Tennessee football 2019 preview by position: Vols defensive line

Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images /
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Photo by Donald Page/Getty Images /

Projected starters

Nose tackle: Savion Williams

Junior; 6’4″ 304 lbs; Washington, D.C. 

A four-star transfer from Lackawanna Community College in Scranton, Pa., Savion Williams brings enough size to immediately step in and fill the role of nose tackle for Tennessee football. Jeremy Pruitt needs immediate help, and while nobody is proven, Williams is the guy with the most experience at the college level who is a four-star transfer.

This is completely based on projection, but Pruitt, Derrick Ansley and Tracy Rocker had to know that they needed immediate help up front. As a result, that had to be a big reason they went after Williams from the start. So it will be a failure if he’s not an immediate contributor, and we say he needs to become an early starter.

Defensive tackle: Emmit Gooden

Senior; 6’3″ 290 lbs; Brownsville, Tenn.

The only returning contributor from last year, Emmit Gooden is actually a four-star junior college transfer like Savion Williams. He came from Independence Community College in Independence, Kan. and joined the Vols in 2018.

Coming off the bench, Gooden was very productive, racking up 33 tackles, including seven and a half tackles for a loss and a sack. However, he was initially a defensive end, which made him a late bloomer. Getting up to 290 pounds now makes him a versatile guy who can line up at end in the 3-4 or tackle in the 4-3, so he has the potential to be a breakout player this year.

Defensive end: Matthew Butler

Junior; 6’4″ 285 lbs; Raleigh, N.C.

This is based on spring ball. Tennessee football doesn’t really have any proven players who have emerged at defensive end, but Matthew Butler was on the first-team in the spring game playing that position. With no newcomers there, he’s really the only guy who can step up.

Butler has some playing experience after racking up 13 tackles and a tackle for a loss last year. He also had four tackles against the Florida Gators. And he played sparingly in 2017, with four tackles in total. As a result, he’s got experience, but this is a much bigger role for him. His play is the biggest question heading into the season.