7. RIGHT: No All-SEC linebackers
We’re diving a bit deeper into the issues on defense and why there will be no first-team All-SEC defensive players. Although Tennessee football will have a bit of a strength on the defensive line, albeit an underrated one, the linebackers will struggle so severely that the unit will still take a hit.
Henry To’o To’o leaving for the Alabama Crimson Tide and Quavaris Crouch leaving for the Michigan State Spartans will prove to be killers. Martavius French and J.J. Peterson in the portal also hurts. Even Kivon Bennett and Deandre Johnson, despite being more edge rushers, hurt by leaving, although Bennett was dismissed, as they could have filled outside linebacker slots.
Simply put, this unit is depleted. Then, in the spring, Aaron Beasley and Aaron Willis, an experienced outside linebacker and star freshman inside linebacker, were suspended due to off-field incidents, so they are entering fall camp behind. We saw all of this on display in the spring game, as the linebackers struggled severely.
Josh Heupel has gotten help by adding Texas Longhorns transfer Juwan Mitchell and Michigan Wolverines transfer William Mohan, but it won’t be enough this year. Tim Banks switching to a nickel-heavy 4-3 means only two linebackers will be on the field usually anyway, which further reduces the chances of an All-SEC linebacker. The media got this one right.