6. Vols continued linebacker development
Daniel Bituli is finally back! Tennessee football needs to celebrate that, as they had too many issues at linebacker the first two games, mainly just inside linebacker. In the first game, their inexperience led them to struggle in containing Georgia State Panthers quarterback Dan Ellington, as he torched them all day. GSU could have easily dropped 40 that afternoon.
However, while they improved dramatically last week, they still made key mistakes that cost them. One was a horrible angle on Ty’Son Williams’s touchdown run regulation after Jarrett Guarantano’s interception, the only touchdown the BYU Cougars were able to scored during regulation of that game. So there are still some issues.
The good news for the Vols, though, is with freshmen like Henry To’oTo’o playing, they took a dramatic leap from Week One to Week Two. So you have to figure they’ll take another dramatic leap this week, and combining that with Bituli’s return gives them the perfect chance to turn this back into an elite unit. It is the perfect time, too, a week before they begin SEC play.
Jeremy Pruitt clearly wants Chattanooga to be a game in which Bituli makes a few key plays just to get back in rhythm but then heads to the bench to rest himself after the Vols have a huge lead. As we’ve already demonstrated, that may not end up being the case. But if it’s not, Bituli’s return and UT’s extra level of development could be a huge plus for them.