While Darrell Taylor is the guy in the best position to rack up tons of stats for Tennessee football this year, Daniel Bituli is the most important linebacker for the Vols. And Jeremy Pruitt can’t afford to lose him at all. Pruitt touted the potential but lamented the lack of experience at SEC Media Days. That’s no truer at inside linebacker.
Darrin Kirkland Jr. being forced to retire leaves Bituli as the only proven returner there. He’s also the only returning player who has proven an ability to fulfill Pruitt’s wish of having linebackers who can play all four slots. And he’s clearly going to be the leader of the unit. Behind him are Shanon Reid, Solon Page III, Will Ignont, J.J. Peterson, Quavaris Crouch and Henry To’oto’o.
All of them have potential. And that high number of bodies is what keeps Bituli down here on the list instead of near the top. But it doesn’t change the fact that none of them are proven at this level, so Pruitt needs Bituli to be a leader all year with his experience in this 3-4 system.
If Bituli goes down, the Vols will be in serious trouble on the inside. He is set to be the glue guy for the entire defense this year, and having no other proven players at his position, which requires two starters, make his health a crucial aspect to the Vols’ season in 2019.