Nigel Warrior is the glue guy for one unit, and Darrell Taylor is the stats guy for the defense. But Daniel Bituli is the glue guy for the whole defense this year, and he also has a chance to be a major stats guy for Tennessee football.
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Last year, Bituli started alongside Darrin Kirkland Jr. at inside linebacker. The two made a good combination, and as Bituli began to pick up the 3-4 scheme, he surpassed Kirkland by the end of the year. Now, Kirkland has been forced to retire due to injury. So everything is on Bituli.
With 79 tackles, seven tackles for a loss and a sack, Bituli knows how to be effective. He may not have Taylor’s stats, but he will be the anchor for the linebackers overall, which will allow Taylor to make an impact. After all, he was maybe the top defensive player by November.
On top of that, Bituli was then the most improved player in the spring. So the expectations for him now are sky-high. He is the clear leader of the Vols’ defense and the one through which everything will go.
What makes Bituli stand out is the fact that he was the first player in Pruitt’s system who could play all four linebacker spots. That’s a huge deal, and combining it with his veteran presence, potential and proven production, there is no drawback in the team looking to him.
As a result, while Tennessee football has few seniors on the roster, they are all of high quality, and Bituli is the highest quality of them all. He may end up being the Vols’ best player in general this year, but he’s certainly their best senior.