5. Outside linebackers
We separated outside linebackers and inside linebackers because Tennessee football has separate people coaching them. While Kevin Sherrer coaches them inside, Chris Rumph coaches them on the outside in addition to sharing co-defensive coordinator duties. And he’s got a bit more proven talent this year.
For starters, Darrell Taylor who joined Daniel Bituli and Jarrett Guarantano at SEC Media Days, is the Bituli of the outside. He’s a proven playmaker, and he showed promise of becoming a stat machine last year after racking up 11 tackles for a loss, eight sacks, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
That was only in three games against the Georgia Bulldogs, Kentucky Wildcats and Vanderbilt Commodores, but he was also only in his first year as an outside linebacker in Jeremy Pruitt’s 3-4 system. With more experience, his potential as a breakout superstar puts this unit in the top half.
However, similar to inside linebacker, the depth behind Taylor is questionable. We have it ahead of inside linebacker, though, because there is a bit more proven talent here. That starts with Deandre Johnson, who stepped up after the season-ending injury to Jonathan Kongbo last year.
Following those two guys, Kivon Bennett emerged as a threat in the spring, and Jordan Allen, once a four-star junior college transfer, is still on the roster. Four-star 2019 recruit Roman Harrison adds to the unit.
The numbers may be a bit thin, but the proven talent is slightly above inside linebacker. So for now, it’s in the top five, but the unit has to find somebody who can be effective opposite Taylor to move up.