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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Tennessee football
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Biggest questions

1. Who emerges to start alongside Emmit Gooden?

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We gave our projections, but they’re just projections. And they remain the biggest question of personnel for Tennessee football heading into the year any. So of course it’s going to be the biggest question about the defensive line.

Matthew Butler and John Mincey were the top spring performers, but will they hold on? Will Aubrey Solomon get eligibility? If he does, will he stand out above the other freshmen and junior college players? Spring ball left way too many questions here for us to be able to feel satisfied, so this is one Jeremy Pruitt will be asked a lot during fall camp.

2. Which of the transfers makes the biggest early impact?

Speaking of Solomon and the junior college players, which one of them will stand out first? With Solomon’s eligibility up in the air, he may have to wait. Then there are junior college transfers Savion Williams and Darel Middleton. Williams brings the hype as a four-star. But Middleton brings the versatility, and now he has the size at 6’7″ 311 pounds.

As a result, any of these guys could arise to make the early impact. This is an extension of our first question about who starts because you could see any of these guys starting on Rocky Top this year at defensive tackle.

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3.  Will any of the underclassmen take a big leap to provide depth?

Kingston Harris, Greg Emerson and Elijah Simmons all provide decent depth at defensive tackle. John Mincey, as a sophomore, can be effective at end off the bench. But can any of them emerge to be impact players?

Jeremy Pruitt went for quick fixes on the defensive line this year because he had to. The problem, though, is those younger guys were not able to provide necessary depth last year. Tennessee football needs a big boost from one or two of them this year to improve the rotation and to feel better about the future.