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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Neyland Stadium
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Projected backups at tackle

1. Aubrey Solomon

Junior; 6’5″ 299 lbs; Leesburg, Ga.

Once a five-star commitment to the Michigan Wolverines, Tennessee football got a steal with the transfer of Aubrey Solomon. If he is cleared to play, the Vols will immediately be looking better. Solomon could compete with Savion Williams for the other starting job at tackle, but what is clear is that he will immediately be in the rotation after playing throughout the spring.

2. Darel Middleton

Junior; 6’7″ 311 lbs; Knoxville, Tenn.

Another player with experience, Darel Middleton was a three-star transfer from East Mississippi Community College, or Last Chance U, in Scooba, Miss. Getting his body up to 311 pounds combined with his 6’7″ frame make him the perfect nose tackle for the Vols. So if Williams doesn’t work out and Solomon can’t go, at least he’s another option.

3. Kingston Harris

Redshirt Freshman; 6’3″ 306 lbs; Orlando, Fla.

After the top four defensive tackles, the Vols have a major drop-off. And the first guy in that drop-off is Kingston Harris. A three-star in UT’s 2018 recruiting class, Harris had to spend last season putting on weight. He did that and took a redshirt in the process, so now he should be primed and ready to be at least a solid depth player at the position.

4. Greg Emerson

Redshirt Freshman; 6’3″ 309 lbs; Jackson, Tenn.

Like Harris, Greg Emerson was also in Tennessee football’s 2018 recruiting class. However, he was a four-star. We have him behind Harris, though, because Jeremy Pruitt moved him around, trying him at offensive line. He’s settled now, though, so he’ll make a push throughout the season, but he’ll likely start buried in the depth chart.

5. Elijah Simmons

Freshman; 6’2″ 340 lbs; Nashville, Tenn.

The most true nose tackle on the list, Elijah Simmons is a four-star commitment for the Vols’ 2019 class and brings in a ton of size at 6’2″ 340 pounds. He should be a major impact player in the future, but if the Vols have to turn to him this year, it will mean they are desperate. So it should not come to that.

Note: Redshirt freshman Kurrott Garland would be No. 6 on this list, but reports surfaced that he entered the transfer portal as we were publishing this. As a result, we are leaving him off for now until we are sure he is back in the program.

Projected backups at end

1. John Mincey

Sophomore; 6’3″ 271 lbs; Homerville, Ga.

During the spring, John Mincey was the one guy to stand out alongside Matthew Butler. As a sophomore, he also provides some depth and youth for the future, so Pruitt while likely run him in on lots of plays throughout the season. He is really the only guy settled in at defensive end outside of Butler right now.

2. Ja’Quain Blakely

Redshirt Junior; 6’2″ 284 lbs; Moultrie, Ga.

Ja’Quain Blakely is one of two defensive ends to have also played tight end. Despite his moving around some, he did finally settle in at end last year and saw action in a few games. If Tennessee football gets more from him this year, he could move up the depth chart.

3. LaTrell Bumphus

Junior; 6’3″ 273 lbs; Savannah, Tenn.

Like Ja’Quain Blakely, LaTrell Bumphus also spent time at tight end. But he did it for all of 2018 and then began converting in the offseason. So he has a much longer way to go, and as a result, he may want to think about taking a redshirt. After all, he does have potential to be effective in the future.