1. How many of the linebackers can play all four positions?
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We mentioned the additions of Quavaris Crouch and Henry To’oto’o, but Tennessee football right now has only one proven player on the roster who can play all four positions. He is Daniel Bituli, the Vols’ best defensive player. However, Jeremy Pruitt said he wants guys who can play all four positions. So who else will step up?
If Shanon Reid, Darrell Taylor and Deandre Johnson can develop some versatility, that will be a huge deal. There are plenty of guys with potential on the bench who could do that as well. Any player who does that will have a huge advantage when it comes to seeing playing time, and he will really help Pruitt and Derrick Ansley in what they want to do.
2. Who becomes the No. 2 starters inside and outside?
While Daniel Bituli and Darrell Taylor are settled in as the No. 1 inside linebacker and No. 1 outside linebacker, the Vols have competition for the No. 2 spots. We listed Reid and Johnson on there, but as we mentioned, Solon Page III and Will Ignont could threaten inside with the retirement of Darrin Kirkland Jr. Meanwhile, Jordan Allen and Kivon Bennett could threaten outside.
All six of those guys are in competition to compete for those other No. 2 spots, and we don’t know for sure who will step up at each spot. Heck, the newcomers, in particular Crouch, could also fight their way into the rotation. So watch out for a bunch of guys who are in competition to earn a starting role and could do so.
3. Will Darrell Taylor have a more consistent performance?
Darrell Taylor is settled in as Tennessee football’s No. 1 starter at outside linebacker. However, his breakout stats came in three games last year. Now, with much more experience in Pruitt’s 3-4 scheme, he’s got to take that next step and do it over the course of a full season, something he and the coaches both agree on.
If all of this does happen, Taylor could be the biggest reason the Vols have a turnaround. Rocky Top needs him to make a huge impact consistently, and doing that could work wonders for the program. Bituli is the best overall linebacker, but Taylor is the guy with the best chance to rack up the biggest numbers.