3. Darrell Taylor will lead the SEC in sacks and tackles for a loss.
Darrell Taylor led all returning SEC players in sacks last year with eight and was tied for third among them in tackles for a loss with 11. Who’s to say, with another year in Jeremy Pruitt’s 3-4 system, that he won’t develop more consistency this year and become a splash player for Tennessee football week in and week out?
Last year, seven of Taylor’s eight sacks were in two games, agains the Georgia Bulldogs and Kentucky Wildcats. Meanwhile, 10 of his 11 tackles for a loss were in three games, including those two and against the Vanderbilt Commodores, where he also got his other sack. It’s also worth noting that he forced three fumbles against Georgia.
So all of this came in just a few games. But remember that Taylor was transitioning from a pure defensive end to an outside linebacker, and he didn’t become the top edge rusher until midway through the year, after Jonathan Kongbo suffered a season-ending injury. This year, he should spend the whole time as the top edge rusher and be more acclimated to the system.
Taking both of those things into account, it’s very likely he explodes as the best edge rusher in the nation. There are major expectations for him to do that, as the senior has all the tools to be effective, and he just might set some records. Although Daniel Bituli will be the Vols’ top linebacker, Taylor is in position to be a stats machine. He will be just that in the SEC.