Tennessee football’s focus mainly has to be stopping the run overall, but again, this is a balanced attack. So they will want to get pressure as well. At this point, we’re ready to talk about Kyle Phillips for the Vols.
Although the defensive line got a solid push, Phillips is one of the guys who has the key role of getting a push and being able to rush the passer off the edge. And last week, he joined Jonathan Kongbo and Darrell Taylor as edge rushers unable to get any pressure.
This week, the Vols need Phillips to be the complete defensive end. As we have been saying for a while now, this is really his first year coming off a full offseason since his freshman year. And with a defensive-minded coach like Jeremy Pruitt, that makes it crucial for him to live up to his five-star billing as a player.
If Phillips can’t live up to that hype, the Vols’ defense could be in trouble all season long. And they certainly will be in trouble on Saturday. Even against an FCS opponent, they have got to be able to get a push and frustrate the offensive line.
The transition to the 3-4 defense is hard enough for many guys. Players like Phillips built to make it easier through outside pressure have to help ease it. That’s his role for the Vols. Kongbo and Taylor have that role as well, but Phillips is the most crucial since he is the actual true defensive end on the depth chart.