4. Which Vols inside linebackers can step up?
We know that Darrell Taylor is a star for Tennessee football at outside linebacker. It’s likely that Kivon Bennett or Deandre Johnson fills the void as the other outside linebacker. But with a mobile quarterback like Dan Ellington, inside linebackers are going to be key to this game. And right now, that’s a question for Jeremy Pruitt’s team.
This unit was always going to have one big question after Darrin Kirkland Jr.’s injury-forced retirement earlier this year. But on Saturday, it has two, as Daniel Bituli is likely not going to make it onto the field. That leaves the unit wide open as a whole for a couple of spots with numerous players who have limited experience.
Only Will Ignont has significant experience playing linebacker. He’s listed on the depth chart as a potential starter along with Shanon Reid and freshman phenom Henry To’oto’o, while Solon Page III and J.J. Peterson are listed as backups. Ignont’s experience combined with a solid collection of bodies should help out.
However, nobody knows just how effective any of these guys can be on the inside. That’s going to be a major test on Saturday because, as we said, Georgia State does have a quarterback who can keep its offense balanced and make plays.
Shawn Elliott is likely to try to exploit any potential weaknesses the Vols are suffering at that position, and he could get away with it due to their lack of experience. So the play of UT’s inside linebackers with so many unknowns there could become a huge issue.