2. Linebackers will improve with experience and Daniel Bituli getting healthy.
One of the biggest issues last week was Tennessee football’s linebackers biting on every option play. Yes, it was embarrassing to watch. No, it’s not something that can’t be fixed. Remember, the Vols were without their best overall defensive player last week in Daniel Bituli. As the only proven inside linebacker, he’s the guy who calls all the plays and keeps the unit in line.
Without him, Jeremy Pruitt only had one experienced guy at the position he could turn to, Will Ignont, and Ignont was a career backup. Outside of that, he turned to guys like a freshman in Henry To’oTo’o and a converted running back in Jeremy Banks. Of course the unit was going to be out of position all too often with those issues!
Bituli had to clean up a minor injury, so he should be back this week. That should give the Vols dramatic improvement at linebacker. Remember, Pruitt said in the offseason that UT is on the potential side of things, and that was truest at linebacker. There’s talent, but they need to develop. So right now, they can’t afford to go without Bituli.
With Bituli back and the linebackers gaining more experience, this unit should get a lot better over the course of the season. The return of Bituli alone is a major shot in the arm, and provided he stays out there, the Vols can then afford to see guys like To’oTo’o, Banks, Shanon Reid, Solon Page III, J.J. Peterson and even Quavaris Crouch finally reach their potential.