off his first full offseason since 2015. Meanwhile, the Vols have no other proven guy at defensive end, as they shifted them all to outside linebacker.
Guys like Shy Tuttle and Alexis Johnson, also entering their senior seasons, will also be huge factors on the line. But the 3-4 defense does not allow for defensive tackles to shine, especially nose tackles. It does allow for guys like Phillips to come off the edge and wreak havoc.
Doing that will rack up stats for Phillips. Racking up those stats will get him national attention. And getting that national attention will give him a great chance to achieve postseason recognition as he finishes up his college career.