Darrell Taylor is the one proven starter at outside linebacker, and Daniel Bituli is the one proven starter at inside linebacker. His position is even more safe, even if his production levels aren’t at the same level.
In Jeremy Pruitt’s 3-4 scheme, however, Tennessee football’s inside linebackers won’t be in as prime position to make elite plays. So we can’t measure Bituli solely by production, even though that production is legit.
After all, the guy did have 79 tackles, seven tackles for a loss, a sack, a pass defended and a fumble recovery. And entering his senior season, he has two full years starting under his belt. Combine that with the fact that he was the most improved defensive player in the spring and is the most versatile linebacker, currently the only one who can play all four slots, and he’s safe.
Bituli and Taylor both joined Jarrett Guarantano at SEC Media Days, so it’s clear how much faith Pruitt has in them. What makes Bituli more firmly established as a starter, though, is the fact that his co-starter from last year, Darrin Kirkland Jr., has been forced to retire due to health reasons. As a result, he’s the only proven returner with any experience in addition to everything else.