Hometown: Jackson, Tenn.
After redshirting in 2018, Greg Emerson emerged as Tennessee football’s premiere nose tackle in 2019, starting nine games on the year and appearing in all 13 in them. As a redshirt freshman, he finished the season with 30 tackles, four tackles for a loss, two sacks and two pass deflections, and he’s turned into a rising star on Rocky Top ready to burst onto the season.
The in-state graduate of North Side High School had a backup nose tackle in Kurrott Garland, who started the other four games and is also a redshirt sophomore. However, between the two, Emerson is clearly the main starter, which is why he made the list. He’s one of the few non-seniors on the line this year expected to be a major standout player.
Had Emmit Gooden not gotten dismissed this offseason, his return from a 2019 season-ending injury likely would have lessened Emersons playing time this year. However, now, Emerson should take a major leap forward. His development is why the Vols had some early season struggles up front last year, having to replace all starters on the defensive line from a year ago.
That’s not going to be an issue this year, and Emerson is the potential breakout star. The only reason he’s not higher on this list is because Jeremy Pruitt and Derrick Ansley like to use linemen by-committee, so he will be in a deep rotation. New defensive line coach Jimmy Brumbaugh likely won’t change that either.